2024 Cost Of An Air Source Heat Pump

Typical Cost To Install Central AC Average: $4,070 - $5,930
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A traditional central air system only works in the cooling mode. However, in the last decade, a new type of Central AC system has gained popularity – an Air Source Heat Pump (also known as Reversed Cycle Air Conditioner).

A typical 3 TON (36,000 BTUs), 16 SEER air source heat pump, which is appropriate for a home size of about 1500-1850 sq.ft. costs $6,750 to install, compared to $4,990 for same size 14 SEER regular Central AC. A more efficient 18 SEER central air heat pump unit costs $8,800 to install.

How Much Does An Air Source Heat Pump Cost?

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $4,670 - $5,930
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The price for a single air source heat pump unit may vary vastly depending on the brand name, size, and SEER and HSPF range.

Typical installation cost of a 3 TON system ranges between $7,776 – $9,615 but can go to around $11,300 for the highest SEER unit, such as Lennox XP25.

Some companies only make one model, and others have more than a dozen options. The price tag for a single unit ranges from $2,500 – $6,000, depending on tonnage, efficiency, etc.

The type of heat pumps will either be basic, standard, or premium, and the cooling capacity will range from 1.5-5 tons.

Depending on how big your home is, you might need more than one unit (typically for homes over 3000 sq. ft.).

Also, the total air source heat pump cost will depend on the installation cost. The cost of labor might range from $4000 to $6000!

Many homeowners install heat pumps, together with a central air system.

Did you know? Most HVAC Contractors charge from $85 to $150 per hour of labor.

It’s crucial to remember that proper installation of Heat Pump HVAC equipment isn’t something many contractors are familiar with. So, while it’s okay to look for the lowest price, simply choosing cheaper isn’t always the best solution.

What Is An Air Source Heat Pump?

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An air source heat pump is an air conditioner that can also work as a heating system, when outside ambient temperatures are above 32-36°F.

This “heating mode” is enabled via using a Reversing Valve which changes the direction of refrigerant (freon) flow.

An air source heat pump is called a “central air heat pump”, “central heat pump”, and “reversed cycle air conditioner”. Its no wonder that many homeowners are confused about what this heat pump is, given its many names.

How Does An Air Source Heat Pump Work?

Inside an air source heat pump, in cooling mode, low temperature refrigerant flows through the indoor (evaporator or EVAP) coil, and absorbs the heat inside your house.

Then it flows to the outdoor compressor, where it is (you got it) compress, and then dumps the heat outside, when it flows through the condenser coil.

If you enable Heating mode, the reversing valve changes the flow of refrigerant.

Now the hot gas flows through the Evap coil, where it releases the heat into cool air, and then flows to the outdoor condenser coil, where it absorbs heat.

Air Source Heat Pump Efficiency At Cold Temperatures

Naturally you may have a question – what happens if it’s too cold outside?

Well – in most cases, the central air heat pump won’t be able to extract heat from cold outside air.

However, there are Extra Low Temp models, (mostly found among Japanese brands of Ductless Heat Pumps) which will work in heating mode EVEN if outdoor temps are as low as -15°F or -27°C.

This incredible functionality is achieved through very clever engineering, and the fact that there is a temperature difference (Delta T) between outdoor temps and the boiling point of R410A refrigerant (-55.3F boiling temp) is AT LEAST 40°F (at -15°F outdoor temps).

If outdoor temps are +5°F, then our Delta T is a whooping 60°F. That is a lot of heat that can be extracted from seemingly FREEZING outdoor air!

Here is a great video that explains how a Central Heat Pump works in Heating mode on very cold days:

Bottom line – an air source heat pump can produce a lot of heat, and its a lot more efficient than electric space heating! Most heat pumps have a COP (coefficient of performance) of 3 or more!

This means you get 3 times more heat per KW of electricity used, compared to a space heater or electric baseboard heaters!

In fact, most heat pumps with COP of 2.5+ are even more efficient than heating with GAS, in terms of heat output per THERM of gas.

However, on very cold days, the COP of a heat pump may drop to below 2, which is still 2 times more economical than electric heat, but not as efficient as gas.

While in cooling mode, most heat pumps are more efficient than conventional central air. In fact, while most central AC units sold today are 13-14 SEER, most Central Heat Pumps are 16-20 SEER.

A 20 SEER central heat pump will use 30% less electricity to run. If you live in an area with a high cost of electricity (over $0.20/kWh), you can recoup the extra upfront cost within 2-4 years, by using less power!

Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage Air Source Heat Pump

A single-stage heat pump uses a single-stage compressor that has two functions. You can either turn it ON or OFF when it reaches its maximum capacity.

It’s usually cheaper and if you’re on a budget, it’s a great option. However, this type of pump has a shorter lifespan and often doesn’t provide any dehumidifying features.

The two-stage heat pump which has a two-stage compressor and can either work at 100% capacity or at reduced capacity when necessary, is generally a pricier option. It will use less energy overall and do much better at controlling frequent temperature swings.

Another option is a variable speed model which is the most expensive but allows the pump to function on different levels. It’s usually best at delivering consistent temperature control.

Advantages of a Single-Stage Heat Pump

• Affordable
• Inexpensive installation
• Easy to use

Disadvantages of Single-Stage Heat Pump

• Only has one mode
• Shorter life cycle
• No humidity management
• Less efficient

Advantages of a Two-Stage and Variable Speed Heat Pumps

• Better noise management
• Uses less energy
• Humidity control
• Longer lifespan
• Better temperature swing management

Disadvantages of a Two-Stage and Variable Speed Heat Pumps

• More expensive
• Higher cost of installation
• Pricey maintenance and repairs

Benefits Of An Air Source Heat Pump

There are many significant advantages of installing an air source heat pump in your home. If you’re an environmentally responsible individual, you’ll appreciate the fact that it has a low carbon footprint. Even though it primarily runs on electricity, you can also hook it up to a wind or solar power source.

Another great thing about it is that it has an overall longer lifespan. Did you know that there are heat pumps installed in the 80s that are still going strong today? But a more realistic expectation is somewhere around 20 years.

Finally, an air source heat pump means a simple and has relatively fast installation. You’ll need to consult an expert, but it’s usually a job that won’t take more than one or two days.

Cons Of An Air Source Heat Pump

No device is perfect, and that goes for the air source heat pump. Most of the disadvantages linked to the installation of the heat pump relate to it not achieving maximum performance in extremely cold weather.

In some cases, prior insulation will be necessary, and you’ll have to pay extra to have the underfloor radiant heating.

Also, the fact that it runs on electricity, so it’s not entirely eco-friendly. They can also be a little too noisy, depending on the model you have.

What Is The Best Climate For An Air Source Heat Pump?

While modern air source heat pumps can perform exceptionally well under any climate, that doesn’t mean they’ll work the same anywhere.

Areas with moderate temperatures that don’t have frequent temperature shifts are the most efficient places for heat pumps.

However, if you live in the part of the country with harsh winters where temperatures drop under 10F degrees, you may need a more powerful heat pump. Or an auxiliary heating solution.

How To Maximize The Efficiency Of An Air Source Heat Pump

Like any HVAC system, air source heat pumps should be optimized and maintained correctly. Here are a few things you can do to make your heat pump more efficient.

Adjust Your Thermostat

Choose the temperature you’re most comfortable with and adjust it to the heat pump thermostat. It might be slightly different from the traditional thermostat, so the settings will probably be higher than what you’re used to.

Also, it’s best to avoid the “auto” mode. In the winter, have the “Heat” mode on, and in the summer, set it to “Cool”. That way, you’ll prevent the system from cooling your home on a sunny winter day or heating it on a chilly summer night.

Avoid Frequent Temperature Changes

Choosing the thermostat setting can be a struggle at home where everyone has a different temperature preference.

However, avoiding frequent temperature shifts is much better for your heat pump. The steady temperature will ensure an even longer lifespan.

Clean The Dust Filters

Cleaning the dust filters in your air source heat pump will ensure that it’s always performing well.
Vacuuming or rinsing them once a month is more than enough. You might notice the dirt yourself, or the indicator light might come on.

Regular Professional Maintenance

While cleaning the filters and fans is an important task you can do by yourself, other types of maintenance will require an expert.

When you should call someone, it will depend on your heat pump’s age and performance. But it’s a crucial chore that will ensure your pump always works efficiently.

Elevate the Heat Pump

If you’re living in a particularly rainy and snowy area, it’s advisable to raise your pump anywhere from 5-8” off the ground.

That will allow for water drainage and keep the coils dry. Also, always make sure to remove any snow build-up from your heat pump unit.

Central Air Heat Pump ROI

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $4,670 - $5,930
Low End
High End

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

Undoubtedly, whether you’re installing a single unit or several, an air source heat pump is a lot of money. It’s the kind of decision that no one should take lightly and that should be the right choice for you.

But it’s also a kind of an investment that offers a significant return. First, it will likely last you several decades. And within those years, your energy bill will be decreased by at least a third, and often even more.

It’s also a sustainable heating and cooling solution that’s an investment in a more environmentally-friendly future. Did you know that if you install an Energy Star heat pump by December 31, 2022, you’re eligible for a tax credit of 26%.

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