We often tell our customers that they can expect to get about 15-20 years of service from their furnaces or air conditioners.
That time frame is unrealistic for your heat pump. It heats and cools, so it works twice as hard as the rest of your HVAC units.
So if your heat pump is ten years old or more, it might be time to think about getting a replacement. Or if you’re thinking about replacing your furnace or air conditioner with a heat pump, then you’ve found the correct article.
In Hilliard and the rest of Central Ohio, we’ve talked to thousands of homeowners who have similar decisions to make. Since even the cheapest of heat pumps cost $5,000 and up, we know that you won’t make this decision lightly. (More on prices later.)
The worst-case scenario is that your heat pump conks out in the middle of a hot or cold spell, and you need to decide quickly about your unexpected expense.
We aim to provide you with some factors to consider when you’re thinking about heat pumps. In that way, you can have a more productive conversation with your HVAC consultant, and won’t feel pressured to make a decision in the dark.
Three Major Factors That Affect Heat Pump Cost
Three major factors dictate the equipment cost of your replacement heat pump: size, efficiency, stages.
Sizing the Unit
The first thing to consider is the heating and cooling capacity that your heat pump has to satisfy. HVAC contractors may also refer to your heat pump’s power as its output or size. The sizes range from 1 ½ tons to 5 tons.
In order to meet your heating and cooling needs, your heat pump must be powerful enough. And as power increases, so does the cost.
To determine your replacement heat pump’s capacity, your HVAC partner must perform a load calculation. Load calculations - as opposed to just square footage - provide an accurate appraisal of your house.
At Fire & Ice, we perform a Manual J load calculation for each in-home estimate. Both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) require load calculations such as the Manual J.
And you should be aware that not every HVAC contractor performs these. It’s easier - though it’s not in the customer’s best interest - not to.
Among other factors, Manual J load calculations factor in:
The square footage of your home
The number and size of your windows and doors
The directions your windows face
The height of your ceilings
How recently your home was insulated
These factors can help your HVAC partner determine how powerful your heat pump needs to be.
Matching the correct capacity to your home is crucial. If your heat pump is too powerful or isn’t powerful enough to heat and cool your home, your system will suffer.
In both cases, improper sizing affects your heat pump’s life expectancy. If it isn't the right size, you may need to replace it as much as 5-10 years sooner. And the repair costs will be higher than necessary.
Heat Pump Efficiency Ratings
The second big factor in determining a heat pump’s price is its efficiency rating.
As with all HVAC equipment, the higher the efficiency, the more it costs. However, a higher-efficiency unit can help save on energy costs in the long run. More efficient heat pumps can also provide more comfort.
Since heat pumps provide both cooling and heating, manufacturers use two different ratings to score heat pump efficiency:
Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)
Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)
While cooling, a heat pump’s efficiency is scored with a SEER rating. Heat pumps can be between 14-20 SEER.
While heating, a heat pump’s efficiency is scored with an HSPF rating. Heat pumps can be between 7.7-10 HSPF.
Both SEER and HSPF ratings are calculated based on the amount of energy a heat pump uses. While both SEER and HSPF are calculated differently, higher SEER and HSPF ratings both indicate more efficient heat pumps.
Heat Pump Stages
The third major factor affecting a heat pump’s cost is how many stages it has.
A single-stage unit has two settings: on and off. When it’s on, your get 100%. Single-stage heat pumps are going to be the cheapest to purchase and have installed.
A two-stage heat pump has a compressor that can operate at two distinct speeds. The two-stage compressor has a 100% setting, but also another that is somewhat less. This second stage is generally around 70% capacity.
Say you set your thermostat to 72 degrees. The AC might let the home get to 74 before kicking on, then cool it to 71. Then the cycle repeats.
With a two-stage compressor, the system works less hard because it doesn’t turn off and on all of the time. It uses less energy while it saves wear and tear on the equipment. It also does a better job of circulating the conditioned air throughout the house. Two-stage heat pumps are going to provide more efficiency compared to single-stage. They’re a nice middle ground between low-end and high-end efficiency, and will save you on energy costs.
A variable-speed heat pump (also known as variable-capacity) can have up to 700 distinct compressor settings that correspond to varying levels of airflow. Similarly to how the two-stage can operate at a lower speed when it doesn’t need to be at 100%, a variable-speed system can adjust accordingly to use only the power needed to maintain a consistent temperature in your home. It can keep your house at almost exactly your thermostat’s setting no matter the outside temperature.
Variable-speed heat pumps are going to run the most efficiently, and will generally be the quietest as well since they’re often operating at as low as 40% of their maximum power capacity. You’re also going to save the most on energy costs. You’ll experience fewer spikes in temperature, creating a more comfortable home.
The primary downside is the initial cost. The variable-speed systems are the priciest, even if they largely make up that cost in the long run.
One of the most overlooked aspects of heating and cooling is equipment matching. Equipment matching involves pairing compatible heating and cooling systems. This ensures that you get the most out of your HVAC system as a whole.
Your HVAC system’s blower motor is responsible for circulating air throughout your home. Your system’s blower motor is located in your furnace or air handler. If your heat pump and your furnace or air handler aren’t compatible, you may not get the comfort and efficiency that you paid for. It may also void the warranty.
This is especially important with variable-speed heat pumps. But without a variable-speed blower motor, a variable-capacity heat pump will not provide the expected level of comfort or efficiency.
If you upgrade to a variable-capacity heat pump or a two-stage heat pump, you may need to replace your furnace as well.
A good HVAC contractor will check your existing HVAC system to make sure their recommendations are compatible. They’ll also explain the costs and benefits when you buy your heat pump and the need to match your equipment.
Cost of a Heat Pump Replacement
Now that you understand the factors that affect the cost of your heat pump replacement, what is the price tag?
Heat Pump Equipment & Installation Costs:
Entry-level heat pump: $4,900 - $7,000
Mid-range heat pump: $5,500 - $10,000
High-end heat pump: $6,500 - $12,500
These prices include the cost of equipment, labor, and any fees.
Factors that can change the price include the size of your home, the heat pump’s capacity, the location, line set protection, and any ductwork modifications that are needed during the installation.
The biggest factor that separates those tiers is whether the heat pump is single-stage, two-stage, or variable-capacity. However, these ranges do not include the cost of a replacement furnace, which could be necessary for equipment matching.
Ultimately, the best replacement heat pump for you depends on your needs, preferences, and budget.
Buying a New Heat Pump in Hilliard, Ohio
Knowing what goes into the pricing of a new heat pump should allow you to hold HVAC companies accountable when you decide to invest in a new system. Whether you live in Hilliard, Ohio, or anywhere in Central Ohio, a little bit of knowledge will give you an idea of what questions to ask so you’ll feel more confident about your investment.
Then you can work with your HVAC partner to create an efficient, long-lasting product that will keep you comfortable for years.
Want to know what other things you should be thinking about? We’ve put together a list of helpful resources that will get you prepared to make a great decision. If we can help at any point, we’d love to hear from you.