Heat pumps are exploding in popularity, so a key question everyone is asking is: how much do they cost?
When we looked online, unfortunately all we saw was article after article giving ranges, typically around $2000 – $8000. But these ranges in heat pump prices aren’t helpful.
First, the ranges are too wide. There’s a big difference between $2000 and $8000. What people want to know is how much would the right heat pump for me cost?
Second, the cost of a heat pump varies significantly by these three factors:
- The type of heat pump: mini-split or ducted (almost no one buys geothermal).
- The size of heat pump (dictated by the size of room or home you’re heating and cooling)
- The efficiency rating (SEER for cooling)
To help, we created this page with the latest heat pump pricing data that we gathered ourselves, online. Below we show how heat pump prices vary as a function of type, size, and SEER ratings (jump to here).
But to really understand how much a heat pump will cost you, you need to understand what type of heat pump you need. So before the price data, we explain some basics of how a heat pump works, what the different types are and which one is right for which situations, give a rough guide of what size you may need, and explain what heat pump efficiency is and how to decide on that. All of this will help you better understand where on the heat pump price curves below you may fall.
Understanding What Heat Pump You Need
- What is a heat pump
- Types of heat pumps
- The two big factors affecting prices
- How big of a heat pump do I need?
Heat Pump Price Data
What is a heat pump?
But in short, a heat pump is essentially a two way air conditioner. In fact, we think they should probably be re-named “two way air conditioners” because people are already familiar and comfortable with air conditioners and because heat pumps are identical to an air-conditioner and are used as air conditioners in the summer. The only difference is that heat pumps can also run in reverse. In this mode (heating), they suck heat out of the outdoors and throw it in your room (air conditioners suck heat out of your room and throw it outside) — hence the name heat pump, they pump heat from one place to another.
They do this by moving a refrigerant (a liquid that can get very cold) around coils of pipes and by blowing air, via a fan, through the coils. In “heating mode” the refrigerant is cooled to very low temperatures and sent outdoors, where it picks up some heat from the outside (because it’s colder than the outside air), and then compressed to heat up and sent through coils inside, where a blower fan (“air handler”) blows air through it, which heats up the air, and that air is sent via vents throughout your home or building.
Heat Pumps Consume No Fuel
Because heat pumps move heat by heating and cooling a refrigerant, they consumes no fuel — just like an air conditioner, or for that matter, your fridge. This is what makes heat pumps a climate friendly or zero-carbon option. It’s also what makes them safer than furnaces, there’s no natural gas that can cause a carbon monoxide leak, or a gas explosion. All it uses is electricity to compress and expand the refrigerant and cycle it around (and of course a blower fan to blow hot or cold air around your house, like any HVAC system). Electricity of course can be produced in a net-zero-carbon way (with solar, wind, nuclear, hydro, etc.), while burning natural gas or oil in a furnace obviously burns fossil fuels every time you turn on your heater.
But doesn’t producing electricity also burn fossil fuels? Yes it can, but the point is it doesn’t need to, whereas burning natural gas in a gas furnace ensures you are burning fossil fuels (and releasing carbon into the atmosphere). In fact many states already have 90%+ of their electricity produced in a carbon-free method.
This lack of fuel consumption is also why it may be cheaper (depending on the relative cost of electricity vs gas in your area, and other factors) to use a heat pump for your heating and cooling vs a typical gas furnace for your heating and a separate air conditioner for your cooling.
So that takes us to the issue of price. How much does a heat pump cost?
Types of Heat Pumps
The first thing to note is that there are many different types of heat pumps and the price of a heat pump can vary significantly depending on the type of heat pump you choose.
There are three main types of heat pumps you should think about:
1. mini split
2. ducted (some call these “air source” but that’s a bit of a misnomer because mini-splits are also air-source)
3. ground source (also called “geothermal”)
Ground Source Heat Pumps: Not Common in Residential
First let’s get ground source heat pumps out of the way since the vast majority of residential consumers are not in the market for a ground source heat pump. Ground source heat pumps, also known as geothermal heat pumps, use the earth or ground water as a heat source or sink. They work by circulating a fluid through a loop of underground pipes, which absorbs or releases heat from the ground. They can be very efficient, but they are almost never used by typical homeowners because they are more expensive to install and require a large area for the underground loop. In addition, ground source heat pumps are not suitable for all climates and may not be an option in areas with a high water table or rocky soil.
Most residential consumers when they are looking at “buying a heat pump” are thinking about standard ducted heat pumps or mini-split, both of which are air source heat pumps.
Mini Split vs. Ducted Heat Pumps: Which Do You Need?
Mini split heat pumps consist of an outdoor unit that is connected to one or more indoor units by small, refrigerant lines. Think of a single room with a single outdoor unit connected with a small refrigerant line (like a small tube) to an indoor unit that is mounted to the wall like a heating/AC unit you see in hotels or motels — like this photo of a Pioneer brand mini-split heat pump from Home Depot that we profile in our price data below:
In contrast, a ducted heat pump is like the air conditioners that single family homes have outside their house that’s connected to the ventilation system. It’s literally exactly like that, except it can also heat your home in the winter.
Here’s a photo from a YouTube video of a Goodman ducted heat pump (many of which are in our pricing data below):
Which heat pump is right for you?
Simple: if you have vents and ducts in your home and you want to replace a furnace and/or A/C unit that heats and cools the whole home, through those vents, you need a ducted heat pump.
In contrast, if you want to heat or cool a single room that’s not connected to vents or ducts, a mini split heat pump is what you’re looking for.
Obviously mini-splits are cheaper and ducted heat pumps more expensive. But within those categories there are big differences in price. Next we’ll discuss why.
The Two Big Factors in Heat Pump Prices
There are two things that affect heat pump prices the most:
- Size of the heat pump (e.g. how big of a space it can heat and cool)
- The efficiency of a heat pump (how much electricity it takes to produce a given mount of hot or cold air)
(Note: Both of these are exactly analogous to how air conditioners are priced.)
As you can guess, the bigger the heat pump, the more it costs, and the more efficient the heat pump the more it costs. We have data on how heat pump prices differ by both size and SEER rating (cooling efficiency) below.
The latter (efficiency) is worth pausing on: paying more for a more efficient heat pump is really just a matter of paying now (at the time of purchase) versus later (every month in electricity bills).
The average electricity cost in the US is $0.13/kWh at the time of writing (2023). So if you live in a place where electricity is significantly more expensive than this (e.g. norther California, where it’s $0.29 – $0.40+ per kWh), it likely makes sense to pay more upfront for a more efficient heat pump because your electricity costs are going to be much higher than someone living in say, Boise, Idaho (~$0.08/kWh). So you’ll “make up” that higher up front cost faster in San Francisco than in Boise.
In contrast, if you live in a place with cheap electricity (less than $0.13/kWh) and you don’t want to spend as much upfront, a lower SEER rating heat pump could make sense for you.
How Big of a Heat Pump Do I Need? A Rule of Thumb (And Its Shortcomings)
It’ll be hard to figure out how much a heat pump will cost for you if you don’t know what size you need. This section should help.
Heat pumps are typically sized in BTUs or tons with 1 ton = 12,000 BTUs
Different sources site different sizes but they generally converge on a rule of thumb of 2 tons per 1000 square feet of space. That gives us this handy table:
|Square Feet||Heat Pump Size in Tons||Heat Pump Size in BTUs|
|1000||2 tons||24,000 BTUs|
|1500||3 tons||36,000 BTUs|
|2000||4 tons||48,000 BTUs|
|2500||5 tons||60,000 BTUs|
|3000||6 tons||72,000 BTUs|
|3500||7 tons||84,000 BTUs|
Shortcomings of the Rule of Thumb
But, the nice blog Carbon Switch makes a compelling argument on how this rule of thumb may not be accurate — in fact it could be way off.
In short, these rules of thumb don’t account for the level of insulation or leakiness in your home — nor do they account for the height of your ceilings or number of windows, all of which will affect your heating requirements.
Using published actual heating load data of homes in Massachusetts, they compared what heat pump sizes those homes would actually need versus what these rules of thumb would suggest, and found that for almost all homes, the rules of thumb grossly over or under estimated the heat pump size.
Over estimate your heat pump size and you waste money. Under estimate it and you have uncomfortable winters. Neither is good.
So the best solution to sizing your heat pump is to call a contractor and have them do a blower door test to more accurately determine your actual heating requirement.
But using the above table and our data below, you can at least get a range of prices.
The Latest Heat Pump Prices (Last Updated January 2023)
Below are the latest prices we have found (as of February 2023) of heat pumps sold online. These are the listed costs of the heat pumps only, they do not include installation cost. You’ll need to talk to local HVAC installers for that. Later we’ll do a survey of HVAC companies in different cities and states and publish their installation costs.
Mini Split Heat Pumps and Their Costs in 2023
Here is a sampling of some single zone mini split heat pump prices found online in February of 2023:
|Size (BTU)||SEER rating||Cost||Brand, Store|
|15,000||21.6||$2106||Mitsubishi, AC Wholesalers|
|15,000||25||$2104||Fujitsu, HVAC Direct|
|18,000||16.8||$899||Blueridge, Alpine Home Air|
|18,000||20||$1699||Mr. Cool, HomeDepot|
|24,000||20||$2192||Mr. Cool, HVAC Direct|
You can see our two factors in action reliably in this data. First, size: the larger the heat pump, the higher the cost. That said, the total spread of prices isn’t enormous: roughly $1000. The majority of the heat pumps are between $1000 and $2000.
For example, you can get an 18,000 BTU heat pump, nominally big enough for a 750 square foot space for around $1000, which is not that much more than a 9,000 BTU heat pump, which is good for small rooms (~300 sqft).
That leads us to the other factor: why is there such a high spread in price for the same size heat pump? Efficiency. Namely in this case we recorded the cooling efficiency (SEER) for each. The higher the SEER rating, the more expensive the heat pump. The two 18,000 BTU heat pumps above with very different prices have very different SEER ratings: 16.8 vs. 20.
Remember the rule of thumb is 24,000 BTUs covers around 1,000 square feet, so since single zone mini splits are meant to heat or cool one room, it’s not common to buy greater than 24,000 BTU single zone units, so $2000 is about as much as you can expect to pay for a single zone mini split heat pump.
If you want mini-split heat pumps to heat and cool more than one room, you can get a 2-zone (or more zones) mini-splits. As you can imagine, costs increase a bit for 2-zone heat pumps. Here is a sampling of some 2-zone mini split heat pump prices found online in 2023:
|Zones||Size (BTU)||SEER rating||Cost||Brand, Store, Link|
Ducted Air Source Heat Pump Costs
Here is a similar sampling of price data of ducted air source heat pumps sold online (including air handlers):
|Size (BTU)||SEER Rating||Price||Brand, Store|
|24,000||14||$2250||Goodman, AC Wholesalers|
|24,000||20||$2479||Blueridge, Alpine Home & Air|
|30,000||15.5||$2523||Mr. Cool, Lowes|
|30,000||14||$1826||Goodman, AC Wholesalers|
|36,000||18||$3450||Mr. Cool, HVAC Direct|
|36,000||18||$4844||LG, AC Wholesalers|
|36,000||18||$3208||Pioneer, Home Depot|
|42,000||14||$2849||Mr. Cool, Lowes|
|42,000||14||$3288||Goodman, The AC Outlet|
|42,000||16||$3476||Goodman, HVAC Direct|
|56,000||14||$3590||Blueridge, Alpine Home & Air|
|56,000||17||$4533||Mr. Cool, Lowes|
|56,000||17.5||$4128||Pioneer, Home Depot|
|56,000||18||$4227||Goodman, Alpine Home & Air|
|57,000||15||$4225||Mr. Cool, Home Depot|
Here are a few observations on these prices.
- The smallest ducted heat pumps that are commonly sold online are 24,000 BTUs or 2 tons. This is consistent with the BTUs per square feet table above. 24,000 BTUs is nominally good for a 1,000 square foot home. Smaller than that and you can probably do just fine with a mini-split.
- Just like mini-split prices, the majority of ducted heat pumps are within $1000 of each other (roughly). Look at the difference in prices between 24,000 BTU heat pumps and 42,000 BTU heat pumps, it’s between the $2,000s and the $3,000s