Heat Pump Price Guides | Buying Guide and Installation Costs

$4,890 to $7,410 – Heat Pump Cost Installed

The average replacement cost of a residential heat pump system is $6,700 for a complete 2.5 to 3 ton heat pump system, installed by a local HVAC pro near you.

HeatPumpPriceGuides.com is a consumer price guide dedicated to helping homeowners learn about heat pump prices for their home HVAC systems. The information published on this site is kept as current as possible, and continually updated with the latest 2021 heat pump pricing data that we compile from leading online resources, direct interaction with visitors like yourself, as well as HVAC industry data.

Split System Heat Pumps are comprised of three or more main components, a thermostat control, and installation accessories that connect the components and allow them to work together properly. Anytime we refer to a complete heat pump system, we’re referring to the outdoor heat pump condensing unit, an air handler with evaporator coil, electric heating strip, duct system, thermostat, and a refrigerant line-set to connect the system.

heat pump price guides

Factors that Affect the Installed Cost of a Complete Heat Pump System

How much does a heat pump cost? There’s no easy answer to that due to the many variables affecting heat pump prices.

Type of Unit: Heat pump types to consider are air source split systems (Most common), packaged units (Least common), mini split heat pumps (Common in small areas) and geothermal heat pumps (Most expensive).

Equipment Brands: Quality is just one of the factors affecting heat pump brand pricing. You might be surprised at some of the other reasons some brands cost more.

Equipment Size: Residential heat pumps range in sizes from 18,000 to more than 60,000 BTUs.

Efficiency: Heat pump efficiency is important to consider.

Performance: Heat pump performance features like staged heating and air conditioning affect indoor climate control and comfort.

Installation: Your replacement options include just the installation of a new outdoor unit and indoor coil, but there are an appealing range of add-ons to consider.

Job Needs: Are you installing a new heat pump to a new home? This is going to cost a considerable amount more due to the needs of ductwork, added wiring for electricity and a thermostat, etc.

All these cost factors are discussed at length below in detailed FAQ and Buying Guides that will inform and assist as you make your heat pump purchasing decision. For example, consider your system preference. Would your home be best served by a packaged or split system heat pump, a furnace plus an AC or a heat pump for both cooling and heating? Important questions of system size and the energy efficiency of the equipment are also discussed.

Different Types of Heat Pump

You have several heat pump types to consider, and each has a unique niche to fill. Here’s an overview of the equipment required and the cost of each heat pump system.

Air Source Heat Pump Systems

Cost: $4,400 – $8,500, Installed

The installed cost of an air course, split system heat pump system ranges from $4,400 to $8,500 for average-sized homes. Large, high-performance heat pumps can exceed $10,000. Cost factors include the energy efficiency of the system, whether it offers staged heating and cooling that improves indoor climate control and the difficulty of the installation. Ductwork can run another $2,500 to $5,000 or more depending on the size of the home.

Ducted air source heat pumps are the most common replacement heat pump systems. They are also popular for new construction when homeowners want a “tried and true” option they’re familiar with. These systems are a good choice for regions of the country without extreme winter cold.

Equipment: Air source heat pumps are also called split system heat pumps. The outside unit is the condensing unit, though often simply referred to as the heat pump. An indoor air handler contains a blower fan that circulates treated air – air that has been heated or cooled. Coils are installed in both locations. A line set containing refrigerant runs between the coils, absorbing heat in one location and dispersing it in the other. System sizes range from 1.5 tons, or 18,000 BTUs, to 5 tons, aka 60,000 BTUs.

Performance: The systems are controlled by a thermostat. When the thermostat is set to COOL, the system collects heat indoors and pumps it outside. When in HEAT mode, a reversing valve in the system changes the direction of the refrigerant flow, and the system collects heat outdoors to pump inside and release. Heat pumps are available in single-stage, 2-stage and variable-capacity heating and AC performance.

Packaged Heat Pump Systems

Cost: $5,700 – $8,000, Installed

Average installed cost of a typical 3 ton, 2-stage packaged heat pump will be $5,700 to $8,000 depending on installation factors. Add-ons to improve air quality raise cost.

These all-in-one systems are mostly installed in homes without a basement. Rather than having the equipment take up living space, it is located entirely outside, usually on the ground, but occasionally on the roof. Because packaged units aren’t as common, you have a limited number of options for energy efficiency and performance.

Equipment: Packaged heat pump systems combine the condensing unit and air handler in a single cabinet that is installed outside. The equipment is connected to the home’s ductwork, and air is circulated by a blower in the air handler. Like a split system heat pump, it is controlled by a thermostat. Sizes range from 2 tons to 5 tons.

Performance: Most packaged heat pumps offer single-stage or 2-stage performance, but a limited number of variable capacity packaged units are hitting the market. Energy efficiency ranges from low to average; You don’t have the super-efficient options that split system and mini split systems offer.

Mini Split Ductless Heat Pump Units

Cost: $2,200 to $4,000, Installed

Ductless heat pump cost varies widely based on system size and the number of indoor units. Installed price averages about $2,200 to $4,000 for single-zone systems; about twice that for multi-zone heat pumps.

These popular split systems offer excellent efficiency and climate control. Mini split systems are also called ductless heat pumps because no ductwork is required, so they’re a good choice for new construction and areas of a home not adequately served by the central HVAC system.

Equipment: Their name comes from the compact size of the condensing unit, about half the size of a standard heat pump. Each outdoor condensing unit serves from one to four indoor units called evaporators. Wiring, refrigerant lines and a drain line connect the outdoor and indoor equipment. Your size options range from 9,000 BTUs to 48,000 BTUs for most systems.

Performance: All mini split heat pumps have variable capacity compressors to deliver outstanding temperature balance and energy efficiency that is higher than most split system and packaged heat pumps.

Ground Source Geothermal Heat Pump Systems

Cost: $9,500 to $15,000 and up, Installed

While pricing has come down as more manufacturers and installers enter the geothermal market, but the cost of a geothermal heat pump averages about $15,000, and some cost much more.

Ground source heat pumps, aka geothermal heat pumps, take advantage of the stable temperatures underground or in a body of water. This improves efficiency by making it easier to collect and disperse heat. They’re also called ground source heat pumps.

Equipment: Most geothermal systems are split heat pumps with an outside condensing unit and indoor air handler. Additionally, they employ water-filled tubing laid in horizontal troughs or vertical shafts or wells to collect and “dump” heat based on whether the system is heating or cooling the home.

Performance: Energy efficiency is excellent, though not significantly better than the most efficient air source and mini split heat pump systems. For this reason and due to the higher cost, geothermal might not be the best value for your home.

Heat Pump Price List by Leading Brands

The 2021 price list below is based on heat pump replacement cost for a complete 3-ton system change out. We needed to set this baseline in order to provide an equal comparison between each of the top rated heat pump brands listed below. This is a split system, meaning there is equipment installed both outside and inside your home. The system includes: A 3-ton (36,000 BTU) heat pump condenser outside, 1200 cfm air handler with built in coil indoors, insulated copper line-set and basic 7-day programmable heat pump thermostat.

The combined efficiency of the complete heat pump system is rated at: 16 seer, 9.0 HSPF and would adequately heat and cool most homes between 1750-2250 sq. ft.

Note: The Complete System column shows the price for the equipment only (condensing unit, air handler with coil, the refrigerant line set and thermostat. The Complete System Installed column includes the cost of labor, refrigerant, installation materials such as a pad for the condensing unit and the permit required to install a heat pump.

Leading Heat Pump Brands
Complete System
Complete System Installed
AirQuest $3,135
$6,400
American Standard $3,775
$7,110
AirEase $3,150
$6,445
Amana $3,185
$6,600
Arcoaire $2,390
$5,525
Armstrong Air $2,485
$5,690
Broan $2,735
$6,250
Bryant $3,550
$6,680
Carrier $3,985
$7,050
Coleman $2,880 $5,525
Comfortmaker $2,600
$5,355
Day & Night $2,875
$5,500
Daikin $3,300
$6,185
Frigidaire $2,995
$5,880
Gibson $2,400 $5,315
Goodman $2,185 $5,015
Heil $2,415 $5,260
KeepRite $2,800
$5,715
Lennox $3,535 $6,925
Luxaire $2,650
$5,590
Maytag $3,000
$6,335
Payne $2,875
$5,980
Rheem $2,535 $5,350
Ruud $2,495 $5,130
Tempstar $2,260 $4,940
Trane $3,450 $6,850
York $2,865 $6,300

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Brand Differences and Consolidation of Brands

Did you Know? There are many brands, but very few manufacturers of HVAC equipment. Here is a list of the manufacturers and the brands they make.

Carrier: For decades, Carrier was part of United Technologies Corporation. Carrier became its own entity in 2019, retaining the Bryant brand and ICP – International Comfort Products. Carrier also owns Payne, a brand that makes a limited selection of low-cost heat pumps, furnaces and more.

Daikin: The Daikin Corporation is one of the largest heating and cooling manufacturers in the world. In 2012, Daikin bought Goodman and the Amana brand with it for the purpose of getting into the North America residential heating and cooling market. The Daikin, Goodman and Amana heat pump lines are identical.

Ingersoll-Rand: This international company makes Trane and American Standard. The brands are identical.

International Comfort Products: When the Carrier Corporation split from United Technologies Corporation, it retained ICP. International Comfort Products are known for value – the equipment is identical, or nearly so, to Carrier and Bryant, but the cost is up to 35% less.

If you’re not going to spend on a Carrier but might buy a Day & Night heat pump, Carrier still makes a profit. ICP brands are Heil, AirQuest, Day & Night, Arcoaire, Comfortmaker, KeepRite and Tempstar. Some of these brands aren’t well represented across the country, so you might not be able to find all of them sold where you live.

Pro tip: One of the ways Carrier saves money on its ICP brands is by allowing any HVAC installer to sell and install its products. Carrier/Bryant require its dealers to be factory trained and certified. The point is this: Whatever heat pump brand you consider, get estimates from multiple installers. Check their online reviews and ratings, and choose a contractor with a track record of quality installation.

Johnson Controls: As the HVAC equipment industry consolidated, Johnson Controls acquired Coleman, Luxaire and York brands.

Lennox: This well-known brand manufactures the Lennox line of HVAC heat pumps and other HVAC equipment. But it also owns the Armstrong and AirEase brands plus Ducane. The various brands are similar to Lennox in the parts used, but they are not as identical as Carrier and Bryant and the ICP lines.

Nortek Global: This large corporation makes many “household” name brands including Maytag and Frigidaire. Gibson and Broan are also Nortek heat pump brands. All of the brands are identical – just the name plate is different. Nortek also owns the once-popular Nordyne brand, though the label isn’t currently used.

Paloma Industries: This Atlanta-based HVAC manufacturer makes two identical heat pump brands, Rheem and Ruud.

Why different pricing for identical heat pumps? Heat pump manufacturers sell their products at different prices to attract a wider range of customers. For example, Carrier equipment is priced near the top of the spectrum for two reasons beyond Carrier’s large marketing budget. First, homeowners expect more from a Carrier heat pump, so they are willing to pay more. Some of this is perception, though Carrier does make some of the highest-quality heat pumps available.

Secondly, some consumers will say, “I’m not paying top-dollar for a Carrier! They’re over-priced!” But they might buy a Day & Night heat pump, which is nearly identical in its quality and parts, for about 20% less. Carrier/ICP still makes the sale and gets a profit, even if it isn’t as high as if the homeowner bought a Carrier. It’s better for them to make a lower profit than to not make the sale.

Unit Prices Sorted by the Heat Pump System Size

Before a heat pump system is installed in your home, a licensed HVAC company needs to run a heating and cooling load calculation on your home. (Click here to get free competitive quotes) They will take several measurements, look at your windows, your attic and all areas of your home to determine heat gain and heat loss. They do this to be sure you have a properly sized heat pump system ranging from 1.5 tons to 5 tons in size.

Heat Pump, Fan Unit, Heat Strip
Complete System
Complete System Installed
1.5 Tons, 800cfm, 5kw $1,365
$3,650
2 Tons, 800cfm, 5kw $1,530
$4,325
2.5 Tons, 1200cfm, 7kw $1,695
$5,240
3 Tons, 1200cfm, 7kw $1,830
$5,550
3.5 Tons, 1400cfm, 10kw $1,875
$6,135
4 Tons, 1600 cfm, 10kw $1,995 $6,750
5 Tons, 2000cfm, 10kw $2,215 $7,890

Note: For the purpose of this heat pump price list, we are including a complete unit with the following equipment: 15 SEER Heat Pump Condenser, Air Handler Fan Coil, Electric Heat Strip, (Backup heat) 7-Day Programmable Thermostat, and a New Copper Line-set. The pricing is set to an average manufacturer like Bryant, Heil, Lennox or Rheem. We also assume the installation would be of average difficulty, taking two skilled HVAC mechanical pros one day to complete.


Cost by Heat Pump Efficiency Ratings

Heat pump systems, just like central air conditioners and other major home appliances, come in several different efficiency ratings which are measured in SEER for cooling, and HSPF for heating your home. Standard efficiency heat pumps cost much less than the price of high efficiency heat pump systems for your home.

In this next price table, we want to share the effect of efficiency, on heat pump prices. The pricing data is based on a complete, and ARI matched 3-ton heat pump system.

Heat Pump Efficiency Rating
Complete System
Complete System Installed
13-14 SEER / 7-8 HSPF (Standard Eff) $2,260
$4,550
15-16 SEER / 8-9 HSPF $2,570
$6,450
17-18 SEER / 9-10 HSFP $3,665
$6,875
19+ SEER / 10+ HSFP (Super High Eff) $4,850
$8,110

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Heat Pump Performance Features and Price Factors

A basic air source heat pump offers 14 SEER efficiency with a single-stage compressor. This means that the unit runs at full capacity whenever on, which can lead to noticeable temperature swings.

As you upgrade efficiency and comfort control, cost will increase. In extreme climates, the cost of the upgrade will be paid back in a reasonable number of years. In moderate climates, the upgrades might not be cost effective, but you still might enjoy the improved temperature balance and increased summer dehumidification that comes with the upgrade.

Let’s break down these performance features with a look at what the upgrade will cost and what you’ll get for the money.

Efficiency: Air source heat pump maximum efficiency increases every year as manufacturers strive to meet consumer demand for greener heating and cooling. The most efficient heat pumps now have SEER ratings in the low 20s, a remarkable improvement from a couple decades ago.

Cost: Upgrading efficiency from 14 SEER will produce a cost increase of about 10% for a 16 SEER unit to 100% or more for the most efficient model available. For example, Trane’s most efficient heat pump starts at about $10,000 installed while its least efficient model is around $5,200 installed.

Staged Heating and Air Conditioning: Single-stage heat pumps are the most affordable and can be found in SEER ranges from 14 to about 18.

All brands make two-stage (2-stage) heat pumps too. The two stages are 65% or 70% of capacity, depending on the brand, and, of course, 100%. The units are designed to run on low whenever that stage can keep up with the demand for heat or air conditioning. They run on high when necessary – typically when you “crank up” the heat or AC by several degrees on the thermostat or when the temperature outside is changing rapidly.

There are two main advantages to two-stage performance. The first is energy efficiency. It takes less energy to run at 65% than 100%, and that factor alone will boost SEER by 2-3 points.

The second reason to consider a 2-stage heat pump is better climate control. Running at low capacity creates better temperature balance, usually keeping it within a degree of the thermostat setpoint, while a single-stage unit will create slight swings you might notice.

Summer dehumidification is better with 2-stage cooling too. When a unit runs on low, the cycles are generally longer, which is a good thing. Coupled with a variable speed blower in the air handler, long, low-stage cycles move humid air over the cold evaporator coil at a rate that leads to more of the moisture condensing onto the coil and being removed from the air.

This is where climate control and energy efficiency meet. When the air is drier, you’ll feel comfortable at a higher temperature. This allows you to set the thermostat a few degrees higher and enjoy cool, dry air rather than setting it lower and risking a cool, clammy feel sometimes produced with single-stage heat pumps.

The cost of a two-stage 16 SEER heat pump is about 15% higher, depending on the brand, than a 16 SEER single-stage unit.

Next level performance: Most brands now make variable capacity heat pumps, aka modulating or variable speed heat pumps. The compressors run at capacities as low as 25% to 40% depending on the brand, and up to 100%. The analogy of a vehicle’s cruise control is often used to explain modulating performance.

The compressor adjusts in increments of 1% or less to precisely deliver the right amount of heating or air conditioning to keep the indoor temperature exactly where you want it. The variable capacity performance improves efficiency and climate control above what a 2-stage unit is capable of. The SEER ratings for variable capacity heat pumps range from 18 to 23+.

Variable capacity heat pumps are very expensive and not a cost-effective option in most climates. Unless your AC season is long, very hot and humid, you likely won’t recoup the larger investment in a variable capacity heat pump through lower energy costs over the life of the heat pump.

Heat Pump Installation and Add-On Costs

Typical Installation Costs

What does a heat pump system itemized bill look like?

Here is a breakdown of the average cost for the equipment, material and labor charges for a typical 16 SEER, single-stage 3 ton heat pump system. Cost will rise with upgraded efficiency and performance such as 2-stage and variable capacity heating and air conditioning.

  • $2,200 | 16 SEER Condensing Unit (outdoor unit)
  • $45 | Condensing Unit Pad (optional)
  • $1,275| Air Handler (indoor unit)
  • $585| Evaporator Coil (in the air handler)
  • $300 | Refrigerant Line Set, 50 feet
  • $35 | Line Set Insulated Cover
  • $250 | Electric disconnect, wiring whip and new breaker
  • $50 | Installation Fittings
  • $125 | Refrigerant
  • $75+ | Digital Programmable Thermostat – Popular smart thermostats like nest, ecobee and Honeywell Lyric cost $200-$300. Touchscreen WiFi thermostats cost as much as $600. A good programmable thermostat with basic functionality averages about $75.
  • $275 | Permit and inspection fees.

$4,815 | Total Equipment, Parts and Supplies

+ $1,885 | Labor Cost

= $6,700 | Total Average Installed Heat Pump Cost

Added Installation Cost of Various Features and Add-Ons

If you’re replacing a heat pump with one of the same size and performance, then you might get away without additional costs.

But the HVAC salesperson will make sure your current ductwork and connecting sheet metal, the plenum and cold air return, are compatible and in good condition.

Other potential add-ons to the system will be for the purpose of enhanced indoor climate control. Here is a comprehensive list of these features and their average cost to have them installed.

  • $2,500 – $5,000| Complete New Ductwork including Labor
  • $1,250 | New Plenum and Cold Air Return Only
  • $300 – $500 per Zone | Zoning Equipment (motor-controlled dampers placed with the ducts to allow you to heat and air condition each zone separately)
  • $250 – $600| Communicating Thermostat (Necessary for high-performance communicating heat pump models)
  • $225 – $550 | 10kW to 30kW Heat Strips
  • $280 | High MERV / MPR Filter Assembly and Filter
  • $775 | Electronic Air Filter
  • $450 | UV Germicidal Light
  • $800 – $1,500 | ERV or HRV Whole House Ventilator
  • $350 – $550 | Evaporative

Heat Pump System Buying Guides & FAQ’s

Here are some of the most commonly researched questions regarding the purchase and installation of a residential heat pump system. Detailed answers are included.

What is the Difference Between Packaged and Split System Heat Pumps

The difference is pretty simple. And each type has its pros and cons.

A split system includes a condensing unit, sometimes just called the heat pump, which is installed outside. There’s indoor equipment too – an air handler outfitted with an evaporator coil plus, in most cases, electric heat strips used for emergency or supplemental heat.

A packaged heat pump includes all the primary equipment in one large cabinet installed outdoors on the ground or roof. It contains every found in a split system, but in a single housing. The unit is connected to the home’s ductwork.

Thermostats are used to control each system type.

Efficiency: Standard split system heat pumps have SEER ratings ranging from 14 to 23+. The HSPF ratings are as high as 13. Packaged units are less efficient, mostly in the range of 14 to 16 SEER with HSPF ratings up to 8.5.

Sizes: Split system heat pumps usually start at 1.5 or 2.0 tons. Packaged units start at 2.0 tons. Other sizes common to both are 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 5.0 tons.

Installation: Installing a packaged unit is easier, especially if located on the ground. The refrigerant lines are factory-installed and pre-charged with refrigerant, reducing onsite labor cost. The refrigerant line set for a split system has be cut to length and installed onsite, and refrigerant has to be added.

Durability: Because the air handler is located outside and subject to the elements, packaged heat pumps are considered less durable and higher maintenance than split system heat pumps.

Why would a homeowner choose a packaged heat pump?

The main reason is space. When there’s little room inside the home for an air handler, it makes sense to install it outdoors. Also, homes without basements are more likely to have packaged units than those with a basement.

Packaged units, since the equipment and installation costs are lower, are worth considering where temperatures are moderate and you don’t need to higher efficiency offered by a standard split heat pump.

Do You Need a Heat Pump or Central AC and Furnace?

Most HVAC pros recommend heat pump systems as the most efficient equipment. The exception is in climates with extreme cold.

What’s the problem with freezing weather? While some heat pump manufacturers claim their units can effectively heat in sub-freezing weather, the reality is that efficiency is compromised. First, it is more difficult to extract enough heat from outside air when it is that cold to adequately heat a home.

Secondly, when the heat pump can’t keep up, the system turns on its supplemental heat strips – basically large space heater elements inside the air handler. And if you’re familiar with electric heat costs, then you’re aware that it is the most expensive type of heating compared with gas heat or heat obtained by cycling refrigerant between the outdoor and indoor coils. If your system uses the heat strips a lot, the efficiency advantage heat pumps usually have is lost – and you’d be better off with a gas furnace.

Cold-climate Air Source Heat Pumps, or ccASHP: These units are designed to effectively heat in sub-freezing weather. However, they are costly; they will lose efficiency at very low temperatures outside, and they likely will rely on their electric power strips. Will they work in freezing weather? Yes, but not as effectively or efficiently.

What are dual fuel heat pumps? Aka hybrid heat pumps, the systems are comprised of a heat pump and a gas furnace. When winter temperatures are above freezing, the heat pump is sufficient to provide heat without relying on the heat strips. When the outside temperature drops and the heat pump can’t keep up, the system automatically switches to the furnace for heat.

[Mark – Here’s a generic Zone Map. I couldn’t copy/paste the image]

  • Zones 1 through 4: Heat pumps are the most efficient choice.
  • Zone 5: A heat pump should do the job, but we recommend discussing equipment and cost options with your  HVAC contractor before deciding.
  • Zones 6 & 7: A gas furnace is the most cost-effective option for providing heat in these zones. Add central air conditioning if your summers are warm enough to require it.

What Size Heat Pump Do I Need?

Residential heat pumps range from 18,000 BTUs, or 1.5 tons, to 60,000 BTUs, or 5.0 tons.

The general rule is that your home needs 15 to 30 BTUs per square foot. So, a typical 2,000 square foot home will have a heat pump in the range of 30,000 BTUs to 60,000 BTUs, or 2.5 to 5.0 tons.

Climate: Obviously, the warmer your climate is, the more BTUs of AC you’ll need per square foot. And as you get into the colder zones, the same is true. If you decide to use a heat pump in a cold region, it will need to be larger than if your home were located in a more temperate area. Just keep in mind our advice about choosing a gas furnace instead of a heat pump in the colder zones.

Your Home: The contractor you choose should do some type of load calculation to determine exactly the size heat pump required – not too big and not too small.

The load calculation, such as a Manual J calculation, considers your climate of course, but it also factors your home’s building materials, level of insulation, floor plan number of levels, number of windows and the directions they face and, importantly, how airtight your home is. Each factor is weighted, and the numbers are crunched to get a precise heat pump size.

Pro Tip on Heat Pump Replacement: If you’ve made insulation upgrades to your home – new siding with vapor barrier (house wrap), insulated siding, energy efficient windows, extra attic insulation or similar upgrades, then your replacement heat pump should probably be smaller than the old one! You simply won’t need as many BTUs of heat and AC.

The Problem with the Wrong Size Heat Pump: A unit that is too small might not adequately heat or cool in the most extreme weather. That’s obvious.

But homeowners sometimes don’t realize that “too big” isn’t much better. When the heat pump is significantly too big, your home is likely to feel cool and clammy. The unit does a good job cooling the air – too good, in fact, and the thermostat setpoint is quickly reached. When this happens, the cycle isn’t long enough to allow the system to condense much humidity out of the air. Cool, humid air isn’t very  comfortable!

What is the Best Heat Pump Efficiency for My Home?

There are several factors affecting how efficient your heat pump should be.

Where you live: The hotter your summers, the more it makes sense to invest in a very efficient heat pump – consider 17 SEER and above. Yes, it will cost more for the equipment, but your payback period will be less than 5 years. What that means is that your savings on energy costs in the first 5 years will more than make up for the higher equipment cost.

In a temperature climate, paying more for a super-efficient heat pump isn’t a cost-effective choice.

Cost of electricity: Cost varies across the country, with New Englanders paying the most for power (along with those in California, Alaska and Hawaii) at about 21 cents per Kilowatt hour. Prices tend to be among the cheapest in the warmest regions like the South Central from Kentucky to Texas, but also in the Midwest where costs average 50% lower. The higher the cost, the more it makes sense to invest in a higher-efficiency heat pump.

How comfortable you want your home to be: As noted above, heat pumps are manufactured in three performance levels: single-stage, 2-stage and variable capacity or modulating. Efficiency tends to rise with performance.

  • Single-stage (aka 1-stage) heat pumps: SEER range is 14 to 17 SEER from most brands, but there are a few at 18 SEER with Lennox leading the way in efficiency. So, you can choose a single-stage unit for nearly any region, even the hottest. However, 1-stage models don’t deliver the same level of dehumidification and temperature balance that 2-stage and variable capacity heat pumps do.
  • 2-stage heat pumps: Efficiency options are 16 to about 19 SEER, a good choice for any climate. You’ll pay more for the performance upgrade, but you’ll appreciate the better climate control, especially if you live in a humid climate and want your home’s summertime air to be dry and comfortable.
  • Variable capacity heat pumps: SEER range starts at about 18 and rises to more than 23 in modulating heat pumps. They produce the most balanced temperatures, premium humidity control and the quietest operation. So, if you prefer this level of performance, your only options are expensive, super-efficient models. While not a cost-effective choice in a moderate climate, it comes down to how much superior indoor comfort matters to you.

The Dual Fuel Option: Discussed above, a duel fuel or hybrid heat pump system employs a furnace and a heat pump. The heat pump does about 80% of the heating in most cold climates, and the furnace takes over in extreme (sub-freezing) cold. The equipment costs more, but your long-term energy costs are lower. Because the heat pump isn’t having to work overtime in the coldest weather – since the furnace is working – then the heat pump doesn’t have to be super-efficient to be cost-effective. Most heat pumps in dual fuel systems are 14-18 SEER.