Ductless Heat Pump Cost
Ductless Heat Pump Costs 2021 (Installation, Replacement, Pricing)
If you have a home without existing ductwork or a part of your home that’s colder or warmer than you’d like, a ductless heat pump may be an excellent solution for you.
Sometimes referred to as a ductless air conditioner or ductless mini-split air conditioner, these resilient systems are some of the most energy-efficient, cost-effective options on the market. Read on to learn more about:
- What a ductless heat pump is and how it works to heat and cool your home
- How ductless HVAC can save you money
- How to decide if a ductless air conditioning system is right for you
- Proper sizes for ductless heat pump systems
- Ductless heat pump installation, components, and costs
- Costs for ductless heating & cooling from popular brands
- Ways to save on ductless system installations
What Is a Ductless Heat Pump?
A heat pump is, at its most basic level, a system that moves heat from cooler areas to warmer areas. This keeps cool areas cooler and warm areas warmer.
A ductless system, also called a mini split heat pump, is designed to work in an environment that lacks ductwork.
Ductless mini split systems can be designed to make a single space comfortable or to operate in multiple zones, and usually include remote controls for easy temperature selection.
How Does Ductless Heating and Cooling Work?
The basic job of a heat pump is to move warm air into a space with colder air. For air conditioning purposes, warm indoor air is absorbed inside your home and transferred outdoors, resulting in cooler, more comfortable rooms.
In the winter, this reverses. So, heat is absorbed from outside (yes, even when it's cold out) and brought into your home.
A major cost savings with heat pumps is that instead of generating hot or cold air, which can require a tremendous amount of electricity, a heat pump shifts the warm air to where it's wanted.
Without heating elements, heat pump electrical costs can be up to 50% lower than with traditional heating equipment like furnaces. Additional savings come from eliminating the need for ductwork, since up to 40% of your heat can be lost as it leaks from ducts.
Is Ductless Heating Right for You?
Now that you've learned how wonderful and efficient a heat pump system can be, you may be wondering whether a ductless system is right for you.
Ductless Heat Pumps Work Best When:
- There's no existing ductwork.
- You want to improve your energy efficiency.
- The current central air and/or central heating systems, including ducted systems, can't circulate heat or cool air properly, such as to an addition at one end of a house or an upper floor bedroom.
- Temperatures are above 25°F.
- Flexible installation is desired — ductless systems can be installed on ceilings, walls, or as floor-mounted units.
- Security is a concern — unlike a window unit, a ductless system requires only a small hole in the wall as a conduit to the outdoor unit.
Ductless Heat Pumps Can Struggle When:
- Temperatures drop below freezing — supplementary systems can be designed to help when heat pumps can't keep up.
- They are poorly installed or inadequately sized.
- Proper maintenance is ignored — while heat pumps require little maintenance overall, unit filters should be cleaned monthly to maintain peak performance and to prevent early system failure.
What Size Ductless Heat Pump Do You Need?
Size does matter — especially with heating and cooling systems. Undersized units will cycle on and off too frequently as they struggle to maintain the desired temperature, risking system failures.
Check out the video below for a breakdown on heating and cooling system sizes:
Too-small units can also cause uncomfortable temperature fluctuations in your rooms and uneven humidity levels. An oversized system will cost you more in upfront expenses and in daily operations. This means you'll save little by installing such an otherwise energy-efficient heating and cooling system.
Of course, you'll want to work with a professional HVAC contractor to choose a split unit system that's best suited for your environment, space, and preferences. Professionals use load calculations to determine the best system for your needs, taking into account such details as:
- Your home's size and layout — Do you have an open floor plan? Do you need to control the temperature in separate zones?
- Your local climate — How many days of heating and cooling do you need through the year? How extreme are the temperatures?
- Air Infiltration — Is your home well-sealed or is it an older, possibly drafty home?
- Windows and doors — How many are there and where are they located? For example, west-facing windows will heat a room much more quickly.
- Insulation — How well insulated is your home?
- Appliances, people, and more — People and appliances generate heat and this adds up to a need for more cooling power.
- You — What are your preferences? Do members of your family prefer different temperatures? Do you like it really warm in the winter or only on the coldest days? Do you want to cool the whole house or specific areas such as bedrooms or a home office?
A rule of thumb is that every 500-600 square feet of living area (that you want to heat or cool) requires one ton of heating/air conditioning capacity and each ton requires about 12,000 BTU (British Thermal Units, used to measure the power of most heating and cooling systems).
Based on the average new U.S. home, at about 2,500 square feet, you'll need a 5-ton system.
What Is the Average Cost to Install a Ductless Heat Pump?
Depending on the system and site specifics, ductless heat pump installation (labor) costs can run anywhere from $300 for the simplest, single-zone setup, to rather extensive, multi-zone systems at around $3,000.
However, the average is about $600 for most home installations. Depending on your installation needs, additional professionals may be needed such as a carpenter or electrician.
What Is the Average Cost of Heat Pump Split Systems?
Ductless heat pumps cost, on average, $1,500 to $2,000 per ton of capacity to cool, depending primarily on brand and efficiency. Given what we've just covered about the average, a newer home may need a 5-ton system.
This means average heat pump costs ranging from $7,500 to $10,000. As with many home improvements, a more efficient option that will save you money down the road will almost always cost a little more upfront.
While these average costs apply to whole systems, pricing individual components can give you a better picture of what you’ll need to pay.
The outdoor condenser is the workhorse of your ductless AC system and is the main contributor to its cost. You’ll need to pay between $1,500 to $2,500 for one.
Evaporative Wall Mount
The most common type of ductless system, wall-mounted evaporative units generally cost $300 to $1,000 and are most suitable for rooms with at least seven-foot ceilings.
Evaporative Ceiling Mount
Ceiling mounted evaporator units which can be less intrusive range from a low average of $700 to a high of $1,800.
Indoor Ceiling Cassette
Recessed ceiling cassettes allow only the vent surface to be displayed on the ceiling. They can send heated or cooled air in four directions at once and offer more power than wall-mounted units. These cassettes cost anywhere from $500 to $1,700.
Containing line sets, wiring, hoses, fittings, and connectors needed to install a ductless heat pump system, installation kits usually make up $300 to $500 of total costs.
These lines, which run between the outdoor condenser unit and the indoor air handlers, vary widely in cost, depending on the specifics of your installation. However, they average about $5 per foot.
What Are the Average Costs of Heating and Cooling Systems By Brand?
As you may expect, prices for ductless systems vary even among top brands. Each of these companies offer high-quality, ductless heat pump systems with a variety of capacities, efficiency levels, and options.
Choosing the most efficient system you can afford is well worth the upfront costs, which you can recoup in utility savings. We also recommend selecting a brand with local technicians available for installation and maintenance.
Among the more efficient systems, Mitsubishi kits cost from about $1,500 to $12,500.
Perhaps a less familiar name in North America, Daikin's kits can be had for around $1,000 to $8,600, with the reduced cost reflected in the lower efficiency ratings.
LG offers systems ranging from small, inexpensive units with average efficiency at $850 to setups with excellent efficiency for prices up to about $7,300.
With ductless systems from about $1,200 to $9,300, Fujitsu's kits offer mid-range efficiency.
Trane's decades of experience are shown in its full range of ductless systems with prices generally from $4,000 to $14,000. Though the brand tends to have higher prices than its competitors, Trane’s solid reliability and superior efficiency can make up for those costs.
With an HVAC history as long as any in the business, Toshiba/Carrier offers high efficiency ductless systems from around $2,000 for the least expensive model to $10,500 for high-end, multi-zone systems.
What Are the Additional Costs for Installing Ductless Heating Systems?
The cost of a ductless heat pump system will generally be based on its efficiency rating, its compatibility to the size and shape of your home, and your environment. Additional details that can affect installation costs include:
- Zones — A single zone system will require less equipment and labor than a multiple zone system
- Location — More complicated installations, both for the outdoor compressor unit and the indoor units, will tend to require additional labor and materials. The expense increases with additional setups like ceiling cassette units, longer refrigerant lines, conduits, and wiring to upper floors or more distant outdoor units.
How to Save on Ductless Heat Pumps?
Every homeowner wants to save a little money, especially when investing in a large home improvement project such as an HVAC system.
Less efficient ductless units will be less expensive upfront, but you'll see reduced energy savings (perhaps only 15-20% lower than your current costs) in the long run.
Meanwhile, more expensive (and efficient) systems can provide ongoing, future savings up to 40%. Some national, state, and local programs offer rebates and tax incentives for installing more efficient units, such as those which have earned Energy Star ratings.
If you're considering a DIY job, note that while you can self-install a few systems which come pre-charged with refrigerant, most require it to be added after the fact. This means that professional HVAC help will be needed to charge your unit.
Self-installation will also almost always void your manufacturer's warranty, leaving you in the lurch if you encounter problems. Your best bet is to hire professional installers to ensure that your system is properly sized and safely installed.