A heat pump is a specialized air-conditioning system that uses refrigerant to move heat around a house. Heat pumps can either create heat for cold conditions, or perform double-duty and both warm and cool air as needed by switching the flow of its refrigerant. Many heat pumps also have an electric heating element that allows the pump to heat the air even when it cannot draw heat from outside the building. Heat pumps are very energy efficient, but they also tend to have high replacement costs.
A split level heat pump is simply a pump that has units both indoors and outdoors, a common arrangement for most climate control systems. Smaller heat pumps designed only for single room cost between $500 and $1,500 to replace, at the time of publication. However, a normal split system will cost between $2,000 and $5,000 to buy for an average home. The prices can vary based on how efficient the heat pump is, its size and how advanced its thermostat controls are.
A dual-fuel heat pump version can use both refrigerant and natural gas. For those that want to replace an electric heat pump, this dual-fuel version may save money, since gas is less expensive to use for heating than an electric element. Dual-fuel versions cost several hundred dollars more than normal heat pumps. Installation of two separate heating units, however, can cost between $5,000 and $10,000, at the time of publication.
Sometimes replacing a heat pump can lead to additional costs. For instance, if the new pump requires additional electrical work, the replacement may jump up by $1,000 or more. On the positive side, utility companies and government programs may offer rebates, discounts or tax credits for replacing an older heat pump with a newer, qualifying version, so homeowners should carefully examine their purchasing options before they make final decisions.
A geothermal heat pump uses a water-based system to collect heat from the earth itself. The earth stays warm more easily than the air in cold conditions, which means the heat pump will not have to use its electric heating element option as often, and the owner can save even more money. Geothermal units, however, are much more expensive than average models. They can cost between $10,000 and $25,000 to install, at the time of publication.