Most Efficient Central Air Heat Pumps: Best Brands and Models

Heat pump technology offers several advantages over traditional air conditioners, resistance heaters, and combustion furnaces.

XV18 Variable Speed heat pump

In cooling mode, heat pumps offer the same efficiency as the best air conditioners on the market.

In heating mode, heat pumps are 2-4 times more efficient than resistance heaters, and they can match the operating cost of gas heaters without the associated CO2 emissions from combustion.

A central heat pump can achieve even greater energy savings if you combine it with a solar panel system, so that the energy consumption can be offset by solar power generation. This is not a combination you can achieve with traditional furnaces since you cannot offset fuel consumption (whether it be natural gas, propane, or oil) with electricity generation.

If you’re looking for a central heat pump that offers high efficiency and top performance, the best starting point is the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient List.

In this buying guide, we will review some of the best heat pump models that are featured on the Energy Star Most Efficient list, and the typical operating costs you can expect when using them.

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Central Air Heat Pump Cost – The Ultimate Buying Guide

We’re all aware that prices are significantly higher now than just a few years ago – and increases have been felt in the air conditioning and heating industry more than in most others.

Central heating and cooling residential heat pump

So, this guide gives you a “heads up” about pricing information you’ll hear when you get local estimates. And it will help you choose a heat pump efficiency range that makes the best sense for return on investment.

What’s the focus – Heat pump costs

A heat pump is the outdoor unit, which is technically called a condensing unit. For a full system, you’ll also need an indoor air handler and coil, refrigerant lineset and potentially a refrigerant charge. A lot of home and property owners upgrade their thermostat too. – Those “extras” are covered briefly, but the emphasis is on the outdoor unit for those just replacing that part of the system.

Either way you go – heat pump only or full system – you’ll have accurate, fresh pricing to work with as you discuss your project with heat pump contractors.

Central Heat Pump Cost Installed

Nearly every brand makes basic, better, and best tiers of heat pumps. Trane, for example, makes basic XR models, midrange XL heat pumps and premium XV models. For Carrier, it is Comfort, Performance, and the top-of-the-line Infinity.

SEER and Stages are explained below for those unfamiliar with the terms:

Equipment $ With Installation SEER Stages
$3,100 – $7,200 $5,150 – $10,100 13 – 17 1
$4,950 – $9,600 $7,200 – $13,400 16 – 19 1 or 2
$6,700 – $13,150 $9,300 – $15,500 18 – 24 2 or Variable

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Ductless Mini Split Heating and Cooling Installation Cost

A mini-split heat pump gets its name from its physical configuration. Instead of having the entire system contained within a single piece of equipment, embedded on a window or wall, the heat pump is split into an indoor and outdoor unit.

source: Mitsubishi Comfort

Both units are connected with insulated refrigerant lines, allowing heat transfer between indoor spaces and the outdoor environment. The inside unit is called the evaporator and the outdoor unit is called the condenser.

  • Heat pumps are available as cooling-only models and reversible models that operate as air conditioners during summer and as a heating source in winter.
  • When purchasing a heating and cooling heat pump, you save on installation costs by combining two pieces of equipment into one.

Compared with traditional air conditioners and packaged terminal units, the main advantage of mini-splits in cooling mode is their superior energy efficiency. Even when using the least efficient mini-splits in the market, you can expect savings of over 25% compared with a window-type AC.

Even greater savings are possible when using a top efficiency mini-split system, and you can expect electricity consumption to drop by over 70%.

In heating mode, a heat pump is much more efficient than an electric resistance heater, capable of reducing electricity consumption by 50% or more.

When comparing heat pumps and gas furnaces, operating costs tend to be similar. However, a heat pump produces no greenhouse gas emissions while a furnace is constantly burning gas or other fuels.

Typical Cost of a Mini-Split Heat Pump

Like in any home upgrade project, the cost of a new mini-split heat pump will depend on factors like the equipment brand and its rated heating and cooling capacity.

You can also expect to pay more for higher-efficiency units, and local labor costs must also be considered. The installed price of a single-zone heat pump typically ranges from $3,600 to $8,000.

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