Replacing a heat pump compressor can cost anywhere from $1,500 to over $2,400, including the labor required to install it.
We know what you’re thinking: Yikes! Why is a heat pump compressor so expensive?
Well, think of it this way: your compressor is the “heart” of your entire heat pump system. Its job is to pump the lifeblood of your heat pump (aka, refrigerant) throughout the system. Without a compressor, you’ve got a dead heat pump that can’t provide cool or warm air.
So, yes, replacing a compressor is a pricey endeavor. In fact, the price is so high that sometimes it makes more financial sense to completely replace the outdoor unit (or even the entire system) instead of just replacing the compressor.
We’ll explain when it makes more sense to replace the entire outdoor unit or even the entire outdoor and indoor unit. But first, let’s take a look at some of the factors that affect the cost of a compressor.
4 factors that affect the price of a heat pump compressor
Factor #1: Single-stage vs. two stage vs. variable speed compressors
How it affects price: A two-stage compressor will cost more than a single-stage compressor. And a variable speed compressor costs more than both.
- A single-stage compressor offers just one speed: high.
- A two-stage compressor offers 2 stages: higher for very hot days and low for more mild days.
- A variable stage compressor can ramp up or down its conditioning capacity depending on the load needed at the time.
Basically, the more speeds a compressor offers, the more energy it saves and the more comfort it provides.
Factor #2: SEER & HSPF ratings
How it affects price: The higher the SEER and HSPF of your existing unit, the higher the price of your compatible compressor.
The SEER and HSPF of your heat pump measure how effective the unit is at cooling (SEER) and heating (HSPF). The higher the score, the more efficient the unit.
Currently, the lowest SEER and HSPF you can buy are:
- 13 SEER
- 7.7 HSPF
Factor #3: Size of the heat pump
How it affects price: The larger the size of your heat pump unit, the more expensive the compressor.
Heat pumps are sized in “tonnage”. The higher the tonnage, the more heat your heat pump can move into or out of your home in a certain timeframe. Of course, the size of the compressor has to be compatible with the size of the heat pump unit (tonnage).
Factor #4: Labor costs
How it affects price: Higher quality contractors generally charge more to replace a compressor.
The time it takes to replace a compressor can take anywhere from 3 to over 6 hours. Depending on the contractor you choose, you’ll either pay a flat rate or an hourly cost.
Just like any service, contractors with more experience and certifications usually charge more for their services. But you definitely don’t want to shy away from a contractor just because of higher labor fees. In fact, saving a $100 or so on a less experienced contractor can end up costing you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Our suggestion? Get several bids but don’t just go with the lowest price. Do your research and choose a contractor with plenty of experience, references and make sure that they are licensed, insured and bonded.
When to replace the entire outdoor unit
Your compressor is just one part of your entire outdoor unit (called the condensing unit).
While it’s possible to replace just the compressor, you also have the option to replace the entire condensing unit— which would come with a new compressor.
So when would it make more financial sense to replace the entire outdoor unit instead of just the compressor?
When one or more of the following apply to your situation:
- The outside unit is over 10 years old
- The compressor is not under warranty or the warranty has expired
- You’ve recently needed more repairs on your outdoor unit
When to replace the entire heat pump system (indoor and outdoor unit)
There are some instances when it’s more beneficial for you to replace the compressor, entire condensing unit and the indoor unit (evaporator and indoor fan unit).
These situations include:
- When the system is 15 years old or older.
- When you’re replacing your outside unit with a higher SEER unit.
- When your system uses R-22 refrigerant. This is an outdated, limited-supply refrigerant. Updating the entire system will allow you to upgrade to the safer, less expensive R-410A refrigerant.
Have compressor replacement questions?
If you need help deciding what to replace, we can help.
Just tell us about your specific situation and we’ll give you our professional advice. (We can also help you find rebates in our area.)
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- Posted in:
- Buyer's Guide