HVAC costs can be broken into heat generation, heat distribution and heat rentention.
On the generation side, we have a number of methods ranging from tradtional combustion furnaces to electrical resistance heaters and geothermal heat pumps. Solar heat generation also has costs hidden in the cost of windows, etc.
Distribution methods can usually be clasified by the medium carrying the heat. Heated air can be pushed thru ducts or the air can be directly heated by “ductless” systems. Fluid based systems are often more efficent and include radiators and radiant flooring. Radiant floors and passive solar also conduct heat thru the floors. Many homes employ a combination of systems.
You can find the total costs I was quoted for install in the next section. Here I will show some of the component costs that I was able to find on the internet.
I had looked things up on a price list and found a 50000 btu water furnace (NSW 050) with 4 tons of cooling capacity lists for $7712.00. Larger units are not much more expensive. The 60000 btu unit lists for $7902.00 and the 75000 btu unit costs $7959.00.
That doesn’t even include the cost of the cooling unit (air handler and coil), which is easily $2000.oo, or the costs of the buried heat exchange tubes, or actually digging, laying and burying those tubes.
However, I also know that I can get an Electro Mini Boiler, which is like an instant hot water heater, for about $1439 for a 51000 BTU EB-MO-15. That price only goes up to $1544.00 for the 68000 EB-MO-20. In those cases, the last digit is the number of kilowatts at 240 volts.
I discovered the “Marey On demand hot water heaters” have a great price at only $370.00 for their ECO 180, which is 18 kW at 240 volts. The price only goes up to $420.00 for their 24kW ECO 240 unit. Assuming that the BTU’s are proportional to their kW (3400 BTU’s per kW), I would expect those units to provide 61200 and 81600 BTU’s each, respectivly. Which makes either of them more than a match for the NSW 050, but for less than 1/20th the cost.
My personal sourcing experience
In my part of the world, your heating system is like your plumbing, electrical or natural gas components. The building inspector will want you to carefully follow the building codes just like a a licensed “mechanical” professional would. I am guessing it would be pretty easy to lay the pex and some other jobs, but I have no idea about setting up the thermostats and manifolds. Plus, I already had more than enough to do, so I went out and tried to get a number of quotes.
I found that there were several GeoPro Water Furnace distributors in my area. They all took many weeks and at least one visit before they got back to me with a quote. They all claimed to use fancy software to calculate the heating load on my home and asked me questions about R values, window sizes, etc. I think my specs didn’t go well with their software. In the end, I only got quotes from two of them.
Not sure why I am being sheepish on sharing the names. But really, the names don’t matter unless you happen to be in my county, in which case, you can ask in a comment and I will tell you.
The first company, who’s name is similar to a comet that passes by every 76 years, quoted me ~$24k for the NSW 050 Water Furnace, installed with controls, radiant floors in 10 zones, etc. Everything except air handling equipment and duct work. The actual upfront cost was going to be $35.5K, but there is a 30% Federal tax credit for Geothermal systems.
The second company, which I will call C1, quoted ~$29k, except they picked a Synergy 3D system which does support radiant flooring, but is mostly for forced air heating and cooling (3 in 1). The quote included the option to swap the Synergy 3D for the Hydronic NSW 050 for a savings of $6016.00. But then I saw that their in floor radiant w/10 zones was an additional $15,125. They also had an optional ERV hooked up for 6241.00… In an apples to apples comparison, they were clearly more expensive than the comet company. It took some math but their initial price would be something around $38k minus the 30% rebate, it ended up at $26.5K.
Electro Mini Boiler
Next, I looked for Electro Mini-boiler distributors and found that the comet company I had worked with earlier was one of them. I asked them for a quote on a radiant system powered by an Electro Mini Boiler. I also found another smaller company, Aqua, in my area and asked them for a quote.
True to its name, the comet company took forever to come around again. I suspected that they were not wanting to provide me the second quote because they would be undercutting themselves. I phoned every two weeks for several months and explained that I would not consider buying their more expensive geothermal system until I had seen the quote for the electro mini boiler system. I was about to give up and report them to the Electro company as bad distributors when they finally got back to me.
The new quote should have some elements in common, such as the 10 radiant floor zones, controls, manifold, etc. But it wouldn’t need the expensive excavation and loop field and the hardware its self was much cheaper, so I expected a much lower quote. Instead, the quote came back as $21.5 K, just a few thousand dollars less than the geothermal system. At first, I assumed they were just trying to get me to upgrade to the more expensive system, but then I realized I was forgetting about the Federal Tax Rebate. The price actually had come down by more than $14k, but the Electro Mini-boiler did not qualify for the rebate.
The quote from the other company, Aqua, quote came back much quicker, but with out any details. It simply said they would do the work with 10 radiant zones for $50K. I told him that he was quoting me more than double what it would cost for a geothermal system and he would never get my business that way. He started telling me that I was paying for a quality “design build” system that would be tailored to my home, etc. Obviously, I would not pay so much.