The Cost of Ductless vs the Cost of Traditional HVAC Options

Wondering about the cost of ductless compared to the cost of traditional HVAC options? Well, costs can vary widely, and in addition to the cost of buying the equipment, you also need to consider long-term operating and maintenance costs.

To help you out, we’ve created this brief overview of the cost differences between ductless and traditional HVAC equipment. Want to get a quote on a ductless system right now? Then, contact us at NETR, Inc today.

Cost of Ductless vs the Cost of Traditional HVAC

Cost of Ductless Systems

The cost of a ductless system varies depending on the type of equipment, the number of zones, and multiple other factors. In Boston, you can expect to spend about $4,500 on equipment and installation for a single-zone ductless system, and the price goes up from there.

A multi-zone system tends to cost between $6,500 and $8,000, but if you need five to eight zones, the price can range from $20,000 to $40,000 depending on the complexity of the installation. That is a very wide range, but when you contact us, we can help you narrow in on a price range that fits your situation.

Ductless Vs. Gas Furnace Cost

According to, buying and installing a new gas furnace costs between $3,800 and $10,000. The cost of the furnace depends on its capacity, quality, and efficiency. While gas furnaces average between $2,500 and $4,000, high-efficiency models tend to cost between $3,500 and $5,500. Installation costs can also vary but generally tend to be $50 to $100 per hour.

Ductless heat pumps run much more efficiently than gas furnaces, but the exact savings vary based on the cost of gas and the cost of electricity. Mass Save offers a cost calculator to help you estimate the savings. Or you can check out our residential case studies where many homeowners report saving 30% or more on home heating when they switch from gas to an electric heat pump.

Ductless Vs. Electric Baseboard Heat Cost

The website HomeGuide reports that electric baseboard heaters cost between $300 and $1,100 per heater including installation. A 3,000-square-foot home needs approximately 30 baseboard heaters, and this makes the final cost around $9,000 on the low end. However, electric baseboard heaters are one of the most inefficient ways to heat your home — they’re basically like running an electric toaster all day long. 

Ductless Vs. Radiator Cost

On average, a new radiator costs about $1,500, but the price can range from $500 to $8,000 according to Bankrate. Installation costs are about $600 to $800 for plumbed radiators and about $200 to $450 for electric radiators.

If you also need a boiler, the price ranges from $1,500 to $15,000, but it’s just over $8,000 on average. The type of boiler also has a significant impact on cost. Traditional gas or electric boilers are more expensive than geothermal heat pumps, but the latter is more efficient to run.

When homeowners switch from boiler-based heating to an electric heat pump, they often see their heating bills drop by up to 40%. This is because boilers cannot generate more heat than they consume in energy, but heat pumps produce more heat than they consume. When we helped homeowners in Stoughton, MA switch from a boiler to ductless, their heating bills dropped, and they got the added benefit of AC in the summer.

Ductless Vs. Radiant Floor Heating Cost

Adding radiant heat to your home costs about $10 to $15 per square foot on average. For hydronic systems, the cost ranges from $6 to $20 per square foot, and it’s $8 to $24 for electric radiant floor heating. The total cost varies a lot depending on where you install the radiant heat — for instance, if you just want to add radiant heat to your bathroom, you’ll spend a lot less than if you put it in your whole home.

The cost also varies depending on the size of your home, the number of zones, and whether or not you need a new boiler. For instance, one zone with an existing boiler costs about $20,000. Two zones with a new boiler cost $28,000 on average, and three zones and a new boiler cost about $35,000 according to estimates from Forbes.

The cost of using radiant heat compared to a ductless heat pump depends on the type of radiant system you get. But often, these systems end up having similar operating costs as ductless heat pumps.

Ductless Vs. Space Heater Cost

You can buy a space heater for anywhere from $20 to $300. The lower-cost ones are designed for personal heat — for instance, you might place a small space heater next to the chair where you watch TV or under your desk while you work. On the higher end of the spectrum, you can get a space heater that heats a whole room.

However, space heaters are only designed to be a temporary solution. They cost a lot to run — on average, CNET reports that it costs about 20 cents per hour to run a 1,500-watt space heater. That’s $150 per month. If you run two low-wattage space heaters for 24 hours a day, you’ll spend more than you would if you were heating an entire home with a gas furnace.

Despite the cost, many people use space heaters in rooms that are not connected to their central HVAC systems. Ductless systems are ideal in these scenarios — although they cost more than a space heater to buy, they’ll provide you with a long-term solution that improves comfort and reduces heating costs for these spaces.

Ductless Vs. the Cost of Wood-Burning Stoves and Fireplaces

Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces cost about half as much as single-zone ductless systems, but depending on the stove you select, you may end up spending slightly more.

You can buy a wood-burning stove for between $500 and $2,500, and for around $4,000, you can get a wood burner that doubles as a cooking stove. New fireplaces cost between $870 and $3,700. You can install it yourself or pay someone to do it for you. Expect to spend a few hundred on piping and supplies, and prepare to modify your wall or roof to vent the stove.

Then, you also have to buy wood for the stove. Wood costs between $150 to $500 per cord, and it varies based on the type of wood and the availability of wood in your location. You can save money by getting a logging permit and going into the forest on your own, but of course, you will need a truck and/or trailer and you have to consider the time element. Starting and stoking fires also takes time. 

Ductless Vs Central AC Cost

Installing central air conditioning costs between $3,800 and $7,500, and the national average is $5,600 according to Bob Vila. If you need to put in ductwork, the cost will be substantially higher. Based on these prices, central AC has a similar cost as ductless cooling.

Ductless AC tends to be a lot more efficient to operate. You don’t have to worry about losing cool air in the ductwork. Additionally, the ductless units use fans to circulate air which improves cooling throughout your room.

Additionally, when you install ductless AC, you can easily upgrade to heating as well. In most cases, adding heat to your system adds a relatively insignificant amount to your upfront cost.

Ductless AC Vs. Window AC Cost

According to the Department of Energy, window ACs cost between $150 and $600 plus about $10 to $15 for installation accessories.  Unfortunately, these systems are notoriously inefficient. Although ductless AC costs more to install, there are countless advantages of ductless vs. window ACs.

Other Cost Considerations

In addition to comparing the price of ductless heating and cooling equipment compared to traditional HVAC equipment, you also need to consider other factors that affect your cost. This includes the following:

  • Installation considerations — Installation challenges can drive up the cost of any type of heating and cooling system. For example, if you don’t have ductwork, installing a central furnace will cost more than if you do have ductwork.
  • Rebates — There are many rebates to offset the cost of installing ductless in your home. In particular, there are often rebates for people who upgrade from furnaces that use fossil fuels to ductless heat pumps. This can help to offset your total price. As of 2023, you can get up to $10,000 in rebates for installing a heat pump.
  • Maintenance — Also, consider the cost of maintaining your equipment. When you contact an HVAC professional, they can talk with you about the average cost of maintaining different types of heating and cooling systems. This includes everything from cleaning and replacing filters to paying for repairs.

Keep in mind that the goal of residential HVAC is comfort. Don’t sacrifice your comfort to save a bit of money upfront. Consider how your heating and cooling system influences the comfort levels in your home, and invest in your comfort.

Heating Comparison Calculator to Assess Savings on Ductless

MassSave is one of the organizations that offer homeowners in Massachusetts rebates for investing in ductless. This organization also has a calculator that lets you see how much you would save by switching to a ductless system.

The ductless heating comparison calculator considers the size of your home, your current heating method, the cost of energy for your existing furnace or AC, and the cost of electricity in your area. Then, it shows you how much you can save when using a ductless heat pump to heat or cool your home.

When comparing the cost of different types of heating equipment, you can estimate your savings over the next 10 years and then subtract that amount from the cost of installing ductless. This is a very modest way to compare costs, as most ductless systems last at least 20 years if not longer.

Contact NETR, Inc to Talk About Ductless Pricing

Unfortunately, it’s hard to compare the prices of heating and cooling equipment when so many different variables affect the final cost. When you contact us, we will help you get a quote for a ductless system customized for your home. We can also help you compare that to the cost of other types of heating and cooling options.

We have been in the HVAC business for other 30 years, and we’ve worked with a wide range of different types of residential and commercial heating and cooling equipment. We would love to put our years of experience to work for you.