Whether you live in a traditional single-family home or a modern row home, your HVAC system is probably always working, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s essential to have a well-functioning system to ensure you and your family are comfortable year-round. However, many people don’t even know what it stands for, let alone where to start in terms of HVAC system costs.
So, let’s start simple. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning and covers everything from your heating/air conditioning source to the ventilation systems. All homes have an HVAC system, but not all homes have air conditioning. In terms of pricing, you can expect to pay anywhere between $7,000 and $15,000 for a central system. Small devices, like wall-mounted air conditioners or heat pumps, start around $3,000.
Types of heating and air conditioning systems
Naturally, there are several HVAC systems, some of which you may already have or be interested in for your home. Here are the most popular options that we see in Ontario and Quebec.
Forced air systems
Forced air systems are one of the most common systems you’ll see in homes. They refer to any HVAC system that delivers temperature-controlled air into your home via air ducts and vents. A forced air system is most used with a split system with an independent furnace or heating source and an air conditioner located outside the home.
Hot water heating systems
A more traditional heating method, hot water heating (or radiator heating) uses a boiler and hot water to heat the home. These systems are often found in older buildings and can heat homes for an extended period. However, there are no ductwork homes with this type of heating and homeowners would have to install an alternative duct system or ductless system to provide air conditioning during the summer.
Window and portable air conditioning systems
Window and portable air conditioning systems can provide a cost-effective solution for homeowners without a central air conditioning unit. A window-mounted AC unit allows for a specific room to experience cooler conditions. Typically, these systems are mounted in a home’s bedroom window and are not as efficient as other AC systems. A portable AC brings all the benefits of a window-mounted unit with the ability to follow you around your home. It will not be as efficient or cool as a central AC system, but it will keep the room you’re in cooler than the rest of the house.
Central heat pumps
Central heat pumps are a popular option for those in warmer climates because they provide both heating and cooling with one central heat pump and an air handler. The heat pump acts as an air conditioner during the summer, removing the heat from your home and expelling it outside. During the winter, it reverses the flow of the refrigerant inside the heat pump and captures heat from the atmosphere to warm the home.
A gas furnace heats the vast majority of homes in Ontario. A gas furnace burns natural gas in the furnace’s burner and passes the heat through a heat exchanger. Then, air is blown over the heat exchanger, and the warmed air is distributed throughout the house via ducts or vents. It is a simple and efficient way to heat a home.
Ductless air conditioning systems (or mini split units) can be a series of air conditioning units that connect with a single outdoor compressor. The smaller indoor units blow warm air over evaporator coils filled with refrigerant to cool the air and then return it to the room. The refrigerant transfers the inside heat to the outdoor unit, which then blows it outside. Indoor units can either be in the ceiling or even floor mounted.
Ducted air conditioning systems
Central air conditioning systems found in Quebec and Ontario are designed to cool the entire home. Most of them use forced air heating systems to take advantage of the heating and ventilation ducts. These systems consist of a large outdoor compressor and coil as well as an evaporator connected to refrigerant lines installed in the central heating system. After capturing the warm air, the evaporator cools and then distributes it to the rooms through the ducts.
How much does it cost to install a new HVAC system
The cost of installing a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system will depend on a few factors, such as what you are installing (type of system, with or without ducts, etc.), the size of your home, your location, and any additional add-ons or features.
HVAC cost for a new home
For a new home, you will be looking at the following price points:
- Low: $7,000
- High: $16,000
- Average: $10,000
Installation with ventilation ducts
HVAC systems with ventilation ducts are priced by the capacity of the device (in tons). The average home (1,000–1,500 sq. ft.) usually requires a capacity of 2 to 3 tons, which ranges from $3,400 to $6,000. Please note that the price can be influenced by multiple factors, such as power and the condition of your home.
Installation without ventilation ducts
If you are installing an HVAC system without ventilation ducts, you limit costs to only those around the installation of the ductless system.
Installation with add-ons
If you are installing an HVAC system with add-ons, the costs will depend on the add-on. For instance, a whole-house humidifier typically runs $200 plus the cost of installation. A standard axial fan will run between $200 to $1200 plus installation, depending on the fan type and features. The most requested add-on, an air exchanger, varies between $2,500 and $3,500.
How much does it cost to replace an HVAC system
The cost of replacing an HVAC system is close to the cost of installing a new system. Naturally, it will depend on the type of system you have and if it needs to be upgraded to meet Ontario or Quebec Building Code.
How often do HVAC systems need to be changed?
Modern HVAC systems will last between 10 and 15 years on average, depending on the quality of the parts, the maintenance completed, and the brand. Air conditioners and furnaces will start to deteriorate any time after the 10-year mark.
Grants available for changing a gas or oil system to an electric system
If you are on an older gas or oil system, there may be grants available to help make the switch to electric or natural gas HVAC systems. The Canada Greener Homes Grant offers up to $5,000 for eligible home upgrades. In Ontario, Enbridge Gas may provide customers up to $250 for a new furnace, up to $1,000 for a new boiler, or up to $400 for a new water heater if you meet their requirements. In Quebec, Énergir offers both new and existing customers a wide variety of rebate options for boilers, furnaces, water heaters, and smart thermostats. In addition, Hydro-Quebec offers financing for specific heat pumps, while Rénoclimat can offer financial assistance to replace your old system with a new high-performance one.
Hybrid systems (oil and electricity)
Some homes may also be good candidates for hybrid systems. For instance, your heating could continue to be provided by oil, while your air conditioning could move to an electric source. This change is not as efficient or as clean as moving to a complete electric system or natural gas furnace, but it would provide a homeowner with some flexibility in terms of cost to update.
Which factors influence the cost of an HVAC system?
Several factors can influence the cost of an HVAC system. Here are a few key ones to consider.
The more extreme your climate, the better your system needs to be. For instance, residents in Northern Quebec would need a system with a quality furnace, while residents in Southern Ontario would want a system with a top-notch air conditioner.
Construction costs will vary depending on the amount of work needed, the current system, ductwork (if applicable), and the cost of labour in your area.
HVAC cost per ton
HVAC costs are generally between $1,700 and $2,000 per ton capacity for the ductwork alone. Installation and the system costs are extra.
In general, the better the energy efficiency, seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), and cost efficiency, the more expensive the upfront system. SEER and cost efficiency are discussed in the sections that follow.
Energy efficiency is calculated by dividing the energy output by the energy input. For HVAC systems, we compare the cooling/heating power output to the number of watts consumed. Measurements are typically taken on the hottest day of the year for air conditioners and the coldest day of the year for furnaces. The higher the value, the more efficient the unit is at cooling or heating.
The Energy Star program also helps consumers find an energy-efficient system and is run through Natural Resources Canada. Only furnaces, heat pumps, boilers, and air conditioners that demonstrate high energy efficiency are given an Energy Star.
Seasonal energy efficiency
SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio; it’s used to look at the average efficiency over an entire season. It can help homeowners find an energy-efficient option that will work throughout the year, rather than only during peak periods.
Finally, cost efficiency is something that homeowners will want to consider. Customers generally want an HVAC solution that will do its job without having to shell out thousands of dollars in power bills. An energy-efficient system with a solid SEER rating will run more efficiently and less often than other options.
What are some HVAC brands?
In Canada, there are several HVAC brands that offer different price points and features. For instance, furnaces range from $3,000 to $7,500. Here are the top brands on the current market.
Air conditioning systems
Air conditioning systems are quite complex and require a fair bit of work to install. Apart from window air conditioners, heat pumps with wall-mounted air conditioners are the least expensive option. Brands like Danby, Comfort Aire, LG, and Toshiba price these units from $2,500 to $5,500. However, to get the best pricing range, we looked at central air conditioning. Naturally, contractors’ quotes will include installation fees. The exact costs will depend on the model you choose and the features you want, but here some ballpark numbers to get you started.
Low-end ($2,800 to $4,800+)
Mid-range ($3,000 to $5,500+)
High-end ($3,500 to $6,000+)
- American Standard
Like air conditioning systems, many things go into the pricing for a heating system. Most HVAC companies will provide their pricing, which includes the cost of installation. However, to get a good idea of where to start, here are ballpark figures for Canadian furnaces. Please note that, on average, wall-mounted heat pumps range from $3,000 to $5,000 while central heat pumps range from $5,500 to $11,000 (not including the price of ducts).
Low-end ($3,000 to $5,500)
Mid-range ($3,500 to $6,500)
High-end ($3,500 to $7,500+)
- American Standard
To calculate your costs, you need to consider three things. Please note that it’s best to overestimate your costs.
- The cost of the equipment you’re installing, which is based on the following:
- The required size of the furnace and AC for your home
- Desired SEER value
- Desired annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) value
- Labour and installation costs
- Profit margin (5–40%)
Most frequently asked HVAC questions
How do I know if I need a new HVAC system?
If your HVAC system starts to be inefficient or makes loud, sudden noises, it is generally time to consider getting a new one. It’s best to consider replacing any HVAC system that is older than ten years.
Do you have to replace your AC and furnace at the same time?
No, you do not generally need to replace both units at the same time. However, if they were installed simultaneously, it is best to have an HVAC professional inspect both units to determine if you should replace one system over another.
How often should you have your HVAC system serviced?
A good rule of thumb is to have your HVAC system serviced once per year.
What are the pros and cons of a heat pump?
Heat pumps are an excellent system for moderate or hot climates, as well as for colder regions. They are great at cooling homes and provide adequate heating in the winter. However, if you live in an area of the country that maintains temperatures below –15 °C during the winter, they are not the best system for your climate.
Can you replace an oil furnace with electric heating?
Yes, you can.
A comfortable home for you and your family
If you are considering getting a new HVAC system, are looking to replace an old one, or have questions about the process and pricing, reach out to our Renovation Advisors about your HVAC project. Not quite ready to take the plunge? Learn how to save on heating costs and prepare your home for the winter months ahead!
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