What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new air conditioning and furnace systems? Perhaps you’re just curious to understand the rating on your existing HVAC equipment. In either case, you can find the efficiency rating and expected yearly operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide label on the side of the unit. Here’s more information about the multiple ratings you might read and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measurement of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating represents the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over the entire cooling season, divided by the volume of energy utilized throughout that time. A higher SEER rating indicates considerably better energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Presently, the minimum SEER rating for recently manufactured air conditioners is 14 SEER in the northern U.S. and 15 SEER in the southern U.S. This is an increase from the previous minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This modification demonstrates the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing efforts to lower energy consumption and carbon emissions.

These days, top-quality air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, delivering fantastic energy savings. However, exceptional SEER ratings commonly come with a higher initial cost. Which means you should look at both the initial expense and the prospects for ongoing savings when choosing a new air conditioner.

What Is an EER Rating?

While SEER ratings are more well-known, AC systems have an additional efficiency metric you should be aware of. It’s called EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This indicates the performance of an air conditioner under specific operating circumstances. The EER rating enables you to understand how the system will handle the demand on extreme summer days.

Currently, only the southwest section of the country has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Maximum ratings top out at about 14 EER. Most of the time SEER and EER typically correspond, with higher ratings meaning better overall performance.

What Is an HSPF Rating?

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings are metrics that indicate the measurement of the energy efficiency of air-source heat pumps when in heating mode. HSPF is a percentage of the entire heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) during the heating season to the volume of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating means a more efficient heat pump.

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, an increase from the previous minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By demanding higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE wants to motivate people to use more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses throughout the U.S. You can always settle for the minimum, but you may want to get a high-end heat pump with a rating of 13 HSPF or higher for the greatest performance.

What Is an AFUE Rating?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are another estimate of heating system efficiency, but they only relate to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the annual heat output to the energy utilized during that period. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating unit(s).

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces was revised to 81. Formerly, the several southern states had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the north required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. While you aren’t required to install anything above the minimum, you’ll save on your heating bills by selecting a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the ENERGY STAR program in the early 1990s to help homeowners and businesses discover the most energy-efficient equipment and appliances available. HVAC equipment, appliances, water heaters, light fixtures, office equipment, electronics and building products that achieve or exceed superior efficiency standards can earn ENERGY STAR certification.

ENERGY STAR-rated products go far beyond the minimum specifications to save energy and reduce emissions without sacrificing performance or features. Additionally, you can look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which identifies the leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently revising the qualification requisites given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help determining which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, count on Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your situation and aid you in making an informed choice. Rest assured that we offer a range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so sure you’ll be delighted with our services that we give you a 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or to schedule a free HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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