What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new air conditioning and furnace systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your current HVAC system. Either way, you can determine the efficiency rating and estimated yearly operating costs by inspecting the yellow Energy Guide label on the side of the unit. We’d like to share some details about the different ratings you might see and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a way of measuring air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating is a calculation of the cooling output of an air conditioner over an entire cooling season, divided by the volume of energy used during that period. A higher SEER rating means greater energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Presently, the minimum SEER rating for the latest air conditioners is 14 SEER in the northern U.S. and 15 SEER in the southern U.S. This is an improvement from the previous minimum expectation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This modification demonstrates the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Nowadays, premium air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing amazing energy savings. Unfortunately, outstanding SEER ratings commonly come with a higher up-front cost. Which means you should look at both the initial expense and the potential for continued savings when deciding on a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

Even though SEER ratings are more well-known, cooling systems have a different efficiency statistic you ought to know. It’s known as EER, and it is short for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the effectiveness of an air conditioner under specific operating circumstances. The EER rating helps you understand if the system will keep up with demand on extreme summer days.

Currently, only the southwest region has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Peak ratings top out at about 14 EER. Most of the time SEER and EER for the most part correspond, with higher ratings indicating stronger 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 once in heating mode. HSPF is a percentage of the total heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) over the heating season to the volume of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating indicates 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 calling for higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE hopes to encourage the use of more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses across the U.S. Settling for less efficiency remains an option, but it’s a wise choice to consider a high-end heat pump with a rating of 13 HSPF or higher for the optimum performance.

What Is an AFUE Rating?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are yet another measure of heating system efficiency, but they only relate to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a ratio of the yearly heat output to the energy consumed during that period. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace or boiler.

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces changed to 81. Previously, the several southern states had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the northern states required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. Although there are no laws demanding that you install a system with ratings above the minimum, you’ll spend less on your utility bills by opting for a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the ENERGY STAR program during the Clinton Administration to help homeowners and businesses find the most energy-efficient appliances available. HVAC equipment, appliances, water heaters, light fixtures, office equipment, electronics and building products that have a minimum threshold of efficiency can earn ENERGY STAR certification.

ENERGY STAR-rated products perform well above the minimum requirements to save energy and decrease emissions without sacrificing performance or features. Additionally, you can look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is actually revising the qualification requirements given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help identifying which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, count on Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your circumstances and help you make an informed choice. We have a wide range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which achieve or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so convinced that you’ll be happy with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a free HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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