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What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you comparing the efficiency ratings of new HVAC systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your current HVAC unit. In either case, you can determine the efficiency rating and projected annual operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide tag around the side of the unit. Here’s more information about the multiple ratings you might find and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a way of measuring air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating represents the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over a whole cooling season, divided by the volume of energy consumed throughout that time. A higher SEER rating means better energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Today, 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 improvement from the past minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to reduce energy consumption and climate-impacting emissions.

These days, top-quality air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, exceptional SEER ratings commonly come with a higher purchase cost. This means you should consider both the initial expense and the prospects for long-term savings when deciding on a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

Although SEER ratings are more known to consumers, cooling systems have another efficiency statistic you should be aware of. It’s known as EER, and it is short for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the effectiveness of an AC unit under specific operating situations. The EER rating enables you to understand how the system will support the demand on the hottest summer days.

At the moment, only the southwest section of the country has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. The highest ratings top out at about 14 EER. Consider that SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings indicating 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 while in heating mode. HSPF is a ratio of the overall heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) over the heating season to the amount of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating suggests a more efficient heat pump.

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, a boost from the preceeding minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By demanding higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE is making it more affordable long-term for Americans 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 invest in 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 yet another measure of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the yearly heat output to the fuel consumed during that period. The greater the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating system.

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces has been modified to 81. Previously, the south and southwest had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the north required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. Even though you’re not required to buy a system with ratings above the minimum, you’ll spend less on your utility bills by choosing a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the ENERGY STAR program during the Clinton Administration to help homeowners and businesses discover the most energy-efficient products 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 above and beyond the minimum expectations to save energy and cut down on emissions without limiting performance or features. You might also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which identifies the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is currently updating the qualification criteria in light of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help identifying which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is appropriate for your budget, call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your circumstances and aid you in making an informed choice. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s most reliable brands, all of which satisfy or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so sure you’ll be delighted with our services that we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For details or to schedule a free HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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