What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you evaluating the efficiency ratings of new air conditioning and furnace systems? Or are you interested in knowing the rating on your current HVAC system. In either case, you can determine the efficiency rating and projected yearly operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide label along the side of the unit. Here’s more information about the multiple ratings you might see and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measurement of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating is a calculation of the cooling output of an AC unit over a whole cooling season, divided by the volume of energy utilized during that period. A higher SEER rating implies 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 expectation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change demonstrates the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) continuous efforts to decrease energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

These days, premium air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, delivering remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, exceptional SEER ratings normally come with a higher purchase cost. This means you should give some thought to both the initial expense and the potential for continued savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

Although SEER ratings are more well-known, AC systems have an additional efficiency measurement you should be aware of. It’s known as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This indicates the efficiency of an AC unit under specified operating situations. The EER rating enables you to understand whether the system will support the demand on those very hot summer days.

Presently, only the southwest region has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. The highest ratings top out at about 14 EER. Most of the time SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings signifying stronger overall performance.

What Is an HSPF Rating?

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings are measurements of the energy efficiency of air-source heat pumps while in heating mode. HSPF is a proportion 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 means a more efficient heat pump.

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, a boost from the previous minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By requiring 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 it’s a wise choice 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 another measure of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the annual heat output to the fuel used 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 was revised to 81. Formerly, the southern regions had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the northern states required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. Even though you’re not required to buy a system with ratings above the minimum, you’ll cut back 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 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 perform well above the minimum specifications to save energy and decrease emissions without limiting 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 currently 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 appropriate for your budget, count on Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can review your circumstances and aid you in making an informed purchase. 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 confident you’ll be delighted with our services that we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a no-cost HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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