What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you researching 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 learn the efficiency rating and expected yearly operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide tag along the side of the unit. We’d like to share some details 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 rating of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating is a calculation of the cooling output of an AC unit over a full cooling season, divided by the volume of energy utilized during that period. A higher SEER rating suggests considerably better energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Presently, the minimum SEER rating for new air conditioners is 14 SEER in the northern U.S. and 15 SEER in the southern U.S. This is an increase from the old minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Lately, high-end air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing incredible energy savings. Unfortunately, exceptional SEER ratings normally come with a higher purchase cost. This means you should look at both the initial expense and the prospects for long-term savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

Although SEER ratings are more well-known, there’s an additional efficiency measurement you should know about. It’s known as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the efficiency of an air conditioner under specific operating conditions. The EER rating allows you to understand whether the system will keep up with demand on those very hot summer days.

Currently, only the southwest region has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Maximum ratings top out at about 14 EER. Consider that SEER and EER typically correspond, with higher ratings indicating greater 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 proportion 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 means a more efficient heat pump.

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, a boost from the prior minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By demanding 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 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 estimate of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the annual heat output to the fuel utilized 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. Prior to this, the several southern states 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 spend less 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 1992 to help homeowners and businesses identify 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 above and beyond the minimum expectations to save energy and decrease emissions without compromising performance or features. Additionally, you can look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which highlights the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently updating the qualification requirements in the wake of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help determining which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your circumstances and aid you in making an informed purchase. We have a wide range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so convinced that you’ll be satisfied with our services that we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or to schedule a no-cost HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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