What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you researching the efficiency ratings of new heating and cooling systems? Or are you interested in knowing the rating on your current HVAC unit. Either way, you can learn the efficiency rating and expected yearly operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide label on the side of the unit. We’d like to share some details about the different ratings you might read and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a rating of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating is a calculation of the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over a full cooling season, divided by the volume of energy used throughout that time. A higher SEER rating implies greater 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 improvement from the old minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change demonstrates the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to reduce energy consumption and climate-impacting emissions.

Nowadays, high-end air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering amazing energy savings. Unfortunately, outstanding SEER ratings commonly come with a higher purchase cost. This simply means you should give some thought to both the initial investment and the potential for ongoing savings when deciding on a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

While SEER ratings are more known to consumers, cooling systems have an additional efficiency statistic you should know about. It’s referred to as EER, and it is short for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests 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. The highest ratings top out at about 14 EER. In most cases SEER and EER typically correspond, with higher ratings signifying 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 percentage of the overall 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, a boost from the prior minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By requiring 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. The bare minimum is always an option, but it’s a good idea 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 standard of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the yearly heat output to the fuel used 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. Prior to this, the south and southwest 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 save on your energy bills by choosing a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the ENERGY STAR program in 1992 to help homeowners and businesses find the most energy-efficient equipment and appliances available. HVAC equipment, appliances, water heaters, light fixtures, office equipment, electronics and building products that meet or exceed specific criteria 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 highlights the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently revising the qualification criteria given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help identifying which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can review your situation and help you make an informed choice. We have a wide range of products from today’s most reliable brands, all of which satisfy or exceed 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! To learn more or to schedule a no-cost HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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