What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new heating and cooling systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your current HVAC equipment. Regardless, you can find the efficiency rating and expected yearly operating costs by inspecting the yellow Energy Guide label on the side of the unit. Below are some facts about the multiple ratings you might find and what they mean. 

What Is a SEER Rating? 

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measurement of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating represents the cooling output of an air conditioner over the entire cooling season, divided by the amount of energy consumed within that time frame. A higher SEER rating means better energy efficiency and lower energy bills. 

As of 2023, 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 increase from the past minimum stipulation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) continuous efforts to lower energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

These days, top-quality air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering incredible energy savings. But bear in mind, outstanding SEER ratings normally come with a higher purchase cost. Therefore, you should give some thought to both the initial financial investment and the potential for ongoing savings when selecting a new air conditioner. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Although SEER ratings are more well-known, AC systems have another efficiency statistic you should know about. It’s called EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests the efficiency of an AC unit under distinct operating conditions. The EER rating helps you understand how the system will support the demand on the hottest summer days. 

Presently, only the southwest section of the country has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Peak ratings top out at about 14 EER. In most cases SEER and EER for the most part correspond, with higher ratings meaning 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 once in heating mode. HSPF is a ratio of the entire heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) throughout 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, an improvement 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 across the U.S. You can always settle for the minimum, but you may want to get a high-end heat pump with a rating of 13 HSPF or higher for the best 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 ratio of the annual heat output to the energy used during that period. The greater 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 north 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 cut back on your utility bills by choosing a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher. 

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating? 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the ENERGY STAR program in the early 1990s to help homeowners and businesses discover 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 go far beyond the minimum expectations to save energy and reduce emissions without compromising performance or features. Additionally, you can look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which highlights the best performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently revising 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, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your circumstances and aid you in making an informed decision. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s top brands, all of which satisfy or surpass 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! For details or to schedule a free HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you

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