What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new heating and cooling systems? Perhaps you’re just curious to understand the rating on your current HVAC equipment. Either way, you can learn the efficiency rating and expected annual operating costs by looking at the yellow Energy Guide tag around the side of the unit. Here’s more information about the different ratings you might read 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 signifies the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over a whole cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy utilized within that time frame. A higher SEER rating suggests better energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Presently, 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 adjustment reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to decrease energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Nowadays, top-quality air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing amazing energy savings. But bear in mind, impressive SEER ratings normally come with a higher up-front cost. Therefore, you should give some thought to both the initial expense and the potential for continued savings when selecting a new air conditioner.

What Is an EER Rating?

Even though SEER ratings are more known to consumers, there’s an additional efficiency measurement you should be aware of. It’s called EER, and it is short for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the efficiency of an cooling system under distinct operating conditions. The EER rating helps you understand whether the system will support the 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. Consider that SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings indicating greater 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 percentage of the overall heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) throughout 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, an improvement from the preceeding minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By requiring 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 consider 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 another standard of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a ratio of the annual heat output to the fuel consumed during that period. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating system.

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces changed to 81. Formerly, the south and southwest 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 spend less on your utility bills by opting for a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced 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 above and beyond the minimum requirements to save energy and decrease emissions without sacrificing performance or features. You can also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which identifies the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is currently overhauling the qualification requirements given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help deciding which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can evaluate your HVAC challenges and aid you in making an informed decision. Rest assured that we offer a 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 delighted with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or to schedule a free HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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