What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new HVAC systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your existing HVAC unit. In either case, you can find the efficiency rating and projected yearly operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide label on the side of the unit. Here’s more information about the various ratings you might find and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a way of measuring air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating is a calculation of the cooling output of an air conditioner over an entire cooling season, divided by the volume of energy used during that period. A higher SEER rating suggests considerably better energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Today, 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 old minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This adjustment is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to reduce energy consumption and climate-impacting emissions.

Lately, premium air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing remarkable energy savings. However, impressive SEER ratings usually come with a higher up-front cost. This means you should look at both the initial investment and the potential for continued savings when selecting a new air conditioner.

What Is an EER Rating?

Although SEER ratings are more well-known, cooling systems have another efficiency metric you should be aware of. It’s known as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the efficiency of an air conditioner under distinct operating situations. The EER rating helps you understand if the system will handle the demand on extreme summer days.

Currently, only the southwest area of the nation 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 typically correspond, with higher ratings signifying better 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 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, a boost from the prior 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 throughout the U.S. The bare minimum is always an option, but you may want to invest in 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 estimate 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 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 northern states required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. While you aren’t required to install anything above the minimum, you’ll cut back on your utility bills by selecting a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched 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 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 limiting performance or features. You can also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently updating the qualification requirements in light of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help identifying which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your HVAC challenges and assist you in making an informed choice. We have a wide range of products from today’s most reliable brands, all of which meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so convinced that 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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