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 existing HVAC equipment. Either way, you can learn the efficiency rating and expected annual operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide sticker along the side of the unit. Below are some facts about the different ratings you might see 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 signifies the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over the entire cooling season, divided by the volume of energy consumed within that time frame. A higher SEER rating indicates greater 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 improvement from the past minimum expectation 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 carbon emissions. 

Nowadays, top-quality air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, impressive SEER ratings commonly come with a higher purchase cost. Therefore, you should give some thought to both the initial financial investment and the potential for long-term savings when deciding on a new air conditioner. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Even though SEER ratings get more attention, AC systems have an additional efficiency measurement you should know about. It’s referred to as EER, and it is short for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests the performance of an AC unit under distinct operating circumstances. The EER rating helps you understand whether the system will keep up with 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. Most of the time SEER and EER typically 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 while in heating mode. HSPF is a proportion of the total heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) throughout the heating season to the rate 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 preceeding minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By calling for 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 good idea to get 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 another estimate of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage 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 was revised to 81. Prior to this, the south and southwest had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the north required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. While you aren’t required to install anything 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 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 meet or exceed specific criteria can earn ENERGY STAR certification. 

ENERGY STAR-rated products go above and beyond the minimum specifications 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 leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is actually updating the qualification requisites in the wake of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help deciding which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is appropriate for your budget, call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your HVAC challenges and assist you in making an informed decision. Rest assured that we offer a range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which achieve or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so convinced that you’ll be delighted with our services that we give you a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For details or to schedule a no-cost HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you

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