What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you evaluating the efficiency ratings of new heating and cooling systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your existing HVAC unit. Either way, you can discover the efficiency rating and expected annual operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide label around the side of the unit. Here’s more information about the multiple ratings you might find and what they mean. 

What Is a SEER Rating? 

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measurement of 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 throughout that time. A higher SEER rating means 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 improvement from the old minimum stipulation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This adjustment is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) continuous efforts to minimize energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

These days, premium air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering remarkable energy savings. However, outstanding SEER ratings normally come with a higher initial cost. Which means you should look at both the initial financial investment and the prospects for long-term savings when selecting a new air conditioner. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Even though SEER ratings get more attention, AC systems have a different efficiency statistic you should know about. It’s known as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This indicates the effectiveness of an AC unit under specific operating conditions. The EER rating allows you to understand whether the system will keep up with demand on extreme summer days. 

At the moment, only the southwest section of the country has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Maximum ratings top out at about 14 EER. Most of the time SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings indicating 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 proportion of the overall heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) over the heating season to the rate 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 preceeding 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. Settling for less efficiency remains an option, but you may want 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 yet another standard of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the yearly heat output to the energy 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. Prior to this, 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 cut back on your heating bills by selecting a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher. 

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating? 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the ENERGY STAR program in the early 1990s to help homeowners and businesses find the most energy-efficient products available. HVAC equipment, appliances, water heaters, light fixtures, office equipment, electronics and building products that achieve or exceed superior efficiency standards can earn ENERGY STAR certification. 

ENERGY STAR-rated products perform well above the minimum requirements to save energy and decrease emissions without compromising performance or features. You might also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes the leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently updating the qualification requisites in light of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help determining which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your HVAC challenges and assist you in making an informed decision. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which achieve or exceed 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 free HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you

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