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What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you comparing the efficiency ratings of new air conditioning and furnace systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your current HVAC unit. In either case, 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. We’d like to share some details about the multiple ratings you might see 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 is a calculation of the cooling output of an air conditioner over the entire cooling season, divided by the volume of energy utilized during that period. A higher SEER rating indicates considerably better energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

As of 2023, the minimum SEER rating for new air conditioners is 14 SEER in the northern U.S. and 15 SEER in the southern U.S. This is an increase from the previous 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.

These days, premium air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, impressive SEER ratings commonly come with a higher initial cost. This means you should give some thought to both the initial investment and the prospects for continued savings when selecting a new air conditioner.

What Is an EER Rating?

Although SEER ratings get more attention, AC systems have a different efficiency measurement you should be aware of. It’s known as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This indicates the performance of an AC unit under specific operating circumstances. The EER rating helps you understand how the system will keep up with demand on the hottest summer days.

Currently, only the southwest region 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 signifying 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 indicates 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 demanding 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. 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 optimum performance.

What Is an AFUE Rating?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are an alternative standard of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion 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 has been modified to 81. Formerly, the several southern states had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the northern states required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. Even though you’re not required to buy a system with ratings above the minimum, you’ll spend less on your energy 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 during the Clinton Administration to help homeowners and businesses identify the most energy-efficient appliances 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 go far beyond the minimum requirements to save energy and reduce emissions without limiting 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 overhauling 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 ideal for your budget, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can evaluate your circumstances and assist you in making an informed purchase. We have a wide range of products from today’s most reliable brands, all of which meet or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so sure you’ll be satisfied with our services that we give you a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a complimentary HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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