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 unit. Either way, you can discover the efficiency rating and projected annual operating costs by checking the yellow Energy Guide sticker along the side of the unit. Below are some facts about the various ratings you might find and what they mean. 

What Is a SEER Rating? 

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a rating of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating represents the cooling output of an air conditioner over a whole cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy utilized within that time frame. A higher SEER rating means greater energy efficiency and lower energy bills. 

Today, 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 improvement from the previous minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This modification is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing efforts to minimize energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Lately, top-quality air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing amazing energy savings. But bear in mind, exceptional SEER ratings typically come with a higher purchase cost. This means you should consider both the initial expense and the prospects for continued savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Although SEER ratings are more known to consumers, AC systems have a different efficiency statistic you should know about. It’s known as EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This indicates the effectiveness of an AC unit under specific operating situations. The EER rating helps you understand whether the system will support the demand on extreme summer days. 

At the moment, only the southwest area of the nation has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Maximum ratings top out at about 14 EER. In most cases 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 once 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 indicates a more efficient heat pump. 

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, an increase from the previous minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By requiring higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE wants to motivate people to use more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses throughout the U.S. Settling for less efficiency remains an option, but it’s a wise choice 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 an alternative measure of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the annual heat output to the fuel utilized during that period. The greater the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating unit(s). 

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces changed to 81. Previously, the several southern states 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 energy bills by opting for 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 identify the most energy-efficient equipment and 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 above and beyond the minimum specifications to save energy and reduce emissions without sacrificing performance or features. Additionally, you can look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which identifies the leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is currently overhauling the qualification criteria given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help determining which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can review your HVAC challenges and help you make an informed choice. 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 confident you’ll be delighted 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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