What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new HVAC systems? Perhaps you’re just curious to understand the rating on your existing HVAC unit. Regardless, you can find the efficiency rating and projected annual operating costs by reading the yellow Energy Guide label along the side of the unit. Below are some facts about the multiple ratings you might read 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 the entire cooling season, divided by the volume of energy consumed throughout that time. A higher SEER rating suggests greater 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 improvement from the past minimum stipulation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This modification is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to minimize energy consumption and climate-impacting emissions.

These days, high-end air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, outstanding SEER ratings commonly come with a higher up-front cost. Which means you should consider both the initial financial investment and the potential for ongoing 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 be aware of. It’s known as EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the effectiveness of an air conditioner under specified operating circumstances. The EER rating allows you to understand how the system will keep up with demand on those very hot 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. Peak ratings top out at about 14 EER. In most cases SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings signifying stronger 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 total heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) during the heating season to the rate of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating suggests a more efficient heat pump.

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, an increase from the preceeding 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 across the U.S. Settling for less efficiency remains an option, but it’s a good idea to consider a high-end heat pump with a rating of 13 HSPF or higher for the greatest performance.

What Is an AFUE Rating?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are another estimate of heating system efficiency, but they only relate to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the yearly heat output to the energy utilized 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 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 spend less on your heating bills by opting for 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 expectations 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 revising the qualification requisites in the wake of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help determining which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can review your situation and assist you in making an informed purchase. Rest assured that we offer a 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 satisfied with our services that we give you a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a no-cost HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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