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 current HVAC equipment. In either case, you can discover the efficiency rating and expected annual operating costs by inspecting the yellow Energy Guide sticker on the side of the unit. Below are some facts about the multiple ratings you might find and what they mean. 

What Is a SEER Rating? 

SEER stands 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 an entire cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy utilized throughout that time. A higher SEER rating implies better energy efficiency and lower energy bills. 

Presently, 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 previous minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This adjustment reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) continuous efforts to lower energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

Lately, premium air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering fantastic energy savings. But bear in mind, outstanding SEER ratings commonly come with a higher up-front cost. This means you should look at both the initial investment and the prospects for ongoing savings when selecting a new air conditioner. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Although SEER ratings get more attention, there’s another efficiency metric you should know about. It’s known as EER, and it is short for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the performance of an air conditioner under specific operating conditions. The EER rating helps you understand if the system will support the 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. In most cases SEER and EER typically correspond, with higher ratings signifying stronger 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 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 suggests a more efficient heat pump. 

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, an improvement from the prior minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By requiring higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE hopes to encourage the use of more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses throughout the U.S. The bare minimum is always an option, but you may want to consider 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 measure of heating system efficiency, but they only relate to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the yearly heat output to the energy consumed 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 was revised to 81. Formerly, 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 save 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) created the ENERGY STAR program in the early 1990s 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 have a minimum threshold of efficiency can earn ENERGY STAR certification. 

ENERGY STAR-rated products go far beyond the minimum requirements to save energy and cut down on emissions without compromising performance or features. You can also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which highlights the leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is actually revising the qualification requirements in the wake of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help deciding which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can review your situation and aid you in making an informed purchase. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s most reliable brands, all of which satisfy 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 free HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you

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