What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you evaluating the efficiency ratings of new HVAC systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your current HVAC equipment. Regardless, you can determine the efficiency rating and projected yearly operating costs by inspecting the yellow Energy Guide label on 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 way of measuring air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating is a calculation of the cooling output of an AC unit over a whole cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy utilized during that period. A higher SEER rating indicates 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 increase from the old minimum stipulation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing efforts to minimize energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Nowadays, premium air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, delivering incredible energy savings. However, exceptional SEER ratings commonly come with a higher purchase cost. Therefore, you should consider both the initial expense and the potential for long-term savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

Even though SEER ratings are more well-known, there’s an additional efficiency measurement you ought to know. It’s referred to as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests the effectiveness of an cooling system under distinct operating conditions. The EER rating enables you to understand whether the system will support the 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. Peak ratings top out at about 14 EER. Most of the time SEER and EER typically correspond, with higher ratings indicating 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 once in heating mode. HSPF is a ratio of the entire heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) during the heating season to the amount of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating means 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 wants to motivate people to use more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses throughout the U.S. You can always settle for the minimum, but it’s a good idea to invest in 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 an alternative estimate of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the annual heat output to the fuel used during that period. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating unit(s).

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 northern states 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) established 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 meet or exceed specific criteria can earn ENERGY STAR certification.

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

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help identifying which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your HVAC challenges and aid you in making an informed decision. Rest assured that we offer a range of products from today’s most reliable brands, all of which achieve or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so sure you’ll be delighted with our services that we provide 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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