What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you researching the efficiency ratings of new heating and cooling systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your existing HVAC unit. Regardless, you can determine the efficiency rating and estimated annual operating costs by inspecting the yellow Energy Guide sticker along the side of the unit. We’d like to share some details about the various ratings you might read and what they mean. 

What Is a SEER Rating? 

SEER is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measurement of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating signifies the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over a whole cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy utilized throughout that time. A higher SEER rating indicates 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 previous minimum stipulation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing efforts to minimize energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

These days, top-quality air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, delivering remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, exceptional SEER ratings normally come with a higher up-front cost. This simply means you should look at both the initial expense and the prospects for continued savings when deciding on a new air conditioning unit. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Although SEER ratings are more known to consumers, AC systems have a different efficiency measurement you should be aware of. It’s known as EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the effectiveness of an AC unit under specified operating situations. The EER rating allows you to understand how the system will support the demand on extreme summer days. 

Presently, only the southwest region has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. The highest ratings top out at about 14 EER. Consider that SEER and EER typically 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) over 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 improvement from the prior minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By demanding higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE is making it more affordable long-term for Americans to use more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses across the U.S. Settling for less efficiency remains 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 yet another estimate of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a ratio of the annual heat output to the fuel used during that period. The greater the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating system. 

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces changed to 81. Prior to this, the south and southwest 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 save on your heating bills by choosing 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 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 far beyond the minimum specifications to save energy and reduce emissions without limiting performance or features. Additionally, you can look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes the leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is actually updating the qualification criteria given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help deciding which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is appropriate for your budget, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your circumstances and help you make an informed decision. Rest assured that we offer a range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so confident you’ll be happy with our services that we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a no-cost HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you

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