What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you evaluating the efficiency ratings of new air conditioning and furnace systems? Or are you interested in knowing the rating on your existing HVAC unit. Either way, you can determine the efficiency rating and projected yearly operating costs by looking at the yellow Energy Guide tag on 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 is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a rating of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating represents the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over the entire cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy utilized during that period. A higher SEER rating indicates greater energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Today, 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 past minimum expectation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This modification demonstrates the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing efforts to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Lately, premium air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering fantastic energy savings. However, outstanding SEER ratings normally come with a higher purchase cost. This simply means you should think about both the initial investment and the potential for long-term savings when choosing a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

While SEER ratings are more well-known, AC systems have another efficiency statistic you should be aware of. It’s called EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the efficiency of an AC unit under specific operating conditions. The EER rating allows you to understand if the system will support the demand on the hottest summer days.

Presently, only the southwest section of the country 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 for the most part correspond, with higher ratings meaning better 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 when in heating mode. HSPF is a percentage of the total 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, a boost from the previous minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By demanding 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. Settling for less efficiency remains an option, but it’s a wise choice 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 standard of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the annual heat output to the fuel used 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. Prior to this, the several southern states 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 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) introduced the ENERGY STAR program during the Clinton Administration to help homeowners and businesses discover the most energy-efficient products 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 cut down on emissions without limiting performance or features. Additionally, you can look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which identifies the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is actually revising the qualification criteria given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help determining 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 decision. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s top brands, all of which meet or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so confident you’ll be satisfied with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or to schedule a free HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

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