What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you researching the efficiency ratings of new HVAC systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your existing HVAC equipment. In either case, you can determine the efficiency rating and estimated yearly operating costs by looking at the yellow Energy Guide sticker around the side of the unit. Here’s more information about the different ratings you might read and what they mean. 

What Is a SEER Rating? 

SEER is an acronym 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 within that time frame. A higher SEER rating implies 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 increase from the old minimum stipulation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to lower energy consumption and climate-impacting emissions. 

Lately, premium air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing remarkable energy savings. However, outstanding SEER ratings commonly come with a higher up-front cost. This simply means you should consider both the initial financial investment and the potential for long-term savings when choosing a new air conditioning unit. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Although SEER ratings get more attention, AC systems have an additional efficiency statistic you should be aware of. It’s referred to as EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests the performance of an cooling system under distinct operating circumstances. The EER rating helps you understand how the system will support the demand on the hottest 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. The highest ratings top out at about 14 EER. In most cases SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings signifying better overall performance. 

What Is an HSPF Rating? 

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings are measurements of the energy efficiency of air-source heat pumps when in heating mode. HSPF is a percentage of the overall heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) over 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, a boost from the prior minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By requiring 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 throughout the U.S. You can always settle for the minimum, but you may want to get 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 yet another standard of heating system efficiency, but they only relate to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the annual heat output to the energy utilized 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. Formerly, the south and southwest had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the northern states required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. While you aren’t required to install anything above the minimum, you’ll save on your utility 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 in 1992 to help homeowners and businesses identify the most energy-efficient products 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 expectations to save energy and decrease emissions without sacrificing 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 criteria in light of 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 HVAC challenges and help you make an informed purchase. Rest assured that we offer a range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which achieve or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so convinced that you’ll be satisfied with our services that we provide 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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