What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you researching the efficiency ratings of new air conditioning and furnace systems? Perhaps you’re just curious to understand the rating on your existing HVAC system. Regardless, you can learn the efficiency rating and projected yearly operating costs by looking at the yellow Energy Guide tag around the side of the unit. Here’s more information 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 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 amount of energy consumed during that period. A higher SEER rating indicates better 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 past minimum stipulation 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) persistent efforts to minimize energy consumption and climate-impacting emissions. 

Lately, premium air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing fantastic energy savings. But bear in mind, exceptional SEER ratings commonly come with a higher up-front cost. Which means you should give some thought to both the initial investment and the potential for ongoing savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

While SEER ratings are more known to consumers, AC systems have another efficiency statistic you should be aware of. It’s referred to as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the effectiveness of an AC unit under specific operating conditions. The EER rating helps you understand if 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. Consider that SEER and EER for the most part correspond, with higher ratings signifying 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 once in heating mode. HSPF is a ratio 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 indicates a more efficient heat pump. 

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, an increase from the prior 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 across 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 another estimate of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a ratio of the yearly heat output to the energy used during that period. The greater the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace or boiler. 

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces was revised to 81. Formerly, the southern regions 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 spend less 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) established 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 expectations 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 leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is actually overhauling the qualification requisites in light of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help deciding which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your HVAC challenges and help you make an informed decision. Rest assured that we offer a range of products from today’s top brands, all of which meet or surpass the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so convinced that you’ll be happy with our services that we give you 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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