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 equipment. Either way, you can discover the efficiency rating and projected yearly operating costs by reading the yellow Energy Guide label on the side of the unit. Below are some facts about the different ratings you might find and what they mean. 

What Is a SEER Rating? 

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a rating of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating signifies the cooling output of an AC unit over the entire cooling season, divided by the amount of energy utilized throughout that time. A higher SEER rating implies better energy efficiency and lower energy bills. 

As of 2023, the minimum SEER rating for recently manufactured 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 adjustment is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) continuous efforts to decrease energy consumption and climate-impacting emissions. 

Nowadays, top-quality air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering fantastic energy savings. However, exceptional SEER ratings normally come with a higher up-front cost. Therefore, you should give some thought to both the initial financial investment and the prospects for ongoing savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Although SEER ratings are more well-known, AC systems have an additional efficiency statistic you should know about. It’s known as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests the efficiency of an air conditioner under distinct operating conditions. The EER rating allows you to understand if the system will handle the demand on the hottest summer days. 

Currently, 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. In most cases SEER and EER typically correspond, with higher ratings indicating greater 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 proportion 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 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 is making it more affordable long-term for Americans to use more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses throughout the U.S. The bare minimum is always 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 best performance. 

What Is an AFUE Rating? 

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are yet another measure of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage 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 was revised to 81. Formerly, the south and southwest had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the north required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. Even though you’re not required to buy a system with ratings above the minimum, you’ll cut back on your energy 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 in 1992 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 far beyond the minimum expectations to save energy and decrease emissions without compromising performance or features. You might also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes the leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently revising the qualification requisites in light of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help determining which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, count on Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can review your HVAC challenges and assist you in making an informed choice. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which satisfy or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so sure you’ll be satisfied with our services that we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a complimentary HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you