What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new HVAC systems? Perhaps you’re just curious to understand the rating on your current HVAC system. Either way, you can find the efficiency rating and estimated yearly operating costs by looking at the yellow Energy Guide sticker 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 stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a rating of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating signifies the cooling output of an air conditioner over the entire cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy utilized within that time frame. A higher SEER rating indicates greater 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 improvement from the past minimum expectation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) continuous efforts to decrease energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

Lately, top-quality air conditioners tout ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, exceptional SEER ratings typically come with a higher up-front cost. This means you should think about 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 known to consumers, there’s a different efficiency metric you should know about. It’s known as EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests the performance of an air conditioner under specific operating circumstances. The EER rating helps you understand how the system will support the demand on those very hot summer days. 

Currently, only the southwest region has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Maximum ratings top out at about 14 EER. Consider that SEER and EER almost always 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) 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 previous minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By calling for higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE hopes to encourage the use of more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses across the U.S. The bare minimum is always an option, but it’s a good idea to consider 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 an alternative standard of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the yearly heat output to the fuel consumed 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 changed to 81. Formerly, the several southern states 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 utility 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 identify the most energy-efficient equipment and appliances available. HVAC equipment, appliances, water heaters, light fixtures, office equipment, electronics and building products that have a minimum threshold of efficiency can earn ENERGY STAR certification. 

ENERGY STAR-rated products perform well above the minimum specifications to save energy and cut down on emissions without compromising performance or features. You can also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which identifies the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently updating the qualification requisites in light of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards. 

Install an Efficient HVAC System 

For help identifying which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is appropriate for your budget, call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can evaluate your HVAC challenges and assist you in making an informed choice. We have a wide range of products from today’s top brands, all of which meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so convinced that you’ll be delighted with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a complimentary HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you

  • How to Choose a Suitable HVAC System

    When it comes to keeping your home comfortable year-round, nothing is more essential than picking out the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This decision affects your daily comfort, monthly utility bills and overall home efficiency. Then again, with so many system... Continue reading

  • Year-End HVAC Maintenance Checklist

    Now that the air turns chilly, you know it’s time to get your home ready for the cooler months ahead. Your heating system is critical to maintaining a cozy, warm setting. A well-maintained furnace supplies the comfort you want while using a smaller amount of energy. Regular inspections also make... Continue reading

  • 2024 Furnace and Air Conditioning Trends

    In the ever-evolving world of home HVAC, keeping up with the latest HVAC trends is crucial for homeowners who want to enhance their home’s comfort and efficiency. As we move into 2024, the HVAC industry continues to innovate, bringing new technologies and trends aimed at changing how residents... Continue reading