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 unit. Regardless, you can learn the efficiency rating and expected yearly operating costs by looking at the yellow Energy Guide sticker along 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 is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measurement of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating represents the cooling output of an AC unit over an entire cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy used during that period. A higher SEER rating means better 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 improvement from the past minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This adjustment reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing efforts to minimize energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. 

These days, top-quality air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering amazing energy savings. Unfortunately, exceptional SEER ratings typically come with a higher initial cost. Which means you should give some thought to both the initial expense and the potential for long-term savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit. 

What Is an EER Rating? 

Even though SEER ratings are more well-known, cooling systems have another efficiency measurement you ought to know. It’s known as EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the efficiency of an AC unit under distinct operating situations. The EER rating enables you to understand whether the system will support the demand on extreme summer days. 

Currently, only the southwest region has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Peak ratings top out at about 14 EER. Most of the time SEER and EER typically correspond, with higher ratings indicating stronger overall performance. 

What Is an HSPF Rating? 

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings are measurements of the energy efficiency of air-source heat pumps while in heating mode. HSPF is a percentage of the entire heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) during the heating season to the amount 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 demanding 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. You can always settle for the minimum, but it’s a good idea 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 an alternative estimate of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the annual heat output to the fuel consumed 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. Prior to this, the south and southwest had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the north 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 cut back 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) introduced the ENERGY STAR program in the early 1990s 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 specifications to save energy and reduce emissions without compromising performance or features. You might also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which highlights the leading performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is actually updating the qualification requisites in the wake 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, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can evaluate your HVAC challenges and help you make an informed decision. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s most reliable brands, all of which meet or exceed 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 details or to schedule a free HVAC installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you

  • Zoning Systems: Control the Temperature in Every Room

    Central heating and air systems have radically changed home comfort and made it possible to stay completely cozy in any season or climate. But while centralized systems are a handy way to regulate the temperature, they at times fall short when it comes to evenly distributing heated or cooled air... Continue reading

  • Eight Upgrades to Boost Your Home HVAC System

    During the coldest time of the year in the U.S., there’s no better way to improve your home’s comfort than with some effective upgrades. It’s not just about keeping the house toasty warm as the snow begins to fall—it’s about boosting efficiency and improving the very air you breathe.... Continue reading

  • How to Find an Effective HVAC System

    In terms of keeping your home comfortable year-round, nothing is more critical than choosing the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This determination impacts your daily comfort, monthly utility costs and all-around home efficiency. However, with so many system types,... Continue reading