How To Understand HVAC Energy Efficiency Ratings

When you’re shopping for an HVAC unit or chatting with an HVAC contractor, the jargon can get confusing – SEER, AFUE, HSPF, ENERGY STAR. What does it all really mean? 

We’re here to help you understand HVAC energy efficiency ratings, and how the numbers associated with the ratings can affect your home, comfort, and costs. Let’s dive in!

How To Understand HVAC Energy Efficiency Ratings

What Is SEER?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. SEER is only for air conditioners, and is a measure of energy vs. output. SEER is a maximum value, like the MPG rating of your car – under ideal conditions throughout the season, you’ll get the SEER number. But it’s not always ideal weather outside.

How Does A Higher SEER Ratio For My A/C Unit Help My Home?

A higher SEER ratio means you’re getting more cooling for your dollar. The minimum SEER for air conditioners is 13. Most modern A/C units have somewhere between 13-21 for a SEER ratio. Older systems may be rated at an 8 or 9. The highest SEER rating available at this time is 26.

What Is AFUE?

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. You’ll often see it on the little yellow “EnergyGuide” tag on the side of a furnace or HVAC system. 

AFUE is a measure of how efficient the furnace is, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all of measuring how much it will cost to run one heating system against the other – the cost of your fuel is the main driver of cost.

How Does A Higher AFUE Percentage For My Furnace Help My Home?

The higher the AFUE number, the more efficient the furnace is. 

If you’re comparing natural gas furnaces against each other, one with a 55-65% rating is a conventional furnace, and only converts that percentage of the fuel into heat for your home. 78-84% is a mid-efficiency system, while 90-97% is considered a condensing furnace and is the highest percentage of fuel converted to heat you can get. 

When comparing the same type of fuel systems against each other, AFUE can help you choose the more efficient and cost-effective option.

What Is HSPF?

HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. It is a rating only for heat pumps, which move heat from a colder space into a warmer space. Ratings generally go from 7 up to the low teens, with the highest efficiency currently sitting at 13.

How Does A Higher HSPF Rating On My Heat Pump Help My Home?

The higher the HSPF rating, the more efficient your heat pump will be – reducing your energy costs. Generally, look for a rating between 8-10. Heat pumps with a rating of 8.2 or higher, along with a SEER rating of 12 or higher qualify for ENERGY STAR® certification.

What Is ENERGY STAR® Certification

You’ll occasionally see a blue sticker signifying ENERGY STAR® approval on an air conditioner, heater, or HVAC system. This sticker demonstrates that the product has been verified to save more energy than traditional models. Verification is handled by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through independent testing labs.

How Does An ENERGY STAR® Certification Help My Home?

ENERGY STAR® products save energy, money, and help the environment without sacrificing features. While the initial investment may be higher, over time energy savings can be achieved faster with ENERGY STAR® certified products.