Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature can be expensive. For the average homeowner, heating and cooling costs can total well more than half their monthly utility bills. Finding a system that keeps you and your family comfortable, yet operates efficiently is important for keeping expensive utility bills manageable.
If you are considering upgrading your current heating and cooling system, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the acronyms and numbers. These jumble of letters and numbers represent a system’s energy efficiency ratings.
A little understanding goes a long way in helping you make the most informed decision possible. Purchasing a new HVAC system, air conditioner, or furnace is a huge investment, and it will have a huge impact on your family’s day-to-day comfort.
Understanding the Different Energy Efficiency Ratings
Shopping for a new air conditioner or heat pump can be confusing. Every brand claims to be better than the competition. It is important to understand the different ratings so you can effectively compare your options and choose the best system to meet your needs.
SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio
SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration, is the measure of energy efficiency of cooling equipment. This figure is determined by dividing the cooling output of the system (measured in BTU or British Thermal Units) by the system’s electricity usage (measured in kilowatt-hours). Basically. SEER specifies how much electricity is needed to run the air conditioner compared to the cooling capacity.
A higher SEER rating means better energy efficiency. When comparing systems, even a small increase in SEER can greatly reduce your energy consumption, saving a significant amount on your annual utility bills.
The US Department of Energy sets SEER requirements. For northern states with cooler climates, air conditioners must have a minimum SEER of 13. If you live in a state that has a typically hot summer, you will need a system with a SEER of at least 14.
EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio
Similar to SEER, EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) is measured over higher temperatures and over an extended period. Usually, both SEER and EER ratings will be displayed on a cooling system. These numbers will help you understand exactly what to expect when it comes to performance and energy consumption.
HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor
Like SEER measures cooling efficiency, HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) measures heating efficiency. This number is calculated in a similar manner to SEER, by dividing the total heating needed by the total electricity used by the system. A higher HSPF indicates better heating efficiency.
AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency
AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This number indicates the percentage of heat created for every energy dollar consumed. When fuel is converted to heat, a percentage of energy is always lost in the conversion. This number basically measures the efficiency fuel is transformed into heat.
For example, an AFUE of 80 means 80 percent of the fuel consumed is emitted as heat into the home. The remaining 20 percent to heat the home, while 20% is misplaced through venting or consumed in some other way. A higher AFUE signifies greater energy efficiency.
Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star is the government-supported symbol for energy efficiency. Products with the Energy Star label have met strict standards of energy efficiency. These products have been tested in a controlled laboratory environment by a neutral third party.
If you have questions about the energy efficiency ratings of your current heating and cooling system, contact your local HVAC professionals for help. If you are considering upgrading your current system, they can also help you determine which products are best suited for your home and your family’s specific needs.