Cleveland HVAC Blog

Decoding HVAC Efficiency Ratings so You make the Right Decision When Buying New Equipment

Posted by Paul Wadsworth on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 @ 02:37 PM

After years of saving, you’re ready to buy new heating and cooling equipment. To select the best system for your home’s needs and your budget, use efficiency ratings to compare systems and potential energy savings.

When upgrading HVAC systems, energy efficiency is more important than everHVAC efficiency ratings for various types of equipment differ, but each rating is designed to show homeowners the same thing: How much energy that you buy from the utility that the equipment can convert into heated or cooled air.

With the help of an expert HVAC contractor, take a look at the efficiency of several different systems, and then calculate installation costs and lifetime savings. This way you’ll position yourself for maximum savings and comfort over the life of the equipment.

  • Air conditioners – Central A/C systems use an efficiency rating called the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). Just like MPG for cars, the higher the SEER, the better.  The federal government requires that all air conditioners manufactured today must have SEER ratings of at least 13. You can improve your potential energy savings by selecting a high-efficiency system, which must have a SEER of at least 16.
  • Furnaces – To select a furnace, you’ll need to look for the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, which is expressed in a percentage. All furnaces produced today must have AFUE ratings of at least 78 percent. The percentage represents the amount of fuel converted to heat. The rest basically goes out the chimney. Selecting a high-efficiency system with an AFUE of at least 90 percent will net you better energy savings, though these systems do cost more than less-efficient systems.
  • Heat pumps – This high-performance heating system may be a wise choice for homeowners who want to replace both a heating and a cooling system. It will have a SEER rating for cooling and a heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) for heating. Look for an HSPF of at least 8 or higher in colder climates north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
  • Ductless mini-splits – These systems can be either cooling only (rated with SEER as above) or in a heat pump version used for both heating and cooling.  It will then also have both HSPF and SEER ratings. 
  • Green energy – Homeowners interested in maximum long-term savings can investigate geothermal systems. Geothermal heating efficiency is expressed in a coefficient of performance (COP) rating. The energy efficiency ratio indicates cooling efficiency. A closed loop system should have an EER of 14:1 and a COP of 3.3. An open-loop system should have an EER of 16.2 and a COP of 3.6. 

Use HVAC efficiency ratings the next time you buy new equipment. The other part of the equation is the relative cost of the fuel you intend to use both now and in the future.  See our other blog posts on life cycle cost of operation.  For expert advice in northeast Ohio, contact P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling. We've been serving the Greater Cleveland area since 1936.

Paul WadsworthPaul Wadsworth is the President and Owner of P.K. Wadsworth Heating and Cooling. For 37 years, Paul has been providing heating and cooling services to the Greater Cleveland area. P.K. Wadsworth has been a trusted Cleveland HVAC service company for 75 years. The company understand the area's construction and local heating and air conditioning needs. Paul has an MBA from the University of Michigan and a B.S., Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. He's been President of the Cleveland Air Conditioning Contractors of America and a founding member of the local chapter. Paul was born and raised in Cleveland and has been active in the local community. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and two sons.

The opinions and statements contained in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not instructions. Only trained, licensed and experienced personnel should attempt installation/repair. The author assumes no liability for the opinions/statements made in this article. Any individual attempting a repair or installation based on this article does so at their own risk of loss.

Topics: efficiency, SEER, hvac contractor, HVAC Efficiency Ratings

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