Shopping for an air conditioner or furnace can be confusing. The Federal Energy Standards Act was enacted to give homeowners a way to compare different heating and cooling units, and it uses some of the following terms. Other terms are just HVAC industry jargon. Want to know what it all means?
BTU—A British Thermal Unit is the amount needed to heat 1 pound of water 1 degree. It’s basically just a way to measure heat.
AFUE—Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is the amount of heat a furnace delivers for each $1.00 paid for fuel. It’s like miles per gallon on a car, the higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace. The federal government determines the minimum AFUE allowed on new furnace installations, which is currently 80%. They are working to pass legislation that would raise the minimum to 90% in our part of the country.
SEER—Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is the corresponding rating on the air conditioning side of things. With its partner EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio), they rate how much heat your air conditioner removes for each watt of electricity used. In other words, a 16 SEER unit will remove 16 BTU’S of heat per watt of electricity used. The federal government determines the minimum SEER allowed on new air conditioning installations, which is currently 13.
Freon (or R-22)—This is a refrigerant that is being phased out because it has been found to damage the ozone layer. Because of the phase out it has gotten more expensive. In residential air conditioning we now use Puron (or R-410a).
Evaporator Coil (also called the cooling coil)—The part of an air conditioner or heat pump system that is located inside the house in the furnace or air handler. It is where the refrigerant evaporates, absorbing heat from the air that passes over the coil. When you replace your air conditioner you ought to replace the evaporator coil as well, even if you don’t replace the furnace at that time. Otherwise you will not have a matched system and won’t get the highest possible efficiency/capacity for the outside unit (also called the Condenser).
Heater and air conditioner terms can be confusing. If you have any questions about these terms or anything else related to your heating and cooling system, feel free to contact P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling for more information.
Kim Nemecek works at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling. After growing up in Cleveland, she lived in Florida for many years, working at an air conditioning company there. Kim has four grown children, two grandchildren and two spoiled dogs. She lives in Solon with her husband, Todd.
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.