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Understanding HVAC Energy Efficiency Ratings

April 27th, 2016

When you step out to buy the latest HVAC equipment, you are bombarded with a series of acronyms, with each brand claiming superiority over the other. While it may sound like Greek and Latin to begin with, it really pays to understand HVAC energy efficiency ratings when you’re shopping for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

A little bit of in-depth understanding really goes a long way in helping you make informed decisions about your purchase, and helps you pick the best possible product for your needs. Additionally, you also end up saving quite a few dollars when you understand exactly what each product offers and how well it fits with your unique requirements.

 

List of Different Energy Efficiency Ratings

A few parameters are important to evaluate during the purchase of equipment such as air conditioners and heat pumps, and these include:

 

SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

SEER is the measure of energy efficiency of cooling equipment. It is calculated by dividing cooling output (measured in BTU or British Thermal Units) by electricity usage (measured in kilowatt-hours). In other words, it indicates the electrical input that is needed to run the air conditioner over a season, compared to the amount of cooling that it generates in a real-time environment.

In layman terms, a higher SEER rating means better energy efficiency in the cooling equipment. Even a minor increase in the SEER ratings of your HVAC system can help significantly reduce power consumption.

 

EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio

EER is measured over higher temperatures and over a period of time, to evaluate the operating efficiency of a cooling unit. EER is arrived at by dividing the output cooling energy by input electrical energy (measured in BTU and kilowatt hours respectively).

Both SEER and EER ratings are usually displayed on cooling units, so you know what to expect in terms of performance. However, it is essential to carry out periodic evaluation and regular HVAC repair to ensure consistent cooling efficiency of the unit in use.

 

HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor

Just as SEER and EER help measure the cooling efficiency of a unit, HSPF helps measure the heating efficiency. This efficiency measure is used for both unidirectional and bidirectional heat pumps (bidirectional heat pumps provide cooling in summer and heating in winter).

HSPF is calculated pretty much on the same lines as SEER and EER, and is essentially the ratio of total heating needed divided by the total electricity utilized by the heat pump. Just as a higher SEER indicates greater cooling efficiency, a higher HSPF value indicates better heating efficiency.

 

AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency

During the process of conversion of fuel into heat energy, some percentage of energy is always lost in conversion. AFUE basically measures the efficiency with which a certain fuel transforms into heat. A higher AFUE rating means that more heat energy is produced, and conversion losses are minimal. A decrease in fuel losses only means more dollars saved!

 

Energy Star

Created by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Star rating is an indicator of energy efficiency of a product. It involves ensuring that the product adheres to a set of requirements, which are tested in a lab environment by a neutral third party. Products which satisfy these criteria are marked with the blue “Energy Star”, logo which defines them as dependable and energy efficient products.

 

Government Requirements

The government has laid down standards for energy efficiency of products. The SEER rating was expected to be minimum of 10 prior to 2006 and was subsequently revised to 13 and 14 in 2006 and 2015 respectively. EER is expected to be a minimum of 10, with the exception of a few states.

There is some variation in the required SEER and EER values depending on the location. For the State of California, government guidelines specify that a bare minimum value of SEER 14 and EER 11 must be maintained for air conditioning units. While these are the bare minimum values, efficient energy systems have SEER values in the range of 20-28 and EER in the range of 12-16.

 

SEER and EER – The Cost Impact

The relation between cost and SEER & EER value is directly proportional. The higher the SEER and EER, the more expensive you can expect the equipment to be. The cost component that goes up is typically reflected in the upfront payment you make, whether you’re buying it outright or paying for the HVAC unit in installments.

However, you must take into account the fact that higher SEER and EER-value equipment will be more energy-efficient, and will help you save on monthly power bills. This actually lowers the cost of your investment over the long term. Take a judicious call on striking the right balance between paying an optimum price upfront and curbing your operational expense.

While evaluating energy ratings is essential when you’re shopping for options, regular maintenance is are also critical to your unit’s performance. These ensure longevity and improved efficiency of your heating and cooling units. The professionals at Service Champions can help you keep your HVAC in top running order, so get in touch with us to discuss a maintenance schedule today!

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