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Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

Top 3 HVAC System Ratings Explained

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Feb 13, 2018 9:30 PM

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system components carry three specific ratings that can be used to help determine which system to purchase when replacing an outdated model. Today's HVAC systems are more energy-efficient than older styles, but at varying levels; it is essential to understand the rating systems used to identify their capabilities.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is used to rate the efficiency of cooling and heating equipment, including air conditioning units and heat pumps. A system with a rating of 14 and higher consumes less energy than an HVAC unit with a lower score. It runs more efficiently, and your energy bills are lower than if you use a system with a lower SEER. The most efficient units have ratings as high as 30 or more. It's important to understand that this level of energy efficiency can lower energy consumption costs over the life of the system, but also comes with a higher price tag up front.

Average Fuel Utilization Efficiency

The Average Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating provides a measure of how efficiently a gas or oil-fired heating system converts the fuel into heat. Furnaces with scores of 77 and lower are less efficient than those rated at 91 and up. Therefore, a furnace with an AFUE rating of 91 converts 91% of the fuel into heat, while releasing 9% through the flue.

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor

A highly efficient heat pump consumes less energy than an inefficient one, and the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) measures the efficiency at which a heat pump runs. The most efficient heat pumps receive ratings of 13 and more, while units with low-efficiency levels receive grades below 8.2.

Dean Peterson is the co-founder of Summit Heating and Air Conditioning in Denver, Colorado. He asserts, "One of the most critical steps you should take before replacing your HVAC system, heat pump, furnace, or AC unit is to get a clear understanding of the efficiency ratings given to this type of equipment." The SEER, AFUE, and HSPF provide a clear indication of how energy efficient each piece of equipment is.

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