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Woman carrying pile of booksSavvy consumers in Eastman, GA, understand that energy efficient heating and cooling systems help keep monthly utility bills manageable. The alphabet soup of acronyms used to describe efficiency ratings, however, can be hard to digest. While it’s natural to wish for a one-size-fits-all rating system, there’s a valid reason why so many types of ratings are necessary. Systems like fuel-burning furnaces, for example, require a different analysis than a heat pump that runs on electricity. When you’re investing in a new HVAC system, it pays to familiarize yourself with the most common energy efficiency rating systems.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)

Used for measuring the cooling efficiency of an electric heat pump or air conditioner, SEER ratings are calculated by comparing the electricity consumed to the cooling output. The numerical value represents the unit’s energy efficiency as measured over an entire cooling season. The higher the number, the better the energy efficiency. Ratings for high efficiency cooling systems range from 13 to 20 or higher.

EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio)

In contrast to SEER ratings that measure efficiency over a single season, EER ratings represent the real-time cooling efficiency of heat pumps and air conditioning systems, offering a more accurate measurement in regions with consistently hot summer weather. The numerical value reflects how efficiently the product operates with a steady outdoor and indoor temperature. A value between 11 and 14 is considered highly efficient.

COP (Coefficient Of Performance)

The COP rating represents an HVAC system’s ratio of heating or cooling output to its energy loss in real time. Unlike other energy efficiency ratings, however, the ratio is not calculated by comparing output measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) to input measured in watts. Instead, BTUs are first converted into watts or vice versa to ensure a true apples-to-apples comparison.

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor)

Many heat pump systems deliver both heating and cooling comfort for your home or business. HSPF ratings are used to measure the energy efficiency of the heating function. The HSPF value represents the system’s efficiency over a standard heating season by comparing its heating output to its electrical consumption. Ratings typically range from 7.0 to 9.4 or higher.

AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency)

A rating system used for fuel-burning furnaces and boilers, AFUE values reflect the unit’s annual heating output compared with its annual fuel consumption, as expressed in a percentage. The value does not include electrical energy for fans and blowers. The minimum AFUE allowed for fuel-burning furnaces is 78 percent. The minimum rating for a gas-fueled boiler is 75 percent. Some products achieve values of 97 percent or higher.

MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value)

MERV ratings measure the filtering efficiency of air filters on a scale of 1 to 20. The higher the rating, the smaller the particulate that can be blocked from the air you breathe:

  • Flat panel filters with ratings from 1 to 4 are the type most commonly included in home heating and cooling systems.
  • Pleated filters with MERV ratings up to 12 can often be used in HVAC systems to improve your air quality without impacting the flow of air.
  • High-efficiency air filtration products are also available that are designed to operate in tandem with your existing central heating or cooling system.

Energy Star Qualified Products

Energy Star labels make it easier to identify HVAC products that conserve energy and save you money. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) conduct third-party tests to ensure that efficiency ratings meet strict federal standards. Energy Star products also include an Energy Guide label that estimates annual operating costs and shows the savings offered over non-qualified systems.

At Pruett Air Conditioning, our experienced HVAC professionals can help you compare efficiency ratings, installation costs and system longevity to ensure that you select the product that best fits your budget and your unique comfort needs. If you’re considering a new HVAC installation, contact us today for more information.