If you’ve ever bought an energy-rated appliance—from dishwashers and microwaves to HVAC units—you’re probably familiar with the yellow Energy Guides attached to your new purchase, detailing their energy use, efficiency, and average operating cost. These stickers vary depending on the product, but they’re all focused on helping you make smart, energy-efficient purchases.

And when it comes to your home’s HVAC system, energy efficiency standards are a very important consideration for both keeping your home comfortable and saving money. A 2013 survey conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that heating and air conditioning account for nearly half of all residential energy usage in the United States, so the more efficient your system is, the more you will save, making it easier to stay comfortable without blowing your budget. Understanding the standards used to determine your system’s efficiency is the first step in getting the best bang for your HVAC buck.

An Overview of Efficiency Standards

SEER: The standard for rating cooling efficiency for air conditioners and heat pumps is known as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER. The higher a system’s SEER, the more efficiently it performs, and the greater your savings will be. If you have an older system, upgrading to an Energy Star®-certified system can significantly improve both performance and savings.

HSPF: Some heat pumps are evaluated using a standard known as Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). Like SEER, this rating is based on overall system efficiency, but is focused on the heating components of a heat pump system.

AFUE: Furnaces receive energy efficiency ratings based on their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). This ratio is calculated by comparing the percentage of heat produced for every fuel dollar spent. You can think of your furnace’s AFUE as similar to the mileage rating on your car; the less fuel you have to buy to achieve your desired level of heating, the better the rating (and the more you save).

Make a Match for Maximum Performance

The ratings for your specific HVAC systems should be detailed on the Energy Guides attached to the units, so be sure to compare carefully when shopping for a new or replacement system.

You’ll also want to match your indoor and outdoor-based HVAC solutions. Depending on the configuration you choose, you’ll have specific options available that hit the “sweet spot” for performance and efficiency. Be sure to ask about Energy Star certification as well.

If you’re in need of a helping hand, your local HVAC expert is your best bet when it comes to helping you choose the best system for your needs. Take a moment to reach out when you’re in the market, and they can help you move beyond the Energy Guides and create a truly customized solution that’s not only energy efficient, but budget-friendly.

Understanding HVAC Energy Guides
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