What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new HVAC systems? Or are you interested in knowing the rating on your existing HVAC equipment. Either way, you can find the efficiency rating and expected yearly operating costs by reading the yellow Energy Guide tag on the side of the unit. We’d like to share some details about the multiple ratings you might read and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a way of measuring air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating represents the cooling output of an air conditioning unit over a full cooling season, divided by the total amount of energy used throughout that time. A higher SEER rating means considerably better energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Presently, the minimum SEER rating for the latest air conditioners is 14 SEER in the northern U.S. and 15 SEER in the southern U.S. This is an increase from the old minimum stipulation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, which was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This change demonstrates the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

These days, top-quality air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, delivering remarkable energy savings. But bear in mind, impressive SEER ratings usually come with a higher purchase cost. This simply means you should look at both the initial investment and the potential for continued savings when selecting a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

While SEER ratings are more known to consumers, AC systems have an additional efficiency metric you should be aware of. It’s called EER, and it stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. This conveys the performance of an AC unit under distinct operating conditions. The EER rating enables you to understand how the system will support the demand on the hottest summer days.

Presently, only the southwest section of the country has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. Maximum ratings top out at about 14 EER. Consider that SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings meaning greater overall performance.

What Is an HSPF Rating?

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings are metrics that indicate the measurement of the energy efficiency of air-source heat pumps while in heating mode. HSPF is a proportion of the entire heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) over the heating season to the rate of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating suggests a more efficient heat pump.

The minimum HSPF rating for new heat pumps is 8.8 HSPF, an improvement from the previous minimum of 8.2 HSPF. By demanding higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE wants to motivate people to use more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses across the U.S. Settling for less efficiency remains an option, but it’s a wise choice to consider a high-end heat pump with a rating of 13 HSPF or higher for the greatest performance.

What Is an AFUE Rating?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are an alternative measure of heating system efficiency, but they only relate to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a ratio of the annual heat output to the fuel consumed during that period. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace or boiler.

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces has been modified to 81. Previously, the southern regions had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the north required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. Even though you’re not required to buy a system with ratings above the minimum, you’ll cut back on your energy bills by selecting a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the ENERGY STAR program in the early 1990s to help homeowners and businesses identify the most energy-efficient products available. HVAC equipment, appliances, water heaters, light fixtures, office equipment, electronics and building products that achieve or exceed superior efficiency standards can earn ENERGY STAR certification.

ENERGY STAR-rated products perform well above the minimum requirements to save energy and cut down on emissions without sacrificing performance or features. You might also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is currently revising the qualification requisites given the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help deciding which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, count on Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your situation and aid you in making an informed decision. We have a wide range of products from today’s top brands, all of which meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so confident you’ll be happy with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a no-cost HVAC installation quote, please contact a Service Experts office near you.

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >


  • Save $50 on a Paid Service
  • Written 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Plus, ask how to save an additional 15% and waive your trip charge!


  • Upgrade to Worry-Free Comfort with the Advantage Program and make NO payments for 30 days!

© 2024 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.

Chat with a Service Experts Professional