Could HVAC ratings affect purchasing or maintenance decisions? Yes, and if you ever look into buying a new system, the unfamiliar technical terms and acronyms could be intimidating. Don’t worry; understanding the HVAC efficiency ratings is easy, and you can always access advice and affordable HVAC services in Richmond Hill by Georgia Air.
In the post below, the Georgia Air experts take a look at the various ratings, why they matter, and how to choose the right rating for your needs and budget.
Why Do HVAC System Ratings Matter?
How do you know what to look for in modern air conditioners and how to compare different models? Well, making an informed decision on a heating and cooling system is much simpler than it used to be, thanks to the various ratings available on each unit’s performance. Each rating provides another piece of information, and experts like Georgia Air pay careful attention to each of these aspects when discussing the best unit or system for a property.
For example, efficiency ratings for HVAC systems are exceptionally important, as these unassuming electrical appliances can consume up to 50% of a single household’s electricity in season. Choosing an HVAC system with high efficiency has significant benefits. For example, it often determines how well the heating and cooling system works and how much a property owner can reduce their monthly energy costs long term.
The only downside is that a higher efficiency rating usually means a more expensive system (which translates to a higher initial outlay). However, higher ratings also mean more energy efficiency, which helps to manageably spread costs for heating and cooling over a year’s budget.
Let’s take a look at some of the other common ratings for HVAC systems and similar appliances that consume energy.
Common Ratings for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Systems
Each rating below references a different parameter of an HVAC system’s performance, including energy efficiency, fuel efficiency, filtration, and more.
Making a decision about which air conditioning to purchase generally needs an analysis of the SEER, EER, MERV, and Energy Star ratings.
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)
The seasonal energy efficiency ratio refers to the total cooling efficiency of a system. Manufacturers calculate the SEER of an HVAC system by dividing total cooling output by total electrical consumption. In other words, it tells potential owners how efficiently a machine works per unit of electricity it will use over twelve months.
The higher the SEER, the more efficient the system. Most modern HVAC systems have a SEER of 14 or higher, with extra efficient models reaching a SEER of up to 21. Keep in mind that these HVAC ratings are maximum figures, which will drop when the system does not receive regular HVAC service and maintenance to keep it operating at its expected SEER.
EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio)
The second rating is also a measure of energy consumption capabilities, but this energy efficiency ratio measures total electricity usage compared to energy output. Unlike SEER ratings, the EER looks at peak performance during the highest temperatures of the year. In the same vein as the SEER, a higher EER rating also means the system is more efficient.
Think of the difference between SEER and EER ratings as city-based miles per gallon and what you might use on a long highway trip. EER ratings give information about the expected performance of an HVAC under the most strenuous conditions. Conversely, SEER ratings cite the performance under average conditions, so even the same system will have a different SEER from its EER.
Modern HVAC systems typically have an EER of 16 or higher.
MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value)
Minimum efficiency reporting values measure how effectively an HVAC system’s air filter captures particulate matter. The higher the MERV rating, the more effectively the filters capture airborne particles and contaminants. A good MERV rating for a residential HVAC system is around 10, which means the filter should capture over 64% of particles smaller than 10.0 microns.
Modern HVAC systems do feature MERV ratings up to 16, but these are unnecessary for a residential property. In fact, using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can remove over 99% of particulate matter larger than 0.3 microns but will also decrease the efficiency of the system as a whole as it impedes easy airflow. You will also need to regularly replace the air filter to maintain performance.
Energy Star (from the EPA)
Energy Star is an Environmental Protection Agency rating that represents overall energy efficiency. The Energy Star-certified products operate under federal environmental guidelines for efficiency and environmental protection to reduce greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions.
Products may receive an Energy Star from the EPA if they:
- Contribute to energy savings
- Utilize non-proprietary technologies
- Have measurable energy and consumption performance metrics
The Energy Star rating shows a blue “Energy Star” marker on approved products.
On the heating side, the two most important HVAC ratings are HSPF and AFUE.
HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor)
The heating seasonal performance factor points to the overall heating efficiency of an HVAC system. SEER and EER are measurements specifically for cooling performance, while HSPF is specifically for heating efficiency. It divides the total capacity of a heater in BTUs by total electrical consumption, and the higher an HSPF rating, the more efficient the heating system.
Modern heating systems typically have an HSPF rating between 8 and 13, though high-efficiency machines go up to 16. These ratings assume ideal operating conditions and efficiency will differ according to the unit’s condition and usage patterns.
AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency)
It is also crucial to understand how well the system transforms fuel into heat for winter use. No matter the kind of heating system, all units lose energy due to heat radiation. If the annual fuel utilization efficiency rating is higher, you can expect it to lose less energy through heat radiation when operating.
Manufacturers generally represent AFUE in percentage terms. For example, an AFUE rating of 80% means that the unit loses less than 20% of energy when converting fuel to heat. Thermal loss is a consequence of basic thermodynamics, but the most efficient systems have AFUE ratings of up to 95%.
Whether you choose the HVAC system based on heating, cooling, or both, these ratings lay out what to expect from the purchase. Regularly servicing the unit will ensure that it maintains these standards year-round, and trusting a service provider like Georgia Air is another factor in the decision.
How To Choose the Right HVAC Rating
SEER ratings are popular when choosing an HVAC system, but they aren’t everything. Experts like Georgia Air consider a SEER rating of at least 13 as energy efficient, though it can go as high as 21. Federal and state governments have also laid down regulations for minimum SEER ratings for residential HVAC systems; the Department of Energy splits the US into three regions:
Minimum SEER requirements for the Southwest and Southeast are 14, while the minimum SEER rating for the North is 13. A particular state might also mandate its own SEER ratings, so be sure to check your area’s requirements.
AFUE and HSPF Ratings
Experts recommend using the heat-related HVAC ratings as follows:
- An AFUE rating of at least 75% (any lower, and you may not notice energy savings due to increased fuel consumption)
- HSPF ratings typically reference a heat pump, and most homeowners only need a rating of around 8
All Energy Star-rated products have an HSPF of at least 8,2 or higher, up to 13. Some systems have an AFUE rating as high as 98%, but this is unnecessary for a typical residence.
HVAC Size and Ratings
Heating and cooling system ratings are a good rule of thumb to judge efficiency, but choosing an HVAC system that is the right size for the building or home is equally important. A system that is too large or small will not streamline costs, no matter whether efficiency ratings are higher.
For example, if the HVAC system is too large, it will cool the home quickly before removing moisture. The home will feel humid, and in turn, many homeowners will keep the thermostat turned down and keep the system running continuously. In that case, a highly efficient system still wastes money on unnecessary heating and cooling costs.
The best way to determine the HVAC system size you need is to calculate the total square footage and multiply it by 20 BTUs per square foot. So, a 2,000-square feet home will need an HVAC system that can put out 40,000 BTUs of heat; no more, no less.
Call the Richmond Hill HVAC Experts Today
The various ratings are important in deciding which HVAC system to invest in, including which filter or heat pump would work for the home or office. However, size and maintenance requirements may also carry other long-term costs and benefits. As a top-rated heating and cooling company, Georgia Air can help with choosing the right HVAC system, and we have many years of experience in reliably serving this community.
Call Georgia Air at (912) 513-3741 today for all HVAC repair and installation and more about HVAC ratings, or contact us online.