What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you comparing the efficiency ratings of new air conditioning and furnace systems? Or are you interested in knowing the rating on your current HVAC system. Regardless, you can determine the efficiency rating and estimated yearly operating costs by inspecting the yellow Energy Guide label along the side of the unit. We’d like to share some details about the multiple ratings you might see and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a rating of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating signifies the cooling output of an AC unit over a whole cooling season, divided by the volume of energy consumed within that time frame. A higher SEER rating indicates 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 previous minimum requirement of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This adjustment is one part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) persistent efforts to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Nowadays, top-quality air conditioners boast ratings of 26 SEER or higher, offering fantastic energy savings. Unfortunately, outstanding SEER ratings normally come with a higher initial cost. This means you should consider both the initial expense and the prospects for long-term savings when choosing a new air conditioner.

What Is an EER Rating?

Although SEER ratings are more well-known, cooling systems have a different efficiency measurement you ought to know. It’s known as EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This indicates the performance of an air conditioner under specified operating situations. The EER rating helps you understand if the system will handle the demand on extreme summer days.

At the moment, only the southwest area of the nation has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. The highest ratings top out at about 14 EER. Consider that SEER and EER for the most part correspond, with higher ratings indicating better 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 total heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) over the heating season to the rate of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating means 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 hopes to encourage the use of more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses across the U.S. Settling for less efficiency remains an option, but it’s a good idea to consider a high-end heat pump with a rating of 13 HSPF or higher for the best performance.

What Is an AFUE Rating?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are an alternative estimate of heating system efficiency, but they apply to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a percentage of the annual heat output to the energy utilized during that period. The greater the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating unit(s).

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces was revised to 81. Prior to this, the southern regions had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the northern states required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. While you aren’t required to install anything above the minimum, you’ll save on your energy bills by opting for a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

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

ENERGY STAR-rated products go above and beyond the minimum specifications to save energy and decrease emissions without limiting performance or features. You might also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which identifies the best performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently updating the qualification requisites in the wake of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help identifying which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is ideal for your budget, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can evaluate your circumstances and help you make an informed choice. We can provide you with a wide range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which satisfy or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so confident you’ll be delighted with our services that we give you a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a complimentary 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