June 13, 2016

When heating and cooling systems are energy-efficient, you know you’re getting the most for your money and not wasting any precious resources. But what does energy efficiency mean, exactly? What standards are used to determine whether or not an HVAC system is energy-efficient?

The better you understand this area, the easier it will be to begin comparing heating and cooling systems and figuring out how much money top-rated energy-efficient models can save you on energy costs in the long run.

Energy Efficiency and Cooling Equipment

Cooling equipment such as air conditioners and heat pumps (turned to the cool setting) are rated based on how much cold air they output versus how much energy they require for the task. This is the most popular way to determine their energy efficiency rating, which is known as SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). SEER measures the total cooling output over an entire season in British Thermal Units in comparison with the amount of energy it took for the cooling output measured in watt-hours.

All air cooling equipment in the U.S. must meet a minimum SEER as set by the government. This standard varies depending on where you’re located in the country. For instance, the minimum for the Northern region—made up of states like Missouri, Iowa, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota—is 13 SEER for air conditioners.

Energy Efficiency and Heating Equipment

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps use electricity to move heat into your home as almost the opposite of an air conditioner. Heat pumps are rated for energy efficiency in much the same way as cooling equipment except this rating is called HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor). It measures the heat created by the pump over a season in comparison with the amount of electricity used to produce that heat. For HSPF, a rating of 8 or higher means the equipment is very efficient.


Gas furnaces use a flame to heat up something called a heat exchanger, which warms the air as it passes through. Gas is burned to light the flame and produce heat. As a result, these systems are not rated in the same way as heat pumps and air conditioners. Efficiency is instead measured through AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). This ratio measures how much natural gas burns in the furnace as compared to how much usable heat is generated. A unit that burns less gas but creates more heat is considered highly efficient. The minimum AFUE for an efficient furnace is 90, which means that the furnace converts fuel into heat at a rate of 90 percent.

Keeping Energy Costs Down

Upgrading a tired old air conditioner, heat pump, or gas furnace with a newer, energy-efficient model with a good rating will help you save a substantial amount on energy costs over time.

Once you understand how energy efficiency is measured and what the numbers mean, you can do some research and find the best equipment for your budget, which is the smartest way to stay comfortable in your home while reducing your energy costs. The Cooling Company can help.

Our Energy Savings Calculator will assist you in figuring out exactly what you’ll save with an energy-efficient unit. Visit us today and see for yourself!

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