Understanding HVAC Efficiency Ratings
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Understanding HVAC Efficiency Ratings

Understanding your HVAC system can feel a bit overwhelming. And if you’re like most people, you let a professional HVAC contractor take care of your air conditioning and heating maintenance, repairs, and unit replacements. But even if you leave the HVAC work to the pros, it’s never a bad idea to learn at least a little bit about these major appliances and how they work.

One of the more important things about your HVAC system that you should know is its efficiency rating. Since the efficiency of your system not only determines how well the unit cools and heats your home but also your monthly energy costs, it’s good to know where your system stands.

Here’s what you should know about HVAC efficiency ratings, so you can select the best heating and cooling equipment for your needs and budget.

SEER: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

This measurement denotes the efficiency of air conditioning units, as well as heat pumps, which can function to heat or cool a home. SEER is measured by the amount of cooling a system generates in relation to each unit of energy it consumes to function. 

The higher a unit’s SEER, the less energy it uses to operate, and, consequently, the lower your energy bills will be. SEER 30 is the highest SEER rating available, but the U.S. government only requires newly installed units to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. Units that are Energy Star-certified must have a SEER rating of at least 14, but many have ratings much higher than that.

MERV: Minimum Efficiency Rating Value

MERV ratings denote the efficiency of air filters that are an essential component of your HVAC system. MERV ratings range from one to 16, and the higher the number, the more particulate matter the filter removes from the air.

A high MERV rating indicates a tighter filter weave, which is able to trap more dust, pollen, mold spores, and other microscopic substances as they travel through your HVAC system. You can find the MERV rating of your existing HVAC filter either on its packaging or somewhere along one of its sides.

If you’re currently using a filter with a relatively low MERV, it may be in your best interest to opt for a higher-rated filter when it’s time to replace the existing filter.

A better filter will not only keep more particulate matter out of your HVAC system (which is great for boosting your indoor air quality!) but may also help your cooling and heating units function better. That said, filters with extremely high MERV ratings (14+) will impede airflow through residential HVAC systems, which is why these filters are only designed for commercial use. 

AFUE: Average Fuel Utilization Efficiency

If you have an oil-burning or gas-burning furnace, its efficiency rating is denoted by an AFUE measurement. Like SEER ratings, AFUE ratings measure the amount of heat a unit produces relative to each unit of energy it consumes to function. For example, if your unit has an 80% AFUE rating, it converts 80% of the fuel it consumes into heat. The remaining 20% essentially gets wasted.

To translate that to your pocketbook, for every dollar of heating costs you spend, a unit with an 80% AFUE rating will give you 80 cents worth of heat. The other 20 cents is waste. Like other HVAC efficiency ratings, the higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating system is.

Currently the minimum required AFUE for newly installed oil and gas furnaces is 78%. The most efficient units on the market have AFUE ratings as high as 98.5%. 

HSPF: Heating Seasonal Performance Factor

HSPF ratings measure the efficiency of air-source and ground-source heat pumps. These pumps are capable of providing heating during cold months and cooling during warm seasons. Like other heating and cooling efficiency ratings, the higher the HSPF rating, the more efficient the unit. And ultimately, the more cost-effective it is to run the unit over time.

For newly installed heat pumps, the minimum HSPF rating is 7.7. The highest-rated heat pumps on the market currently have an HSPF rating of 13. Energy Star-certified pumps must have a minimum rating of 8.2.

Looking for an HVAC Contractor Near Duluth?

If you’re in the market for HVAC service for your Hermantown or Duluth-area home, look no further than our team at The Comfort Company! We specialize in heating and cooling system installation, maintenance, repair, and replacement, as well as geothermal heating and cooling systems. No matter what your HVAC needs are, we promise to give you honest advice and affordable options because excellent customer service is the name of our game.

When you need HVAC service, give us a call at 218-231-4436 or request a service appointment online, and we’ll reach out to get you scheduled.

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