SEER, EER, HSPF, AFUE – What These HVAC Efficiency Acronyms Mean To You

Like other industries, when you start shopping for heating and cooling equipment, you’ll see a variety of HVAC efficiency acronyms that might not make much sense at first. Still, you know efficiency is important. And you’d love it if you could lower your utility bills during the hottest and coldest months of the year. 

Let’s start with HVAC. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. While your furnace and air conditioner are vital components of the heating and cooling process, your ventilation system is required to ensure proper airflow throughout your home. In order to provide the efficiency of this process, the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) created an energy efficiency rating system for the sole purpose of understanding energy savings. 

For cooling efficiency ratings, there are two specific rating systems you should know to evaluate air conditioning equipment:

SEER, EER, HSPF, AFUE - What These HVAC Efficiency Acronyms Mean To You

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER)

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER) is a measurement used for air conditioners or heat pump usage during the cooling season. This rating is a simple ratio derived from the total cooling output from a piece of equipment divided by the energy consumed in watt-hours. Think of it as an average efficiency over an entire cooling season. While you can use SEER to compare to other air conditioners as you are shopping, keep in mind that your home, climate, and usage pattern will determine how your unit operates inside your home. Results may vary. While most central air conditioners have a SEER rating between 13 and18, heat pump systems can reach as high as 28. 

Energy Efficiency Ration (EER)

The Energy Efficiency Ration (EER) measures the cooling capacity for a unit divided by electrical energy it uses at a specific temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This ratio is normally used with a window unit or a geothermal heat pump. Unlike SEER, EER is not a seasonal unit, so you’ll find this used in warmer, more stable environments. 

For heating efficiency rating, there are two specific rating systems you should know to evaluate heating equipment. 

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)

The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) measures heat output over a typical heating season divided by the electricity used. HSPF is found in heat pump equipment ratings. Like SEER from above, HSPF is calculated by using a heat pump in reverse to produce warm air instead of cooled. You’ll typically find HSPF ratings to be lower than SEER, with the most efficient systems ranging around 12. 

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)

Most people throughout Colorado use furnaces or boilers for whole-house heating solutions. Because these systems rely on fuel-based energy, Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) was developed as a furnace efficiency rating system. AFUE is expressed as a percentage instead of a rating. It refers to a measure of thermal efficiency of combustion equipment throughout an entire heating system, and is calculated by the amount of energy needed to heat your home divided by the total energy contained in fuel in the furnace or boiler. You’ll find AFUE ratings of 80 percent or greater, while high-efficiency furnaces and boilers will be rated at 90 percent or greater. 

These four HVAC efficiency acronyms are very important for finding the most suitable HVAC equipment to heat and cool your home.

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