What HVAC Energy-Efficiency Ratings Mean

Are you contrasting the efficiency ratings of new heating and cooling systems? Perhaps you want to check the rating on your current HVAC equipment. Either way, you can learn the efficiency rating and projected yearly operating costs by looking at the yellow Energy Guide label on the side of the unit. We’d like to share some details about the multiple ratings you might read and what they mean.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measurement of air conditioning efficiency. The SEER rating signifies the cooling output of an AC unit over a full 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.

As of 2023, 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 improvement from the previous minimum expectation of 13 SEER in the north and 14 SEER in the south, that was in effect from 2015 to 2022. This modification reflects the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing efforts to lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

These days, top-quality air conditioners claim ratings of 26 SEER or higher, providing amazing energy savings. However, impressive SEER ratings usually come with a higher initial cost. Which means you should give some thought to both the initial financial investment and the potential for continued savings when choosing a new air conditioning unit.

What Is an EER Rating?

Even though SEER ratings are more well-known, there’s an additional efficiency metric you should know about. It’s called EER, and it means Energy Efficiency Ratio. This rating suggests the performance of an air conditioner under specified operating situations. The EER rating enables you to understand whether the system will support the demand on extreme summer days.

Presently, only the southwest section of the country has a minimum EER rating of 12.2 EER for residential central air conditioners. The highest ratings top out at about 14 EER. In most cases SEER and EER almost always correspond, with higher ratings signifying 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 once in heating mode. HSPF is a proportion of the overall heat output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) throughout the heating season to the rate of electricity used in watt-hours. A higher HSPF rating indicates 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 calling for higher minimum HSPF ratings, the DOE wants to motivate people to use more energy-efficient heating systems in homes and businesses across the U.S. The bare minimum is always an option, but it’s a wise choice to invest in 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 yet another standard of heating system efficiency, but they only pertain to furnaces and boilers. AFUE is a proportion of the yearly heat output to the fuel utilized during that period. The greater the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace or boiler.

In 2023, the minimum AFUE rating for new gas furnaces has been modified to 81. Formerly, the several southern states had a minimum of 80 AFUE, and the north required ratings of 90 AFUE or higher. While you aren’t required to install anything above the minimum, you’ll spend less on your energy bills by selecting a furnace rated 95 AFUE or higher.

What Is an ENERGY STAR® Rating?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the ENERGY STAR program in the early 1990s to help homeowners and businesses identify the most energy-efficient products available. HVAC equipment, appliances, water heaters, light fixtures, office equipment, electronics and building products that have a minimum threshold of efficiency can earn ENERGY STAR certification.

ENERGY STAR-rated products go far beyond the minimum requirements to save energy and reduce emissions without sacrificing performance or features. You might also look for the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes the top performers in energy efficiency and innovation. The EPA is presently overhauling the qualification requirements in the wake of the new minimum HVAC efficiency standards.

Install an Efficient HVAC System

For help deciding which HVAC energy-efficiency rating is right for your budget, look to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. We can assess your HVAC challenges and aid you in making an informed choice. We have a wide range of products from today’s most popular brands, all of which meet or exceed the minimum efficiency requirements for 2023. We’re so confident you’ll be happy with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or to schedule a free HVAC installation estimate, 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