When purchasing a new heating and cooling system for your home, it’s important to buy the most energy efficient system you can afford in order to keep your monthly utility bills as low as possible. Make sure the system you’re considering carries the Energy Star seal, and check consumer reviews of the system as well.

Energy efficiency ratings for heating and cooling units:

    • Air Conditioners: The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) measures the energy efficiency of an air conditioner. The minimum SEER rating for central air conditioner units is 13. The higher the number, the more energy efficient the unit.
    • Furnaces and Water Heaters: The efficiency of furnaces and water heaters is determined by the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) percentage. The minimum AFUE rating is 78%. The higher the AFUE number, the more efficient the unit.
  • Heat Pumps: The heating efficiency of heat pumps is measured by the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). The minimum HSPF for heating with a heat pump is 7.7. The higher the number, the more energy efficient the heating. The cooling efficiency of heat pumps is measured by the SEER ratings, as with other types of air conditioners.

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Further Information

Allen Lyle: Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling an existing one, and your plans include installing a new home comfort system, there are a few factors you need to think about before making a purchase. You need to look closely at the efficiency and sound ratings of the equipment. Systems that carry the Energy Star seal are a great place to start. It’s also a good idea to read consumer reviews of various systems.

But you also want to pay very close attention to the efficiency ratings set forth by the U.S. Department of Energy. For air conditioners you want to look at the SEER number—that’s S-E-E-R. It stands for the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher that SEER number, the more efficiently that unit is going to utilize power. Now the minimum SEER you’re going to look for is 13; but remember, the higher the number, the better.

Furnaces and water heaters, they’re going to be measured by their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This measures how much heat is delivered to your home as compared to how much fuel it takes to deliver that heat. That minimum AFUE right now 78%, but again I’ve seen it much higher.

Now for heat pumps, they’re measured by their HSPF, that stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. Now, that number you want a minimum of 7.7. But if you get a high efficiency heat pump with an HSPF of say 9 or 10, is going to pay for itself in energy dollar savings within a few short years.

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Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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