How to Understand Energy Ratings

If you’ve ever shopped for a new air conditioner, furnace, or even a window unit, you’ve probably seen energy rating data listed somewhere on the product. Knowing what those numbers mean, and how to compare them, can save you a lot of money over the life of your equipment.

Making sense of the numbers

Ratings help you make smart choices 

Energy ratings were established to provide a baseline for comparing heating and air conditioning equipment based on the energy it uses to keep you comfortable. In a sense, you can think of energy ratings like miles-per-gallon in a car.

The more gasoline it takes you to go one mile, the more you’ll spend for every mile you need to travel. So if you’re looking at a large SUV that gets 15 miles per gallon, you know you’ll need to plan a larger fuel budget every month than if you’d chosen a subcompact or hybrid car that gets 38 miles to the gallon.

What the ratings mean for your home

With home heating and cooling equipment, the efficiency numbers tell you how much energy you’ll have to spend to get the same performance out of similar products.

Ratings are different for each type of heating and cooling equipment, simply because of the energy source used to power it. In other words, you can’t use the same rating to compare a gas furnace to an electric heat pump, because they don’t use the same type of fuel.

However, when you understand the numbers behind the ratings, you can get a good idea of how much money you’ll spend to run your equipment, whether it uses gas, electricity, or both.

SEER, for rating electric cooling

SEER ratingsSEER is one of the most common rating systems for home cooling equipment. It stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it gives a pretty good indication of your energy costs because it measures performance over an entire cooling season.

To calculate SEER, you simply take the total cooling output that the equipment will generate over the summer, measured in British Thermal Units (BTU), and divide it by the total amount of energy you’ll have to expend (and pay for) during the same time period.

What you’re really measuring here is how much cooling power the unit will provide, and how much it will cost you to enjoy that cool comfort. The Lennox® XC25 is currently the most precise and efficient air conditioner you can buy*, offering a SEER of up to 26.

Federal law currently mandates a minimum SEER of between 13 and 14, depending upon where in the country you live, and any air conditioner over 14.5 SEER can be eligible for ENERGY STAR® qualification, meaning it’s a smart choice for energy-efficient cooling.

XC21

AFUE, for rating fossil-fuel furnaces

AFUE is a different way to measure efficiency, because it deals with a different type of fuel. The AFUE of a furnace, which stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, is a measure of how much heat is generated over the course of the heating season, compared with how much fuel is burned.

AFUE is a fairly straightforward number. The higher the number, the more heat you will actually feel for a given amount of natural gas or oil burned. A furnace with an AFUE of 80 will turn 80% of its fuel into useable heat, while wasting about 20% of its fuel through either air leaks, inefficient burners or a less-advanced design.

On the other hand, a furnace with an AFUE of 95 will convert 95% of the gas or oil it consumes into useable warmth. Any furnace with an efficiency of 90% or higher is considered high-efficiency.

The Lennox SLP98V furnace currently offers an AFUE of 98.7, meaning it converts 98.7% of its fuel into useful heat for your home. With less than 2% fuel waste, it’s a very efficient way to weather the winter.

*The most precise and efficient air conditioner and heat pump you can buy (XC25/XP25)
Efficiency claim based on comparison of air conditioning and heat pump products’ SEER as published in AHRI (January 2013). Actual system combination efficientcy may vary; consult with us (J & R Heating) or AHRI for exact system efficiencies. Precision claim based on the cooling capacity range of the XC/XP25-036 units as compared to equivalent-sized competitive variable capacity compressor units.

HSPF, for rating electric heating and cooling

In the simplest terms, an electric heat pump is an air conditioner that can run in reverse. During the summer, it moves heat out of your home into the atmosphere. Then, during colder weather, it reverses the process and draws latent heat from the outside air into your home.

Since it doesn’t use fossil fuel, AFUE really doesn’t apply. So heat pumps actually have their own comparative efficiency rating, known as HSPF, or Heating Season Performance Factor. This is a measure of how efficiently an electric heat pump can warm your home when it’s in heating mode, over the course of an entire heating season.

HSPF is calculated by dividing the unit’s heat output over the course of the season by the amount of electricity required to produce that heat. Anything over 8 is considered high-efficiency, and may be eligible for utility rebates or tax credits.

When shopping for a heat pump, it’s important to remember that since it uses electricity to heat and cool, it will have both a SEER and an HSPF rating since it runs during multiple seasons.

This article was taken from the Comfort Matters Blog.  You can also read more comfort tips here.

Heat Pump May Be Better Heating and Cooling Option Than Furnace or Air Conditioner

Heat pumps are often misunderstood or not understood at all. Because of this, consumers may not realize that there may be a better heating and cooling option than a traditional furnace or air conditioner.

A heat pump is an all-in-one heating and air conditioning system that works year round to keep you comfortable.  During warmer months, a heat pump works as a normal air conditioner.  It extracts heat from inside the home and transfers it to the outdoor air.  In colder weather, however, the process reverses and the unit collects heat from the outdoor air to transfer inside your home.

Even when the air outside feels cold, it still contains some heat. When there’s not enough heat in the outside air to meet the demand of the thermostat setting, an electric heater supplements the outdoor air to warm the home.

Heat pumps are capable of providing years of worry-free heating and cooling and significant savings on electric bills. The amount a consumer can save depends on many factors. For example, the efficiency of old equipment compared to that of a new heat pump can have an effect on how much will be saved. The climate in which a consumer lives, as well as electric rates, are also factors.

Unlike a furnace that turns fossil fuel or electricity into heat, the heat pump collects heat that already exists in the outdoor air.  Consequently, a heat pump will produce two to three times more heat than the energy it uses.

A heat pump also produces savings while cooling a home. A SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rates cooling efficiency. A higher SEER produces greater savings. A SEER of 12.00 to 13.00 is typical in homes over eight or ten years old and a new, higher efficiency heat pump can be as much as 50 percent more efficient.

If a consumer’s non-electric furnace is still working, an add-on heat pump is an effective option.  With a Dual-fuel system, the two systems share the heating load, but never at the same time.  Each system operates when it is the most cost effective.  The heat pump will be the primary heating and cooling system. However, when the temperature drops below the heat pump’s set point, the furnace will take over until the temperature rises enough for the heat pump to operate more efficiently.

 

To find out more about heat pumps and how they can save on energy costs, call J & R Heating at 402-362-5702.  J & R Heating has been providing service in the York, NE area for over 50 years.

Should I replace both my outdoor condensing unit and indoor coil at the same time?

Should I replace both my outdoor condensing unit (which includes the compressor) and the indoor coil on my central air conditioning system at the same time?

In most instances, yes.  Matching a new condensing unit with a new coil is the only reliable way to be certain you are going to get the rated efficiency of the new equipment.  Matching a new, high SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) condensing unit with an old indoor coil probably would not result in optimum efficiency.

Another thing to be aware of is the government phaseout of R-22 freon.  If you’re air conditioner uses R-22 you may want to consider replacing the unit or it may become more expensive to fix within the next few years.