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What is SEER and HSPF? Why They Matter

Published on: July 25, 2012

Buying an HVAC system or furnace is not just a matter of entering a store, selecting one and stepping up to the counter to make the purchase. There is a lot more involved. Most homeowners are not aware of factors that help identify the specific type and size of system the structure needs. Finance is the last factor to consider.

The size of the area to be heated or cooled is the first factor technicians take into consideration. The absence or presence of insulation is another factor. If insulation is lacking, the homeowner will be advised what kind of upgrade is needed so the HVAC system will work most efficiently. Translated into financial terms, the better the home’s insulation is, the lower the utility bills will be.

Once the HVAC system’s size is identified, the next factor is energy efficiency. These systems have a SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency rating. Higher numbers mean better efficiency. If an existing system is more than ten years old, it probably has a rating of ten SEER or lower. New construction regulations require systems of at least 13 SEER. There are systems on the market today with SEER ratings of up to 24. These are the most efficient systems.

The type of system also makes a difference in air conditioning. Ductless split systems, hybrid solar/grid power systems, passive dehumidification systems, energy recovery systems and more all work differently to save energy. Your HVAC technician can help identify the best system for the climate and type of house. Older homes need systems that cause as little damage to the structure as possible.

The HSPF, or heating seasonal performance factor, is given to air-source heat pumps. It is a ratio of the BTU’s of heat put out during the heating season in relation to the watt-hours of electricity used during the same period. BTU stands for British Thermal Units. It is used as a measurement of heat. Air-source heat pumps work well in most climates. Your HVAC technician can help you choose the right size and model for your home. The unit with the highest rating will be the most efficient.

These ratings work to help you select the best heater or air conditioning system. Choosing the unit with the best SEER or HSPF rating in addition to the Energy Star rating will save the most money on the utility bill. The Energy Star rating is given to identify the most efficient product. Three-ton air conditioning systems are compared to other three-ton systems and so on. Tax rebates and incentives from local power companies may be available to help recoup some of the purchase or installation costs. In some cities, grants to help upgrade older homes may be available. It makes sense to choose the highest energy efficiency ratings for qualifying units. Once installed, the money saved on the utility bills will pay for the unit and the installation. With proper and regular maintenance, energy savings will continue over the working life of the unit. You can have your system and money in the bank, too.