What is SEER and HSPF and Why do They Matter?

Published on: July 31, 2012

If you already have an air conditioning system for indoor environment, there are few energy efficient tricks you may be able to apply to your pre-existing system to make it as cost saving as possible, but purchasing a newer and better HVAC model might be a better choice for long-term savings. An energy efficient cooling and heating system is like an investment that can provide up to hundreds, sometime thousands in future cost savings.

Practical Upgrade

There are some important factors that go into upgrading or purchasing a new HVAC system, such as the size of the home or business that is using the system. If the right system is not picked for the particular indoor “load” it needs to service, it won’t operate at its optimal and economic potential and won’t keep the indoor environment consistently comfortable.

Bigger is not always better. You wouldn’t purchase a Formula One car just to run periodic errands around town because this would obviously cost more money to drive and maintain the car than is necessary for your needs. The same thing needs to be applied to an air conditioning unit. If the unit is smaller than is needed or larger than required, then an energy efficient strategy is self-defeated.

HVAC Efficiency Rating

Looking for the right energy efficiency air conditioning unit can be a daunting task, which is why a standard rating system was designed to make it a bit easier to compare the variety of brands on the market. The ratings are universal. All HVAC systems use the same rating system, though there are different sets of ratings for different systems. For example, all furnaces use a specific set of ratings; all heat pumps use a specific set of ratings, and so on, but they all use the same ratings within their particular groups. The two primary ratings include both HSPF and SEER.

What is SEER?

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures the energy efficiency of HVAC systems against its cooling efficiency. It’s pretty simple; the higher the SEER rating of a particular unit, the better it functions at a high energy efficient level. Typical SEER ratings for most units designed before the early 90s was around 6.0 SEER. The government now mandates a SEER range of 14.0 or higher, which can go as high as 20.

Though there are sometimes things you can do to enhance your pre-existing air conditioning unit to get the most energy efficient performance out of it, such as maintenance or upgrades, in many cases, it’s not worth the cost or the effort. Units that were manufactured ten or more years ago may be so outdated or used that their true SEER rating would be around five, even if they initially had a higher rating.

Since current models can be up to 50 percent or more efficient than older models, sometimes it makes more economic sense to settle for a newer, more expensive model with a higher SEER rating in the long-term, especially if it has to function in a large indoor space or is frequently used due to the outdoor climate of a regional location.

What is HSPF?

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) is a similar standard rating method as SEER, only it measures the heating efficiency of a system, such as a heat pump. Just as with SEER, the higher the HSPF rating, the more energy efficient and better functioning the unit is. The current HSPF rating mandated by government is 7.7, with better systems rating as high as 9.35.

Energy Efficiency For the Long-Term

Current air conditioning units with higher SEER and HSPF ratings will definitely come with a higher price tag, but this shouldn’t always be a factor that determines a purchasing decision. It’s much like an investment in the short-term for better savings costs in the long-term. The higher the SEER/HSPF rating is on a unit, the more energy efficient is, which means it will run better and cost less on a monthly basis, so you’re essentially getting a nice return on an investment in the months to come, depending on how often the unit is used.

There are a variety of factors that need to be considered when purchasing a new air conditioning system that could potentially affect the energy efficiency of the system that an inexperienced person might miss. It’s important that the system is functioning at a 100 percent capacity to get the full benefits it has to offer. It’s advisable to have a professional air conditioning technician determine the size of the unit that is most suitable for your indoor space, and that it’s installed correctly and maintained properly after installation. This will assure your system’s efficiency, as well as its optimal and cost saving potential, which will enhance your comfort and standard of living.