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Figuring Out AC and Heat Pump Efficiency Ratings

air-conditioner-units-near-grassIt’s another warm fall here in the Tampa Bay area, and air conditioners are still doing steady work. You can expect to have your air conditioner whirring away at least a few times during the coming winter as well. So there’s never a “bad” time for replacing central air conditioning in Clearwater, FL. If your AC is falling down on the job, older than 15 years, or driving your electrical bills into the stratosphere, then now is when to call us to arrange for a new air conditioner (or heat pump if you use one).

There are many factors to consider when purchasing a new AC/heat pump. Our technicians will help you with all the steps so you end up with the ideal new system for comfort. In this post, we’re going to look at a part of air conditioner and heat pump performance that often confuses homeowners, and that’s the efficiency rating. Understanding how efficiency is rated on ACs and heat pumps will make the selection process easier.

Air Conditioning Efficiency: SEER and EER

On an air conditioning system’s cabinet, you’ll find a plate listing “SEER” and “EER.” These are the two efficiency ratings. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency rating and EER for energy efficiency rating.

SEER is a ratio of the amount of cooling power an AC puts out (in BTUs, British Thermal Units) to the amount of energy consumed (in watt-hours) as measured over an entire season of use. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit is at converting electrical power to cooling power.

EER is the same ratio, but it isn’t measured over a season but through a single test at set temperature and humidity conditions. SEER is the rating to focus on, since it provides a better idea of what you can expect over a season of running the air conditioner.

The lowest SEER rating an air conditioning system can have and still earn the ENERGY STAR certificate from the US Department of Energy is 15. We recommend only purchasing an AC with 15 SEER or higher (and 12.5 EER or higher). Special high-efficiency air conditioning systems that use multi-stage compressors and variable speed fans can have SEER above 20.

Heat Pumps: SEER, EER, and HSPF

Heat pumps work in the same way as air conditioners—they circulate refrigerant between two sets of coils to move heat from one place to another. But since heat pumps can reverse the direction they move heat and also operate as heating systems, they have an additional rating for heating performance: HSPF, or heating seasonal performance factor. Heat pumps still have SEER and EER for cooling mode, and they have the same meaning for heat pumps as they do for air conditioners (including the same ENERGY STAR requirements).

HSPF is measured similarly to SEER: it’s a ratio of heating output to electricity input averaged over a season of performance. Heat pumps operate at lower energy efficiency in heating mode, so HSPF is always lower than SEER. For ENERGY STAR qualification, a heat pump must have HSPF of 8.5 or higher.

Make sure to work with our pros so you end up with a new system that’s both efficient and effective!

Experience the Balanced Air Difference! Balanced Air, Inc. has served the Tampa Bay Area since 1988.

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