There’s lots of talk about SEER ratings and AFUE minimums in the heating and air conditioning market these days. What do these acronyms mean? The letters are actually all about numbers. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Mostly associated with air conditioning units, it gives a point of reference of the unit’s efficiency, which can affect your costs. AFUE is Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency and it applies to furnaces.
According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs are about 54 percent of the typical household’s utility expenses. Energy savings in this area would have a significant impact on a budget. So, when replacing heating and cooling units, higher SEER and AFUE numbers are recommended. Generally, the higher the SEER or AFUE number, the lower the cost of operation. However, the more efficient the unit is, the higher the initial costs of purchase and installation. Generally, the Department of Energy recommends a SEER rating of 15 for air conditioners, with the minimum being 13 SEER for central air conditioners. For furnaces, the national minimum is 78 percent AFUE, but some Energy Star models rate well above 90 percent AFUE. Higher efficiency models usually have some rebates associated with them.
Return on investment is both difficult to calculate and to justify if you’re in a replacement emergency situation. The key is planning. Know when it’s time for a new HVAC unit for your home. If you recognize that these systems have a life span of 10-20 years, you can start the process at the right time. It’s most energy- and cost-efficient to replace your system on your terms, not the equipment’s terms. Time is on your side when you plan for the replacement model and take time to explore all the options, acronyms and numbers.