If you have been researching HVAC systems, you have likely taken note of the different terms that are often used to describe the benefits of both heating and air conditioning units. Terms such as AFUE rating, HSPF rating, SEER rating, Energy Star rating, and MERV rating are usually found on HVAC product descriptions, but their meaning and importance is rarely explained.
Here is a helpful list of common terms and an explanation of what they actually mean.
AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, which is used to measure the thermal efficiency of combustion equipment, such as furnaces and boilers. This rating is expressed as a percentage calculated by dividing the amount of heat output by energy input. For instance, a unit that has a 70 percent AFUE rating outputs 70 BTUs for every 100 BTUs of natural gas used. The higher the AFUE rating, the more energy efficient the unit is. According to Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations issued by Natural Resources Canada, the minimum energy performance standard is 90 percent for residential furnaces and 78 percent for outdoor furnaces.
The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor or HSPF measures the heating efficiency of air-source electric heat pumps, such as those installed in hybrid heat split units. An HSPF rating defines the average efficiency of a heating and cooling system for an entire heating season. Also given in percentages, HSPF is calculated by dividing the heating output expressed in BTUs by the amount of energy input in watt-hours. Typically, the HSPF rating is affected by the features manufacturers include in heating and cooling units. Regardless of the feature a unit provides, the minimum HSPF rating accepted across Canada is 6.7. More advanced systems permit HSPF ratios as high as 8.6.
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) measures the efficiency of air conditioners. This rating indicates the cooling output of a HVAC unit during a typical hot season. To calculate the SEER rating, specialists divide the total cooling output measured in BTUs by the total energy input expressed in watt-hours. For cooling products currently sold on the market, the government of Canada requires a minimum SEER ratio of 13. While older pieces of cooling equipment may operate with a SEER ratio of as low as 9, new units deliver SEER ratings up to 17.
Heating and cooling systems can earn an ENERGY STAR certification if they meet certain energy efficiency standards. ENERGY STAR certified heating and cooling units have the highest AFUE, HSPF, and SEER ratings, using 7 to 10 percent less energy compared to regular HVAC equipment.
MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, which is indicative of the effectiveness of air filters in removing dust, smoke, pollen, and even bacteria from the air, MERV is expressed in microns and ranges from 1 to 16. A filter with a high MERV rating allows for improved air quality and energy efficiency, being dense enough to prevent different particles from entering the room, while letting the air flow freely.
By considering all these ratings, you can choose a high-efficiency heating and cooling system that not only guarantees a high level of comfort, but also increases energy savings, which usually translates into lower utility bills.
Of course, the best way to find the HVAC unit best suited to your home is to book a FREE SmartFit Consultation with your local Reliance home comfort specialist. Contact us today to get started!
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