The HVAC industry uses so many acronyms that shopping for a new heating and cooling system can feel like your swimming in alphabet soup. (Heck, we even shorthand our industry -- HVAC: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.)
AFUE, SEER, HSPF…what does it all mean?
We put together a hand glossary of the most common terms to help you cut through the confusion and determine which system would best meet your needs.
Stands for: Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency
When shopping for a new furnace, pay close attention to the AFUE as it will play a large role in your annual heating costs.
The AFUE ratio measures how efficiently your heating system uses fuel. A furnace that converts 85% of fuel into heat will have an AFUE of 85%. The remaining 15% is wasted during the heating process.
The U.S. Department of Energy mandates that new furnaces meet a minimum of AFUE of 80%. Today’s top-of-the-line models far exceed the minimum standard. High-end heating systems achieve an AFUE of 95% and higher, leaving very little to waste. But you live in Florida; your heating needs are minimal. A base model will cost less and provide adequate comfort.
Stands for: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio
The SEER calculates an AC system’s cooling output over a typical cooling season divided by the energy it uses in Watt-Hours.
The SEER ranges from 13 to 22. The U.S. Department of Energy enforces minimum SEER standards by region. Here in the Sunshine State, new air conditioning systems must have a SEER of at least 13. Older cooling units have a SEER of 8 or less. By comparison, a new unit with the lowest available SEER would be a significant step up.
Ultimately, the higher the SEER, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the less you’ll pay in monthly cooling costs. Combine this technology with other ways to reduce energy consumption -- adding insulation, sealing windows, using thermal curtains -- and you’ll save even more.
Stands for: Heating Season Performance Factor
The HSPF measures a heat pump’s heating performance. The higher the HSPF, the more efficient the unit’s heating mode.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy increased the minimum energy efficiency standard for heat pumps to 8.2. Today, some of the top-performing models achieve an HSPF of 10 or higher.
Again, this is Florida. You shouldn’t have to worry about squeezing out every ounce of efficiency from a heating system. The rating you should be more concerned with is a heat pump’s SEER rating. (Remember, heat pumps provide heating and cooling comfort.)
Stands for: Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value
This one relates to air quality. An air filter’s performance is measured by how small of a particle it can capture. MERV ratings range from 1 to 20. The smaller the particle, the higher the MERV.
A cheap, throwaway filter has a MERV of 4 to 6, capable of filtering out household dust and lint. It’s primarily designed to protect your HVAC system from getting jammed up with debris.
To improve your home’s indoor air, you’ll need a filter with a MERV of 8 to 13. This will filter out smaller contaminants such as lead dust, auto emissions, and even certain airborne bacteria.
But if a MERV 13 is good, wouldn’t a MERV 20 be even better? Not quite. Filters with MERV ratings at the high end of the scale are hospital-grade. The tight mesh screen would restrict a residential HVAC system’s airflow.
Bottom line: Understanding common HVAC terminology will help you compare different models to decide which is best for your comfort and budget. When you’re ready to upgrade, turn to the pros at Mid-Florida Heating & Air. Call (352) 310-0022 to schedule your appointment.