How Do I Know If I Have Energy Efficient HVAC?

Energy efficient HVAC doesn’t have to be added to the long list of things you will never comprehend. You don't have to be a genius to understand the basic metrics that will determine if you're saving or wasting energy while you enjoy great air comfort. We can let you in on a few key definitions and principles that will tell you if your home has energy efficient HVAC or not.

Energy Efficient HVAC Factors

The big three priorities for an HVAC system is heating, ventilation and air conditioning. A typical central system uses ductwork throughout a home to transport heated or cooled air to adjust the temperature throughout.

The big perk of owning an energy efficient HVAC system is the savings you can get on your utility bills. And those can be considerable. Though they have steadily improved in energy efficiency, chances are that your home system is the biggest source of energy consumption that you have. Given that HVAC systems are designed to last for years, we're talking about a potentially long time to save money.

Air Conditioner & Heat Pump Efficiency (SEER)

The first step to knowing if you have an energy efficient HVAC system is to understand the SEER of your air conditioner. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio.

So how do you find out the SEER rating on your system? Check the user manual or on the AC unit’s cabinet for the SEER rating. The higher the number, the better off that you are.

The SEER measurement system comes from how efficiently an AC unit converts electricity into cooling power. To meet the United States Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR specifications, your unit must be at least a 14.5 SEER. If you find that you have anything less than that, you might want to consider upgrading to save money for years to come.

Now, if your system doesn't meet minimum Federal standards, you aren't in trouble. The standard applies to newly installed systems. Unless you're just now installing your system, owning and using a lower SEER system is perfectly fine.

Learn the difference between EER and SEER

Gas Furnace Efficiency (AFUE)

SEER is the standard metric for air conditioning, but AFUE is what we use to measure furnaces. AFUE stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency. In general terms, the higher your AFUE percentage, the more efficiently your furnace will burn its fuel.

What is a good AFUE rating?

Anything 90% AFUE and above is considered to be reliably energy efficient HVAC. A rating that high means 90% of the fuel you buy gets turned into heat. Of course, the higher you get that percentage, the more efficient your dollar gets too. To achieve maximum bang for your buck, invest in a furnace with an AFUE above 95%.

How do you know your furnace AFUE? Similar to the SEER rating, just check the materials that came with your product or the plate on the cabinet.

Learn more about AFUE

Signs Your HVAC System Isn't Operating As Efficently As It Should

Laboratory hvac efficiency is all fine and good, but how does that translate into the real world. If you get an 18 SEER air conditioner or a 97% AFUE furnace, are you for sure getting that kind of energy efficient HVAC performance at home? Maybe, maybe not.

There are multiple factors that can slow the real operating efficiency of an HVAC system. One major factor is age. Older systems are most likely not hitting the performance marks that they once did. A 16 SEER air conditioner may have degraded to 15, 14, or worse. A poor maintenance schedule and neglecting needed repairs will make this even worse.

Often there are tale-tell signs that your energy efficient HVAC system isn’t working as efficiently as it could.

Out of Control Interior Humidity

A good air conditioner should cool your home, and reduce interior humidity. An increasingly humid interior environment is one sign that your air conditioner might be having trouble. Not only will this worsen overall air comfort, but you're probably paying more for cooling than you should.

What to do?

Sometimes dirty coils are behind all that increased humidity. The dirtier the coil, the worse job they do cooling and dehumidifying. Making sure the coils are cleaned off at the beginning of every cooling season will go a long way to alleviating this problem. For interior evaporator coils, work with a local service company for a thorough cleaning on a regular basis. Because the most energy efficient HVAC system in the world isn't going to perform well when it is clogged with dust and dirt.

Higher Utility Bills

All things being equal, a big jump on your electric or gas bill could be a sign that your energy efficient HVAC system isn't doing so well. Slight increases over time are normal, but large fluctuations can indicate something is very wrong.

Whenever you think this might be the case, it is worth it to take the time to review your bills over the past few years. Get an idea of what you have been paying. If you have seen a real, unusual increase in costs, contact a local service technician. Get them to come check your system to make sure everything is working properly.

Frequent HVAC Breakdowns

While breakdowns don't necessarily indicate an efficiency deficit, it is very rare that chronically malfunctioning systems are also operating at high efficiency. When you're on a first name basis with your local technician, that is a sign you need to invest in a new, energy efficient HVAC system. Because your current system is costing you more than just an expensive repair bill.

Long Term Energy Efficient HVAC Tips

Whenever you do decide to upgrade, here are some basic things to keep in mind regarding any new energy efficient HVAC product.

Condenser Location

Do you have shade trees on the north side of your house? Perfect! Try to install any outside air conditioner under that shade. This will help keep your unit operating efficiently on really, really hot summer days.

Keep the Condenser Clear and Clean

Of course, you don't want Mother Nature to get too close to your outside condenser. Make sure you keep any weeds, vines, or other plants cut well away from your unit. High plant growth can decrease air flow, which is bad.

Also, when you mow your yard, make sure you point the mower exhaust AWAY from your unit. A rock flung at high speeds right into the relatively fragile fins of your condenser is not going to help it operate better.

Regular Service Checks

Make sure you have your air conditioner cleaned and serviced before the start of intense summer heat. Likewise, make sure your furnace is similarly checked before things get cold. This will help your energy efficient HVAC products last longer, and keep your utility costs in control.

Do You Have Energy Efficient HVAC?

By this point you should know the answer to that question. However, if you're still not sure, just let us know in the comments below. We will be happy to clarify anything that doesn't quite make sense.

1 comment (view/add)
  • Harvey Griffin
    Harvey Griffin
    Posted on 4/16/2020

    Very good advice


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