Our business of providing heating, cooling and ventilating services entails a number of cumbersome acronyms. We try our best to explain things to our customers in plain language, but inevitably an alphabet soup will crop up in product literature. Here is an explanation of some of the common acronyms you will encounter pertaining to energy efficiency.

AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) gauges the energy efficiency of furnaces, boilers and water heaters. AFUE measures season-long useful energy output to energy input, expressed as a percentage. The higher the AFUE rating is, the greater the efficiency.

AFUE and the other efficiency standards are mandated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulations in accordance with their testing protocols. Currently, the minimum AFUE standard for most types of heating equipment is 80%, meaning 80% of the fuel you burn goes to useful heat. The most efficient furnaces have ratings of more than 95%. Old furnaces may operate at 60% or less. Replacing an old furnace with an 80% or greater unit can rapidly pay for itself through lower heating bills.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) applies to the cooling efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. It is derived by measuring the total cooling output in BTU during normal annual usage and divided by its total energy input in watt-hours. SEER ratings are expressed in whole numbers and decimals rather than percentages.

Like AFUE, the higher the SEER the more efficient the product will be. The DOE requires a minimum SEER rating of 14.0 and goes all the way up to several points above 20. Older equipment may be as low as 8.0. In theory, you could cut your fuel bills by about 40% by replacing an 8.0 SEER unit with one rated at 14.0.

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) is used to measure the heating efficiency of heat pumps, which also have a SEER rating for their cooling performance. Heat pumps manufactured since the beginning of 2015 are required to have a minimum HSPF of 8.2, with the most efficient units reaching a HSPF of 13.

As with the DOE’s miles-per-gallon ratings for vehicles, actual performance of heating and cooling equipment may vary from their ratings depending on operational variables. One of the most important considerations is making sure that components of a system (furnace/condenser/ductwork/controls, etc.) match up well with one another. If not, the system will not reach its peak efficiency.

Proper installation and regular servicing are also of crucial importance. The National Comfort Institute estimates that most HVAC systems operate at only 57% of potential capacity due to installation mistakes. It pays to hire the most professional installation and service contractor you can find.

We’re confident you’ll find that’s us.