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The ABCs of HVAC

A Glossary for Heating & Cooling Terminology

Here are the basics about HVAC systems to help you as the homeowner make an educated decision when it comes time to replace your HVAC system. We start with the definitions of terms that sometimes will confuse you in determining the best system for your home.

Below you’ll find a quick, alphabetized guide to important industry terms:

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) – This is a measure of a gas furnace’s efficiency in converting fuel to energy, by projecting the average thermal efficiency for a complete heating system. A higher AFUE rating means greater energy efficiency.

British Thermal Unit (BTU) and BTU/hour (BTU/h) – This represents the amount of heat required to raise or lower the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. The heat extracted from your home by an air conditioner is measured in BTUs, while cooling and heating capacities are referred to in BTU/h. For reference, 12,000 BTU/h equals one ton of cooling.

Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) – This is a cooling unit determined by the output cooling divided by the electrical power input. The EER is typically determined by a set outside temperature, a set inside air temperature, and a 50% humidity. For a comparison point, 11 EER is roughly equivalent to 13 SEER (which is no longer available). In contrast, SEER is calculated over a range of outside temperatures.

ENERGY STAR – This is a government-backed program helping homeowners reduce energy costs and protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. Trane has partnered with the EPA to label their high efficiency products with the Energy Star label so homeowners can easily identify those higher efficiency products that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy. The minimum efficiency required by the EPA for ENERGY STAR recognition includes air conditioner and heat pumps with a SEER of 14.5 or above, 12 EER, or HSPF of 8.2 or above and all TRANE gas furnaces with an AFUE of 90% or above. Remember, that the higher the efficiency rating, the greater the fuel savings.

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) – This is used to measure the efficiency of a heat pump. The HSPF is a ratio of the heat output to electricity use over an average heating season, and the higher the HSPF the greater the energy efficiency.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) – This measures air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency, which is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame. A higher SEER rating means greater energy efficiency.

For answers to more specific questions about your individual situation, our Virginia Beach heating and cooling experts anxiously await your call at (757) 347-8549!

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