SEER And HSPF: Why Are They So Important?

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seer and hspf ratings for heat pumps, Boston, MassachusettsWhen you’re selecting a new heat pump, the two critical factors to consider are the SEER and HSPF, the ratings that the Department of Energy requires to inform consumers of a unit’s energy efficiency. SEER is short for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, while HSPF stands for heating seasonal performance factor. And these two acronyms will make a big difference in your electric bills, as higher ratings indicate better efficiency. Our region has many more heating degree days than cooling days, which means of the two ratings, the HSPF is more important than the SEER, whose minimum is 13. The lowest allowable HSPF is 7.7, but upgrades can bring the rating to as high as 10.

Heat pumps do not require fuel, but do use electricity for cooling and heating. These appliances are among the most energy efficient systems for cooling your home in the summer, and for heating it in the winter when temperatures are above the mid 30s. Since they rely on air temperatures (or ground temperatures in the case of ground-source systems) for heating in the winter, both the source the heat pump uses for heating and the kind of compressor it uses make a difference in the SEER and HSPF ratings.

Geothermal heat pumps may have higher ratings for both SEER and HSPF because they tap into underground temperatures that are stable throughout the year to disperse heat out of the home in the summer and bring it into the home in the winter. Geothermal systems can provide consistent heat throughout our winters regardless of outdoor air temperatures.

An air-source heat pump can produce warmer temperatures if it has a scroll compressor that is capable of warming the refrigerant 10 to 15 degrees more than a piston compressor. As a result, a system that utilizes a scroll compressor raises the efficiency rating of a heat pump.

If you would like more information about the meaning and implications of the SEER and HSPF ratings, please contact Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. We’ve provided HVAC services for the Route 495/128 area of Massachusetts for over 80 years.

Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Solutions Guide.

Image via Shutterstock.com

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