What Are SEER2 and HSPF2 Ratings?

Air conditioners (AC) and heat pumps have their efficiency described by these numbers. It’s like “miles per gallon” for your Ellensburg, WA, home’s heating and cooling equipment.

SEER2 and HSPF2 are new standards as of January 1, 2023. Previously, these were just Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF). The added “2” signifies the value is determined by the new federally required testing standards.

In the past, SEER and HSPF measuring was performed with the indoor fan unit, furnace, or air handler, having virtually no duct resistance to airflow. The greater this resistance, the more power consumed during operation. This resistance is measured in inches of water column. That is, the amount of pressure it takes to push a column of water up a tube. In the past, the test was made at 0.1” water column. That’s not much pressure! Only one-tenth of an inch.

The issue is that virtually ALL home forced air HVAC systems have ductwork. The restriction this adds to the fan typically is 0.5” or higher, especially if ductwork is not designed or installed correctly. That means the old way of testing was flawed because the actual amount of energy needed to deliver the conditioned air was under five times greater resistance than the testing was performed at.

The new testing procedure is performed at 0.5” water column. Thus, the results are in line with the more typical home conditions. It also means the old SEER or HSPF numbers would be calculated lower as SEER2 or HSPF2 values.

How Can You Use These Numbers?

Like “miles per gallon,” the bigger the number, the better the performance. SEER2 numbers are cooling efficiency only. HSPF2 numbers are heating numbers. So, when comparing units, the equipment with the larger SEER2 will cool the home for less money. The same is true for heat pumps. The bigger the HSPF2, the lower the heating operation cost.

Let’s Talk About SEER First

What then should you look for in a SEER2 number if you are buying an air conditioner? The minimum rating differs depending on where you live. Washington State is in the North Region. There are three other regions: Southeast, Southwest, and National.

Here in Washington, the previous minimum was 13.0 SEER. The new minimum is 14.0 SEER2. 14.0 SEER2 means that for every WATT of power used to cool your home, 14.0 British thermal units (BTUs) must be removed. Thus, if you have a 20.0 SEER2 unit, 20 BTUs would be removed per WATT. That makes a 20.0 SEER2 unit 42 percent more efficient than the 14.0 SEER2 model.

Should you buy the most efficient unit then? Electric rates vary depending on your utility company. Many areas of Washington State have rather low electric rates. Because of this, cooling costs are not significantly high. So, there is a diminishing return on investment when buying very high SEER2 cooling units. It does make sense to buy the most efficient unit you can comfortably afford. Don’t expect to get your larger investment back quickly when buying very high SEER2 units.

The minimum is now 14.0 SEER2. There are some units that go as high as 42.0 SEER2! Typically, 14-20 SEER2 models are good values here in the Yakima area. You can expect an average-sized modern home to pay $300-$500 per year for air conditioning at these SEER2 numbers.

Let’s Talk About HSPF2

Unlike SEER2, there is one national region for the minimum HSPF. Washington State was 8.2 HSPF. The new national minimum is 8.8 HSPF2.

A key to keep in mind for us in the Yakima area is we live in a primarily heating climate. Despite low utility rates, our heating bill is typically 3-4 times greater than the cooling bill. So, what would you like to save more of, 40 percent off $500 or 40 percent off $2,000? The point is this: When buying a new HVAC system for your home, consider the heating performance as more important than the cooling performance. Getting the most efficient heat pump rather than the minimum efficient model will likely pay back the difference in 5-10 years!

HSPF2 is calculated differently than cooling. It stands for Heating SEASONAL Performance Factor. The key difference is SEASONAL. The total season’s heating BTUs are divided by the season’s total WATTS consumed producing that heat. It’s not a straight BTU/WATT calculation. Our season varies in temperature for heating dramatically. At lower temperatures, heat pumps move less heat per WATT. So, taking the total seasons BTUs accounts for a more realistic comparison.

HSPF2 values for typical spit system heat pumps range from the minimum of 8.8 to as high as 13.0. Washington State Code indicates 9.5 HSPF2 is worth giving incentive toward during new construction. So, we might conclude 9.5 HSPF or larger as a good value.

It is not uncommon for some older heat pump systems to have an HSPF of 6.0 or even lower! If that is your situation, a new 13.0 HSPF2 system would reduce your heating cost by over 40 percent. If you are using only electric resistance heating, a 13.0 HSPF2 would reduce your bill by a whopping 70 percent!

What’s the Takeaway?

To save operation costs, we need to compare the SEER2 and HSPF2 of the systems we are considering purchasing. Principally, here in the Yakima area, we need to primarily look at the HSPF2, because this is where the largest savings are to be gained. Buy the system with the highest HSPF2 you can comfortably afford.

When Shopping, Know the Minimum Values.

14.0 SEER2

8.8 HSPF2

Every capacity match of cooling and heating equipment has a different SEER2 or HSPF2, even in the same product model series. Be certain the product matches you are considering for purchase have published certified values found on www.ahridirecotry.org. This means they have been tested and a certificate is available with the published results for you to consider. Most sales brochures only show you the hero matches with the highest numbers. However, most product combinations do not reach these. Be careful. Brochures might be misleading. The company offering you the equipment should be able to provide the published efficiency information for you if you ask. Better yet, they will provide it to you without your asking!

Leave all your Ellensburg, WA, home’s heating and cooling questions and needs to All Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning. Call us today at 509-248-6380 or request service online.

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