Upgrade to More Efficient Heating & Cooling

If you’re in the market for a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, it’s a good idea to get acquainted with the products involved and the new Department of Energy regulations that went into effect on January 1st, 2023. Who knows—you may be able to consolidate appliances for even greater efficiency! Here’s a quick breakdown of the basics.

Let’s start by defining the major parts of an HVAC system.

Air handler – Like the heart of central HVAC, an air handler circulates air through a home’s ductwork and carries heated or cooled air throughout. It connects to the furnace and air conditioner or heat pump and uses a blower motor to move treated air into interior spaces and direct returned air back to whichever appliance is running to match the thermostat setting.

Furnace – There are all sorts of furnaces. They burn fuel like gas or oil or run an electric current through resistance coils to generate heat, which is then blown through ducts to warm the house. As you can imagine, furnaces vary wildly in their efficiency depending on their heat source. Electric heating is pretty inefficient and gas furnaces—whether they use natural gas or propane—are the most efficient.

Air conditioner – Unlike furnaces, air conditioners don’t create cool air from some sort of energy source. Instead, they use electricity to circulate refrigerant through a system of condensing and evaporating coils, a compressor, and an expansion valve to transfer heat from inside to the outdoors. This is why AC units are always placed outside.

Heat pump – Offering both heating and cooling power, heat pumps typically replace the furnace and AC unit. They have the same inner workings as an AC unit, but the process is reversible, so they are able to move heat out when it’s hot and bring it in when it’s cold. This may seem counterintuitive, but refrigerant is always colder than the air outside, so it’s still able to absorb heat in the winter.

Rheem Endeavor Line

Reengineered from scratch, the Endeavor™ Line of air handlers, gas furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, and packaged systems offers homeowners next-level comfort and efficiency. On top of making a great choice for sustainability, these products install easily because they’re the same size or smaller than previous models and use Bluetooth for setup and to communicate with the installer. They also operate quietly and are smart home compatible for owners!

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of HVAC possibilities. You’ll also find things like mini-splits that offer zoned rather than central HVAC performance, combi-boilers and hydronic air handlers that provide space heating in addition to hot water, and all-in-one packaged systems that combine the separate HVAC components into one unit that can be placed outside. In any case, there are some numbers you’ll come across when you shop for appliances—and they’re different in 2023!

You might have seen SEER, EER, and HSPF before, but if you see these on any labels nowadays, it means those appliances likely don't meet the latest efficiency regulations. Today, keep an eye out for SEER2, EER2, and HSPF2 instead. If you don’t see that 2 on the end, it means you’re looking at something produced before the update. Depending on where you live and the unit’s specific ratings, you may still be able to install it, but don’t just fall for the price tag—something that costs less up front could cost more over time in higher utility bills.

Here’s what this terminology means.

SEER2 – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 2, used to communicate the efficiency of AC and heat pump units produced after 1/1/2023. The number is determined by the ratio of cooling output over energy used, so the higher the number, the better. Note that this ratio is calculated by taking data at a variety of times and outdoor temperatures, so it gives a well-rounded picture of a unit’s overall performance for most regions.

EER2 – Energy Efficiency Ratio 2, also used for AC units and heat pumps after 1/1/2023. It conveys cooling output over energy used as well, but under specific conditions—95˚F outside air, 80˚F inside return air, and 50% humidity. If you live in a hotter area like the South, you need to take EER2 into account to ensure your cooling capacity can handle the climate.

HSPF2 – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor 2, a rating for air source heat pumps after 1/1/2023. It’s a ratio of heating output over energy used and again, higher numbers are better. HSPF2 ratings will be lower than SEER2 because it takes more energy to gather heat from the cold outdoors to bring in than it does to move excess heat out, but it’s still much more efficient than an electric furnace and doesn’t produce CO2 like a fuel-burning furnace.

If this all seems a bit confusing, don’t worry—there’s plenty of information out there and a local HVAC professional will steer you toward models suited for your region and house. Don’t want to just take their word for it? Explore the HVAC KnowZone™ from Rheem® to learn more about changing regulations and see how you’ll benefit from installing more efficient products. Rheem offers a huge variety of air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces to suit all needs, and many are even smart home compatible through EcoNet®, so you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your home, sustainability goals, and lifestyle. HVAC isn’t what it used to be, and that’s great news for modern families!

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