Why are rating numbers important?

Rating numbers indicate the efficiency of heating and air conditioning equipment and are directly related to the amount of energy a specific model uses. The higher the rating, the more efficient the product, and the lower your heating and cooling bills can be. The federal government establishes rating guidelines and sets minimum efficiency levels. For cooling, the rating is SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). For heat pumps, the rating is HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). Gas furnaces are rated with AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency).

I need to replace my air conditioner, but my furnace works just fine. Is it true they need to be replaced at the same time?

Think of your air conditioner and furnace as part of a total system. That system will work better, longer and more efficiently if all of its components are matched in capacity and efficiency. By the same token, a mismatched system—one that mixes old technology with new—could decrease system performance and overall comfort. For example, your new air conditioner will be capable of reaching a certain SEER efficiency rating. Because SEER is determined by a complete system combination, if your existing furnace and indoor coil are older or don’t match in efficiency and capacity, you might not get the efficiency level you paid for or be able to receive accurate information on what your rating actually is. Plus, an older indoor coil may even be dirty and clogged with particles, meaning more energy will be required to push air through the system.