Energy Star Rated Heating & Cooling (HVAC)

The article is about Energy Star rated Heating & Cooling products.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C, in Plano, Texas provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C is near your home in Plano, Allen, and Frisco.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel charge.

Al’s also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally, we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.

central air conditioner outside unit

Image Source: Dreamstime

Most people are aware of the Energy Star Certification on products.  To earn the ENERGY STAR, the product must meet the energy efficiency criteria set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the US Department of Energy (DOE).    Since Energy Star products use less energy, they create operating costs savings and help protect the environment by reducing harmful emissions from power plants, or from the product itself (such as a gas furnace).

An Energy Star Rated Product Is Not Necessarily High Efficiency 

While the Energy Star logo assures the product meets their guidelines, the product can be far from High-Efficiency.  Central A/C, earns the Energy Star certification if it’s +8% more efficient than the minimum efficiency.

  • SEER-14 is the minimum SEER in Texas.  SEER = Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio — a measure of efficiency for A/C.
  • SEER-15 can earn the Energy Star certification.
  • SEER-26 The most efficient Central A/C in 2019.

Energy Star Rated Central A/C & SEER

Additional Purchase Price Compared To Total Savings Over The System’s Lifespan 

There is a large difference in the least efficient and most efficient A/C that earn the Energy Star rating.  New A/C installed in TX must be at least SEER-14. The Energy Star rating for central A/C is on any a/c that is SEER-15 or higher.    The qualify for the Energy Star rating, the SEER must be at least +8% higher than the standard SEER.

As compared, in 2019 the most efficient Central A/C available is SEER-26. The most efficient central A/C sold by us is SEER-22.  It is the American Standard (same company as Trane) AccuComfort™ Variable Speed Platinum 20 Air Conditioner.

A Higher SEER A/C Can End Up Costing More Money.

To determine which SEER A/C offers the best value over the lifetime of the system, compute Annual Saving X 15 years.  Then compare that $ amount to the additional purchase price of the more efficient unit.   Use a SEER Savings calculator to determine the numbers (link provided below).  You enter the minimum SEER in the “Existing A/C” section + the new A/C’s SEER + the size of the A/C + per kWH rate electricity in DFW.  If you are unsure what you pay, check your bills, or use 10.5 cents / kWh.

Example:  3-Ton / 36,000 BTU A/C:      Note: A 3-ton A/C cools a 2,000 square foot home in DFW.      10.5 cents per kWh for electricity in DFW.

Annual Operating Cost:   Savings / Year             15-Year Lifespan Savings 

  • SEER-14 = $520.
  • SEER-15 = $485.          Savings = $35 / year = $525.  If the price difference exceeds $525, the standard SEER A/C is the better value.
  • SEER-18 = $404.         Savings = $116 x 15  =  $1,740.  If the price difference exceeds $1,740
  • SEER-22 = $331.         Savings = $189 x 15  = $2,835.  If the price difference exceeds $2,835
  • SEER-26 = $240.        Savings = $280 x 15 = $4,200.  If the price difference exceeds $4,200
  • Note: Ultra High-Efficiency HVAC typically requires new, larger ductwork be installed, due to higher air movement capacity.  Installing new ductwork increases the total purchase price notably.

Click Here For A SEER Savings Calculator: SEER Savings Calculator

The computation above shows lifetime savings for a SEER-14 A/C, as compared to other SEERS.  Your actual savings are based on the SEER of your existing A/C. We have provided SEER’s based on the age of the A/C just below.   Many ID tags will give you the SEER, and nearly all will provide the manufacture date of the A/C.

  • A new Standard Central A/C installed in TX must be rated at SEER-14  or higher (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating)
  • High Efficiency Central A/C can have up to SEER-26.  The highest SEER central A/C is nearly twice as energy efficient as the minimum SEER A/C.
  • SEER-14 is at least double the SEER of an A/C installed before 1985 (see details just below).
  • ENERGY STAR Certified Central A/Central must be at least +8% more efficient than SEER 14 (SEER 15 or higher).
  • SEER-6 or lower   —  Central A/C built before 1980
  • SEER-7 or lower   — 1980-1985
  • SEER-8 or lower   — 1986-1991
  • SEER-10-12          — 1992-2005
  • SEER-13 or higher – 2006-2014
  • Starting in 2015 new Central A/C installed in the southeastern U.S. must be at least SEER-14.

How To Determine The Age & SEER Of Your Existing Central A/C

The Outside Unit Has An I.D. Tag.  The ID tag will be on or near the rear of the unit.  It typically tells you the; brand, model, date of manufacturer, BTU’s, refrigerant used and often other details such as SEER.

Click Here To See A Central A/C Identification Tag:  Central A/C Identification Tag/


Types Of Refrigerant In Your Existing A/C 

Another Second Major Factor If Considering Repair Versus Replacing An Older A/C

Refrigerant      Global Warming Potential    Ozone Depletion Potential

  • R-22                  1810                                             .055
  • R-410A             2088                                            0
  • R-32                    675                                             0
  • If the ID Tag shows  Refrigerant “R-22” refrigerant, also known as “Freon”.   Freon is no longer made in the U.S. (because it damages the Ozone Layer).  Remaining supplies of Freon are quite expensive, and recharging an older Central A/C may cost more than the unit is worth (based on its age).
  • After 2020, Freon will not longer be allowed to be used in the U.S.  This means older A/C will no longer be able to be recharged with Freon. **  After 2020, you can still use your Freon A/C until it needs recharged.  At that point it will have to be replaced.

** NOTE: There is a replacement refrigerant for Freon A/C’s.  RS-44b, also known as R453a.  It can be used to replace the existing R-22 / Freon in the system.  This is a replacement refrigerant.  The EPA does not allow it to be mixed with existing Freon (like when a partial recharge is needed).  To use RS-44b, all existing Freon must be removed from the system, and a full recharge of RS-44b be performed.

The cost to remove Freon and replace it with RS-44b may provide a lower cost solution to replacing and newer A/C.   R22/Freon Central A/C units were sold through 2014 (though most used R-134a).  Some A/C may still be new enough to justify the conversion from R-22/Freon to RS-44.  In DFW, the expected lifespan of an A/C is 15 years.  If your A/C is near, or older than 15 years, it’s likely not wise to pay the cost of a complete refrigerant replacement.


RS-44b is an HFC refrigerant.  HFC = HydroFloroCarbon.   Today’s most widely used R-134a Refrigerant is also HydroFloroCarbon.  HFC refrigerants provide a greener solution to R-22, which is a CloroFlorCarbon refrigerant — which damages the Ozone layer.   HFC does not damage the Ozone layer, but has notable Global Warming Potential (GWP).  The newest refrigerant R-32 has only 1/3 the GWP of R-134a.

  • Most A/C Manufactured Since 2010 UsesR-134” refrigerant, also known as “Norflurane”.  This is the most common refrigerant used today in central A/C.    While R-134 does not deplete the Ozone Layer, it has been found to contribute notably to Global Warming.  For this reason, a 3rd Generation Refrigerant is now available.
  • The newest A/C refrigerant isR-32“, also known as “Difluoromethane”.  It has about 1/3 the Global Warming potential of R-134, and (like 134) is has no Ozone Depleting Potential.
  • Daikin A/C is the first to use R-32 refrigerant.  At present they do not offer traditional central a/c with R-32.   R-32 is being used in their “ductless” Heat Pump residential systems.  They also produce the “through the wall” R-32 systems, like those commonly seen in hotels.
  • The reason that R-32 is not yet being used in traditional Central A/C is because R-32’s higher operating temperature causes degradation of the oil inside the compressor, and can damage components inside the compressor.  For this reason, redesign consideration is required to ensure R-32’s operating temperature is limited to an acceptable level.   At some point in the future, R-32 traditional Central A/C will become available.


Energy Star Rated Gas Furnace

photo of properly working gas burners in a gas furnace

Image Source: ShutterStock

A Standard-Efficiency Gas Forced-Air Furnace In Texas is 80%.  An Energy Star Furnace Is 90% Efficient Or Higher.  

The Most Efficient Gas Furnace Is Rated At 98.7%.  Only 1.3% Of The Heat Generated Exists The Home With Its Exhaust.

old gas furnace

Image Source: Can Stock Photo

Furnace Shown Above Is 70% Efficient Or Less.  30% Or More Of The Heat Generated Goes Up The Flue. 

This Can Be Determined By The 6″ (or larger) Metal Flue Pipe At The Front Of The Furnace.

  • The oldest gas furnaces (some are still in service in the northern U.S.) are about 50% efficient.  They are known as “gravity feed” or “octopus” furnace.  They don’t have a blower.

Click Here To See A Gravity Feed / Octopus Furnace:  Photo Of Gravity Feed / Octopus Furnace

  • A Gas Furnace built in the 1970’s has an efficiency of 60–70%.  AFUE = Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency — a measure of efficiency in gas furnaces.
  • Older gas furnaces have 1 metal vent pipe diameter of 6″ or larger.  The pipe goes upward through the roof.
  • Since 1987, a Standard Efficiency gas furnace is 80%.  20% of the heat generated is vented outside with the exhaust.
  • These furnaces have 1 metal vent pipe diameter of 3″– 5″ (depends on size of furnace).  The pipe goes upward through the roof.
  • These furnaces have vent holes in the front cover (to drawn air in for gas combustion) and you can see the burners’ flames.
  • Standard furnaces (inside the home’s living space) remove heated air from inside the house to be used for gas combustion.  This does not apply to attic furnaces.
  • This causes further decreases the total energy efficiency of the home.

Click Here To See An 80% Efficient Gas Furnace: 80% Efficient Gas Furnace

high efficiency gas furnace with two white pipes visible

Image Source: DreamsTime

SHOWN: High-Efficiency Gas Furnace (90% Efficient Or More)

  • Energy Star Furnaces having an efficiency rating of 90% or higher.   They vent no more than 10% of the heat generated outside with the exhaust.
  • Energy Star Furnaces use outdoor air for combustion of the gas. They don’t remove heated air from the home to be used for gas combustion.
  • These furnaces have two plastic vent pipes.  One brings outdoor air in (for combustion).  The other pipe vents exhaust to outdoors.
  • These furnaces Do Not have vent holes in the front cover.  You can only the burners’ flames through a small round opening (that has a plastic cover).

Money Spent On A High-E Furnace In DFW

Might Be Better Spent On Energy Saving Home Improvments

Depending on the age of your home, the extra money spent on a High-E furnace in DFW might be better spent on increasing attic insulation.  If your attic has less than    R-38 insulation, using the High-E furnace price-difference could save you more money in the long run.  It depends on the price difference between High-E and 80% Furnace.

Attic insulation insulation will save on both Heating & Cooling. And, since DFW  is in a “Cooling” Climate, insulation will save the most money during the heat of summer, as compared to a High-E furnace’s savings during infrequent cold spells in DFW winter.   Additionally, attic insulation reduces how much the A/C must run, extending its lifespan.

If you have adequate attic insulation, the furnace price-difference might be better spent on a higher efficiency Central A/C — for the same reasons listed just above.

Other Energy-Saving Considerations Instead Of High-E Furance:

  • Have a company do an Energy Audit, and then seal where the home is leaking air.
  • Install a Radiant Heat-Barrier in your attic.  This barrier blocks the sun’s radiant heat from moving deeply into the attic.  Once heat reaches the attic floor (which is also the ceilings of the rooms below) the amount of heat transfer from attic to living space increases dramatically.  In DFW summer, attics can reach 170 degrees.
  • If your home has ductwork in the attic (most DFW homes do) — a Radiant-Heat Barrier reduces the amount of heat ductwork must deal with too.

Click Here To See A Radiant-Heat Barrier Installed In An Attic: Radiant-Heat Barrier Installed In Attic

Click Here To See A Thermal-Image Of An Attic Showing Its Temp At 170 Degrees: Thermal-Image Of Attic

  • Add solar-film to west facing windows.
  • Add awnings above west facing windows.
  • Plant annual trees (they drop their leaves in winter) to block west or south sun.


photo of heat pump

Energy Star Rated Heat Pump

(For Those With Electric Heat)

There is no such thing as a high-efficiency electric furnace.  By definition, an electric furnace is 100% efficient because no heat leaves the home with furnace exhaust (like with a gas furnace).

To get more energy-efficient (and less expensive) Electric Heat, the only option is to install a Heat Pump instead of Central A/C.  A Heat Pump is a Central A/C when cooling PLUS it runs in reverse for heating.  When in reverse / heating mode, the heat pump removes heat from outdoor air and transfers that heat into the home.  The ability of a Heat Pump to heat the home by itself is dependent on the outdoor air temperature.  The colder it is outdoors, the less heat there is in the outdoor air for the Heat Pump to extract.   The less heat to extract, the longer the Heat Pump will run.

When it gets cold enough that the Heat Pump cannot keep up (which is not all the frequent in DFW) the supplemental electric heat (inside the furnace) will also operate.  The furnace will add additional heat as needed.  Today’s Heat Pumps are capable of heating the house down to around freezing (32 degrees).  Below that outdoor temp, supplemental heat may be needed, and is supplied by the furnace.  During these times, both the Heat Pump & Supplemental Heat will run.  The electric / supplemental heat runs only when the Heat Pump can’t keep up (or if it stops working).

Heat Pumps heat the home using much less electricity than electric heat.   Depending on the outdoor temperature, a Heat Pump can operate for as little as 50% the cost of an electric furnace.  Because a Heat Pump operates during many outdoor temperatures, a good guide is that it will cost 30%–40% less (over the entire heating season) to heat with a Heat Pump than with an electric furnace.

nest thermostat in heating mode

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Nest Smart Thermostat

Smart Thermostats (such as Nest thermostat) also allow the home owner to choose how fast they want the HVAC System to heat.  The Nest thermostat allows the owner to choose:nest thermostat heat pump balance display

  • Max Comfort / Fastest (adding electric heat)
  • Max Savings / Normal (using only the Heat Pump)
  • “Balanced”.  In the 3rd setting, Nest will determine when, and how much, supplemental electric heat is necessary based on outdoor temps.
  • Note:  Next goes online to check the outdoor temp & weather conditions, and displays them on the thermostat.

Because Heat Pumps Both Heat & Cool, They Have 2 Efficiency Ratings”

  • SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) — This tells the cooling efficiency.  In DFW a Heat Pump’s SEER must be 14 or higher.
  • HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor) — This tells the heating efficiency.
  • Both SEER & HSPF rise with more efficient Heat Pumps.

The more efficient a Heat Pump is, the higher both SEER & HSPF will be because, while in heating mode, a Heat Pump is simply a central a/c running in reverse

As Of 2019, The Most Efficient Heat Pump Is:

  • 23.5 SEER + 10.2 HSPF.
  • American Standard’s most efficient is the AccuComfort Platinum-20 Heat Pump:  20.0 SEER + and 10.0 HSPF.
  • As compared, a Heat Pump with SEER-14 will have about a 8.2 HSPF.

Heat Pumps are a bit more expensive than Central A/C, because they can both heat & cool.  The price difference will be repaid several times over with lower heating bills.  NO new electrical wiring is needed to convert from Central A/C to Heat Pump.  The Heat Pump uses the same power supply as the existing A/C.

With a Heat Pump, the air temperature coming from the vents is lower than an electric furnace.  A Heat Pump will discharge air temps (at the vents) of 85-95 degrees.  An electric furnace makes temps of 130-140 degrees.  While the air at the vents will feel cooler with a Heat Pump, the output temperature is ample to heat the home.

The colder it is outdoors, the longer the Heat Pump must run (because there is less heat for it to extract from outside air).  It’s normal for the Heat Pump to run longer, and generate a cooler air at the vents, as it gets colder outdoors.    Depending on the brand & model, some Heat Pumps may turn off when it’s a certain outdoor temperature.  When this occurs, all heating is provided by the electric furnace until outdoor temps rise again.

Want to learn more about Heat Pumps?  Click Here: Heat Pumps Part 1 Of 4 

(Parts 2-4 Are Accessed With A Link Within Each Section)



Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C, in Plano, Texas provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home. Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C is near your home in Richardson, Garland, and northeast Dallas, Texas.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel charge.

Al’s also provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally, we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.