Purchasing a new appliance for your home is a large investment, not only because you have to budget for it, but also because you have to put in plenty of time and research to make sure you choose the right unit for your needs. For today’s consumers, one of the most important considerations when buying a new furnace or air conditioner is energy efficiency, and that’s where the ENERGY STAR® certification and Canada’s EnerGuide can help.
This guide will explain what ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide are, talk about what products are involved, and help you decipher EnerGuide and ENERGY STAR labels so you can make informed decisions about your HVAC system.
Did you know! FurnacePrices.ca is a proud participant of the ENERGY STAR program as an advocate promoting environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient heating & cooling solutions for Canadians.
The ENERGY STAR Certification Explained
ENERGY STAR is a voluntary certification and labelling program that was created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency back in 1992. Canada joined forces with the EPA in 2001 to administer the program for Canadian businesses through Natural Resources Canada.
To get ENERGY STAR certification, a company must provide test results proving that their product is in the top performance level in its category for energy efficiency. In turn, this means the product uses less energy when operating, has a lower cost to run, and produces fewer emissions.
ENERGY STAR has rigorous technical requirements in terms of efficiency, so looking for the logo is an easy way to identify high-performance products and appliances that are more environmentally friendly and cheaper to operate.
The program was originally to help consumers make more environmentally responsible purchasing decisions for office equipment like computers, but it quickly expanded to include a lot more.
Today, ENERGY STAR certifies thousands of products, and more than 1,000 Canadian businesses are participating in the program. Right now, you can get ENERGY STAR certified:
- Heat pumps
- Air conditioners
- Homes and buildings
- Appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators, and washing machines
- Lightbulbs and lighting products
- Windows, doors, and skylights
- Ceiling fans
- Smart thermostats
The Benefits of Choosing ENERGY STAR Furnaces, Air Conditioners, and HVAC Equipment
ENERGY STAR products tend to come with a higher price tag, and this leaves many consumers wondering if it’s worth the extra investment.
There are many benefits to buying an ENERGY STAR product versus one that doesn’t have the certification, so here’s a quick breakdown of the major advantages:
Energy-savings: Energy-efficient products use less energy to perform the same tasks as their conventional counterparts, so you need less power to run the same appliances.
Take an ENERGY STAR certified lightbulb, for example. It will use 90 percent less energy compared to a traditional bulb, and that’s 90 percent less energy you have to pay for.
Cost-savings: For most consumers, the major benefit of ENERGY STAR products is they cost less to operate because they require less energy. Put simply, although you may spend more up front for an ENERGY STAR appliance, you will recoup that cost (and more) over time thanks to lower utility bills.
In fact, ENERGY STAR estimates you could cut your overall energy bills by 30 percent by upgrading to certified appliances.
Environmental benefits: Products that require less energy to operate are less of a strain on the planet’s natural resources. When it comes to products that rely on fossil fuels, this translates to fewer greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint for your household.
What Is EnerGuide?
The EnerGuide program is a rating and labelling program that was created by the Canadian government to make it easier for consumers to compare and choose energy-efficient products.
Like the ENERGY STAR certification, the EnerGuide rating can be applied to anything from dishwashers to vehicles, but it’s also used for HVAC appliances like furnaces and air conditioners.
The EnerGuide label is required on certain energy-using products, including washers, dryers, and room air conditioners. On HVAC products like furnaces, heat pumps, and central air conditioners, EnerGuide labelling is voluntary.
Canada has efficiency regulations for all energy-using products, and the purpose of the EnerGuide label is to help consumers compare similar products.
But unlike ENERGY STAR, the EnerGuide label doesn’t automatically indicate that the product in question meets higher energy-efficiency standards than others. You have to read the EnerGuide label to determine how the product in question stands up.
Here’s what an EnerGuide label will tell you about an energy-using product:
- The model number
- The unit’s annual energy consumption in kilowatt hours
- The efficiency range of similar products
- How the model’s energy consumption compares to similar models
- Whether the model has ENERGY STAR certification
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ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide Labels for Furnaces
The efficiency of furnaces is measured with annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, which is the amount of heat produced by a furnace compared to the fuel it consumes. The higher the AFUE, the higher the efficiency.
EnerGuide: A furnace’s EnerGuide label will tell you the model number, the AFUE of the model, as well as the AFUE range of similar products.
Canadian efficiency regulations dictate that indoor gas furnaces must have an AFUE of at least 90 percent. At the moment, the most efficient furnaces on the market have AFUE ratings of 99 percent (EnerGuide hasn’t yet caught up to the market, so the range on the labels maxes out at 98 percent).
ENERGY STAR: A gas furnace must have an AFUE of 95 percent or higher to obtain ENERGY STAR certification in Canada (or the northern U.S.). That means it uses 95 percent of the fuel it consumes.
ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide Labels for Air Conditioners
One popular way to calculate air conditioner efficiency is with something called seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), which similarly measures cooling output versus energy consumed. The most efficient air conditioners have the highest SEER ratings.
EnerGuide: An air conditioner’s EnerGuide label will tell you the model number, the SEER rating of the model in question, and the SEER range for similar air conditioners.
Split system central air conditioners in Canada must have a SEER rating of at least 13, according to the energy regulations set by Natural Resources Canada. However, that rating is being increased to 14.
There are air conditioners available with SEER ratings as high as 27, but this tends to be overkill in Canada. For our milder summers, a SEER rating between 16 and 18 is usually enough, and provides a good balance between cost and efficiency.
ENERGY STAR: To achieve ENERGY STAR certification in Canada, an air conditioner must have a SEER rating of 15 or higher.
ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide Labels for Boilers
Boiler efficiency is also measured with AFUE, just as it is with furnaces.
EnerGuide: A boiler’s EnerGuide label will tell you the model number, the AFUE rating, and the typical AFUE range for similar boilers on the market.
Canada’s efficiency regulations say that gas boilers must be at least 80 percent efficient. The most efficient models on the market right now have AFUE ratings of 98 percent, while the majority are around 95 percent.
ENERGY STAR: A gas boiler in Canada must have an AFUE of 90 percent or higher to achieve ENERGY STAR certification.
ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide Labels for Water Heaters
Water heater efficiency is measured differently for electric models and gas/propane models.
Electric models measure efficiency with standby loss (in watts), so a lower number indicates better efficiency.
Gas and propane models can be measured in a couple ways. One is with energy factor (EF), which measures how much hot water the unit produces versus how much fuel it consumes, so the higher the number the better. A newer way to measure water heater efficiency is with uniform energy factor (UEF), where higher numbers are also better.
EnerGuide: The EnerGuide label on a water heater will first tell you if the unit uses electricity or gas/propane.
On electric models, the label will tell you the standby loss in watts and the range for similar models. On gas models, the label will tell you the EF rating, and give you the EF range of similar models.
Canada’s energy regulations dictate that on-demand gas water heaters must have a UEF of 0.86 or greater. This can be somewhat confusing because the EnerGuide label uses a different calculation. ENERGY STAR has switched to using UEF, and Natural Resources Canada will likely follow suit.
ENERGY STAR: ENERGY STAR also has different certification criteria depending on the style of water heater you’re looking at, and you can check to see what’s available in Canada on their website.
The Importance of Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems
Canada is home to harsh, cold, and long winters that wouldn’t be tolerable without a home heating system. As such, it may come as no surprise that over 60 percent of the energy used in the average Canadian home goes toward space heating.
Similarly, although home cooling costs don’t account for nearly as much of the average energy bill in Canada, you can still reduce your energy costs by choosing an energy-efficient air conditioner. ENERGY STAR air conditioners are at least 20 percent more efficient than non-certified models, so there are a lot of potential savings to be had by upgrading.
With an energy-efficient HVAC system, you could save hundreds of dollars or more each year on heating and cooling bills alone, and you’d be doing your part to help the environment.
How are energy-efficient products better for the environment?
All types of energy have an environmental impact. The impact of some energy sources is worse than others, with things like fossil fuels having the most negative effects. When you purchase products that are more energy efficient, you’re purchasing products that will use less energy, and that means fewer emissions and better news for the environment.
How is SEER different from EER?
EER stands for energy efficiency ratio, and it also measures the efficiency of air conditioners. The difference between SEER and EER is how the numbers are calculated. SEER is calculated using a range of temperatures to simulate the air conditioner coming on and shutting off throughout the day, and operating at varying temperatures throughout the season.
EER is calculated based on a constant temperature. SEER is good for comparing the performance of different air conditioners, while EER is better for calculating air conditioner sizing and determining how much you could save on energy bills.