As an HVAC professional, energy-efficiency ratings are just a part of the job, but to many consumers, they can be extremely confusing.

Your average homeowners, looking to upgrade or purchase a new HVAC system, isn't going to know what heat pump ratings or energy-to-air recovery ventilation are — they're going to be looking to you to answer those questions.

If you're having trouble explaining these ratings to your customers or they do not understand you, here are a few tips and tricks to make things easier.

Explaining SEER

While you know that the season energy-efficiency ratio is calculated by dividing the cooling output of an HVAC unit as measured in British thermal units by the amount of electricity the unit uses during a given season, many of your customers do not. Chances are, the majority of them have never heard of Btu. The best way to explain this rating to your customers is to let them know the higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient their HVAC unit will be.

One analogy you can use is to compare the rating to their car’s gas mileage. The higher the mpg, the further you can drive, even in stop-and-go traffic. The higher the SEER rating, the higher the unit's maximum efficiency. Most air conditioners have a SEER rating that ranges from 13 to 21.

EER

Now that they understand SEER, you can explain the energy-efficiency ratio because it’s similar to the SEER rating. Start by saying that they both measure cooling efficiency and energy use. Then explain how they differ, with SEER focused on moderate temperatures — around 82°F —  and EER efficiency based on higher temperatures — around 95°F or higher — to truly test the unit's efficiency. You can even refer to the car mileage analogy. EER is like your car's highway mileage — you won't always be driving on the highway, but it's good to know how efficient your car is should you need to take an expressway.

HSPF

Once you've explained SEER to your customers, explaining HSPF is simple. Tell them the heating seasonal performance factor, or HSPF, is the companion rating to the SEER rating.  SEER is for air conditioning, and HSPF is for heating. Then clarify that the rating system is a little different — the maximum HSPF rating is 10, with heat pumps manufactured after 2015 being required to have a rating of 8.2 or higher. That way they’ll know they’re getting an energy-efficient product.

AFUE

Start by explaining that your customers could save quite a bit of money by reducing their fuel loss. Then explain that older units could have an AFUE of less than 65 percent, meaning 35 percent of the fuel being burned is wasted. While you know that annual fuel utilization efficiency measures the amount of heat produced as compared to how much fuel is burned, consumers don’t.  Showing them how much fuel they’re wasting makes a good selling point to convince people who might be hesitant to replace their HVAC system because of the cost.

Energy Star

Energy Star is something your customers have probably seen on every appliance they've purchased in the last 20 years. This one is simple to explain. It simply means the unit meets or exceeds federal energy-efficiency guidelines. For HVAC units, that means that the unit is at least an EER-10 rating. Depending on what state you’re located in, this rating could be higher. In that case, make sure you know can tell them that number.

FTC Energy Guide

New appliances, including HVAC units, often come labeled with the FTC's Energy Guide. It provides a lot of great information, but can be hard to follow for consumers who aren't in the HVAC industry. Tell your customers that the Federal Trade Commission’s energy guide label will have two parts — the estimated yearly operating cost and the estimated yearly electrical use.

If your customers have questions about this, just break it down for them. The first explains how much on average it costs to use the device, based on national energy cost averages, and the second describes how many kilowatt hours of power the device will consume on an average year. The lower those two numbers, the less it will cost to run the device.

Energy ratings for HVAC units can be confusing for consumers who aren't part of the industry. These tips will make it easier to explain ratings to even the most uninformed consumer and help them make the best decision when purchasing a new HVAC unit for their home or business.