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Buying an air conditioning service or furnace gets a lot easier when you’re guided by the bright yellow EnergyGuide Label. It’s much more conspicuous than a price tag and actually gives you a lot more information. An air conditioning service has two costs: The purchase price you pay up front and the cost down the road for the energy to operate it and any maintenance or repair costs. Long after you’ve paid off that first price tag, you’ll still be paying for the other costs.

Understanding the information on the EnergyGuide label can make the difference between an informed buying decision now and buyer’s remorse later. Here’s what you need to know:

The upper left corner of the label spells out the general features and performance data relating to that particular air conditioning service and other similarly priced units. On the right is the name of the manufacturer and the model name and number describing this particular air conditioning service. A simple Internet search of the model number will provide you with all the technical details about the product and reference materials.

The middle section of the label displays information about the energy efficiency of the air conditioning service relative to other equivalent models in its price range. If the label describes a central air conditioning service, a scale depicts the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) range from the least to the most efficient models. An arrow placed on the scale indicates the ranking of this unit in the SEER range, and a bold numeral above the arrow shows the exact SEER rating. On a furnace, an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) scale appears, and the placement of the arrow marks the unit’s relative efficiency ranking.

At the lower right of the EnergyGuide label, an Energy Star icon may appear. This indicates that the appliance or product uses less energy than standard efficiency units and results in less environmental impact. For air conditioning service, this normally denotes a high-efficiency unit with a SEER rating of 14 or above. Gas-fired furnaces with AFUE ratings of 90 percent here in Texas qualify for the Energy Star label.