What Does SEER Mean?
When it comes to your air conditioner, a common term used in the HVAC business that you’re likely to see everywhere is your air conditioner’s SEER. But what exactly is SEER? SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s a rating system of the air conditioner’s cooling capacity to power input, i.e., it’s the ratio of the amount of cooling produced (in BTUs) divided by the amount of electricity (in watts) used. The higher the SEER, the greater the air conditioner’s efficiency.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling units use more energy than any other system in your home. So when you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, you’ll want to pay attention to the SEER level of the different units you’re considering. The higher the SEER number, the more efficiency bang you’ll get for your efficiency buck. That means money you’ll be saving in the long run on energy costs.
The U.S. EPA requires residential air conditioner systems manufactured after January 1, 2015, to have a minimum SEER rating of 14, while previously all systems manufactured after January 23, 2006, needed to have a minimum rating of 13 (with the exception of window units, being exempt from this law). Older air conditioners have a SEER rating of 10 or under. You can usually find your system’s SEER rating on the yellow-and-black EnergyGuide sticker on the outside of your unit.
Saving Money by Upgrading
If your system is ten to 15 years old but continues keeping you cool in the summer, you might still want to consider investing in a newer unit. By upgrading to a modern, more efficient model, depending on your current unit’s SEER, you could save quite a bit of money annually on your cooling bill. To illustrate, say your current system has a SEER rating of 9. If you upgraded to an air conditioner with a 13 SEER, which is the lowest efficiency available, your power consumption would be reduced by 28 percent. Depending on how much you use your system and your cost of electricity, that could save you about $300 a year in energy costs.
The Department of Energy has accessible online energy-efficiency calculators you can find to help you predict the energy costs you’ll save with different units carrying various SEER ratings. If you’d like a more precise analysis, call Four Seasons Heating & Cooling, and we’d be happy to send one of our knowledgeable technicians out to go over the possible savings with you.
How to Decide Which SEER Is for You
To carry the Energy Star® label, an air conditioner must be in the top 25 percent of efficient models and have a minimum SEER of 14. But automatically purchasing an air conditioner with a higher SEER isn’t the go-to answer. Unfortunately, things aren’t that cut and dry. The rating represents the potential efficiency of the unit under perfect conditions. Much of the system’s efficiency depends on the right sizing of the unit for your home, along with correct installation and an evaluation of other factors as well. For example, your duct work and windows may have leaks, thus directly affecting your energy savings.
Also, keep in mind that your air conditioner doesn’t operate within a vacuum. It’s directly tied to your furnace or heating system. Depending on what equipment you presently have and its age, this definitely factors into your air conditioner’s rating. Even though your proposed new unit has an 18 SEER, once married to your current furnace, the SEER may decrease to a 15 or 16. What you need to aim for is the right-sized equipment operating at its optimal ratings within varying conditions for the best savings and comfort for you.
Four Seasons Heating & Cooling has specialist technicians who calculate these various factors when proposing the optimal system for your home, comfort, and budget. Give us a call, and we’d be happy to help you with any of your air conditioner needs.