Learn to Understand SEER and Upgrade to a More Efficient A/C

July 29, 2015
Ross and Witmer

For homeowners who want to improve energy efficiency and reduce expenses while maintaining outstanding cooling system performance, the best solution is often to upgrade to a more efficient air conditioner. When choosing a new A/C for your home, it pays to understand as much as possible about system efficiency and what it means. One acronym that you’ll encounter during your search is SEER, an important measure of air conditioner efficiency. The following information will give you a brief introduction to cooling system efficiency and help you understand SEER and what it means to you.

Understand SEER and What It Stands For

The seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, is a number that indicates the efficiency rating of a central air conditioner and the cooling functions of a heat pump. SEER can also help you determine a cooling system’s potential energy consumption and how much it will cost to operate the equipment over the course of a typical cooling season.

The Meaning of SEER

SEER is an important number to know when looking for a new cooling system for your home. It describes the amount of cooling provided per unit of electricity used by the air conditioner or heat pump. SEER numbers are assigned after rigorous laboratory testing that accurately simulates typical operational conditions that the equipment will be expected to operate in.

The SEER rating summarizes the average performance of a cooling system over a season. The number is reached by dividing the total cooling output of the equipment (in BTUs) over the cooling season by the total amount of electricity the equipment uses over the same time period.

Air conditioners and heat pumps manufactured in the United States since January 23, 2006, must carry a SEER rating of 13 at the least. Equipment with a SEER of 14 or higher is considered high efficiency. On average, the most commonly used high efficiency cooling systems will have a SEER rating of around 18. The most efficient equipment available can have a SEER number in the in the middle 20s.

Operating Costs

When looking for and comparing cooling equipment, keep in mind that higher SEER numbers indicate greater levels of energy efficiency and, as a result, lower operating costs.

For example, older air conditioning systems typically had very low SEER ratings. A system manufactured in the 1970s, for example, could have a SEER of 6 or lower. This system would be relatively costly to operate. Newer models, even those with the minimum SEER of 13, will significantly lower your monthly cooling costs and reduce your overall energy expenditures.

In a typical situation, you could expect an upgrade from SEER 10 to SEER 18 to cut your cooling bills by nearly half. If you choose to go with an air conditioner or heat pump with an even higher SEER rating, you could reasonably expect your cooling bills to be slashed by more than half.

On average, high efficiency cooling systems cost more than lower efficiency systems. However, the initial investment in high efficiency equipment can often be recovered in monthly savings alone within a few years, or at least by the halfway point of the equipment’s expected functional lifespan.

Understand SEER: Efficiency and Energy Star

Along with the SEER rating, you can also look for other features that indicate high efficiency equipment. One of the most common is the Energy Star logo. The Energy Star program is a collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

The Energy Star program offers education and advice for homeowners who want to reduce their energy usage and improve energy efficiency throughout their homes. Another important function of the Energy Star program is the testing and certification of various energy-consuming devices, including appliances, electronics and HVAC systems. An Energy Star-certified device has been tested and proven to be as energy efficient as possible.

For more information that will help you understand SEER and what it means to air conditioner efficiency, check out Ross and Witmer’s air conditioning solutions, or call 704-392-6188.

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