A technician working on an energy efficient AC Unit

What Is SEER?

In an average air-conditioned home, air conditioning consumes more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. To save energy and money, try to buy an energy-efficient air conditioner with a good SEER rating to reduce your central air conditioner’s energy usage. 

Understanding your appliances, especially your air conditioner, can require you to understand many different acronyms. It can be difficult to keep track of them all and figure out what they mean, but the Comfort Masters Heating & Air Conditioning Team is here to help. Here’s what you should know about SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio.

Understanding SEER

Central air conditioners are rated according to their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). As the name suggests, SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output (a higher SEER rating means greater energy efficiency). The ratings are created by calculating the annual cooling output during the summer divided by the total electric energy input. The cooling output is represented by the BTU/h (British thermal per hour) multiplied by the number of cooling hours per day along with the number of cooling days per year. 

Here’s an example SEER calculation: 1,000 BTU/h x 10 cooling hours per day x 200 days per year will equal 2,000,000 BTUs per year. If your air conditioner has a SEER rating of 15 BTU per watt-hour (energy needed to run the air conditioner), then you can calculate the estimated energy needed per year with this formula: 2,000,000 BTUs per year divided by 15 BTU/wh = 133,333 Wh per year. 

When it comes to actual air conditioning units, a lot of older models have a BTU per Watt-hour rating of 6 or less. If this is the case for your air conditioning unit, you may want to consider buying a newer more energy-efficient model. While the initial investment may be costly upfront, the savings per year will quickly add up and give you an excellent return on your investment. When looking for a new air conditioner, always check the Energy Star® and EnergyGuide labels as their qualified central units are about 15% more energy-efficient than standard models, saving you even more money in energy costs.

Why Is the SEER Rating Important?

SEER ratings indicate a unit’s maximum potential for energy savings. For example, if a unit says it has a SEER value of 15, then the energy rating can reach up to 15 SEER. However, most units do not run exclusively on their highest potential because various factors can affect your air conditioner’s energy efficiency and overall performance. Examples of such factors include:

What Factors Should I Consider When Buying a New AC Unit?

While a high SEER rating is undoubtedly an asset, just because a unit has a high SEER rating doesn’t mean it is the right one for you. Here are some other factors to consider to help you choose the unit that best fits your home’s situation and needs:

  • Your budget
  • The size of your home (This will affect the size and air handling capacity of the air conditioning unit you need.)
  • Your area’s climate
  • The length of the cooling season in your area
  • The amount of time you spend at home
  • The number of hours you typically use your air conditioner during the day
  • The indoor temperatures you prefer
  • EER ratings (Energy Efficiency Ratio)
  • Warranty Terms

Air Conditioning Efficiency Standards

Residential AC Units surrounded by gravel

New residential central air conditioner standards went into effect on January 1, 2015. You don’t have to worry about changing your air conditioner immediately, though. The standards do not require you to change your existing central air conditioning units, and replacement parts and services are always still available for older units. Generally, support for older units will be supported by the manufacturer until a new standard for SEER goes into effect. 

That said, you may want to consider replacing your unit sooner rather than later. Older units may cost you more in energy and repair costs than newer units. Additionally, most air conditioning units have a lifespan of 15-20 years if they are properly maintained, and neglected air conditioning units could fail much sooner, so you may be closer to needing a new air conditioner than you think. It’s best to consider your options now while you have the space to think about it, rather than after your unit has already failed and you’re desperate for a replacement.

If you have an older central air conditioner, you might choose to replace the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. If you choose to do so, have Comfort Masters Heating and Air Conditioning ensure that the new compressor is properly matched to the indoor unit. Keep in mind that due to recent changes in refrigerants and air conditioning designs, it might be wiser to replace the entire system. Today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners from around the mid-1970s.

The efficiency of units that are even 10 years old can save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs. Proper sizing and installation are key elements in determining air conditioner efficiency. Too large a unit does not adequately remove humidity. On the other hand, too small a unit will not be able to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days.

 Need Help Finding the Perfect Unit for Your Home?

Still not sure how SEER should factor into your plans to repair or replace your air conditioning unit? The Comfort Masters team is here to help! We will work with you to make sure you end up with the perfect unit for your needs. From installing a new unit to maintaining an older one, our experienced professionals can handle all of your heating and air conditioning needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!