When it comes to AC replacement, the process can quickly become overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time buying an AC unit. From sizing the AC to choosing a brand and model, it seems like there are endless specifications and options to choose from. But there’s one specification that you should be familiar with as you begin your search for a new AC: SEER ratings.
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. A SEER rating is the cooling output of an AC unit over a typical cooling season (summer) divided by the energy input over the same period of time. More simply, it’s the measurement of how efficient the AC unit is. Think of SEER ratings like the miles per gallon in a car: it’s the maximum efficiency of the unit, but different conditions may cause it to be a bit lower. Like miles per gallon, SEER ratings are shown in numbers, with higher numbers equating to higher efficiency.
Why SEER Matters
When there are so many different specifications to look at, why should a SEER rating stand out to you? As the measure of your potential AC unit’s efficiency, the SEER rating can actually tell you a lot about what to expect from the unit’s performance and how much you’ll be paying for air conditioning in the future. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the AC unit is, which means it will require less energy to properly cool your home. For you, a higher SEER rating means lower energy bills that will save you money over time.
Of course, you pay for what you get when it comes to SEER ratings. Units with high SEER ratings are made with higher quality materials and technology, which means they’ll cost more upfront than less efficient air conditioners. However, higher efficiency pays for itself over time by lowering your energy bills. Comparing SEER ratings is the best way to weigh how big of an investment you’ll make and how big the return on your investment will be.
What’s a good SEER rating?
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) sets minimum standards of efficiency for air conditioners throughout the country based on SEER ratings. The minimum rating in moderate climates is 13 SEER, but states with hotter climates, like Texas, must adhere to a minimum SEER rating of 14. The maximum SEER rating technology can produce for a central AC unit is currently 26 SEER.
It’s important to remember that “good” is a relative term when it comes to efficiency. Even though 14 is the minimum SEER rating in Texas, that doesn’t make it inefficient. Old air conditioners that are being replaced now are typically 8 or 10 SEER, placing a 14 SEER unit miles ahead in terms of efficiency. As such, most homeowners choose an AC unit with a SEER rating between 14 and 16.
What SEER rating should I get?
In the end, you’ll see significant energy saving no matter what SEER rating you choose. This is because even a 14 SEER will be much more efficient than your old AC. However, you’ll see more savings over time the higher the SEER rating is.
After all, a 16 SEER AC is simply more efficient than a 14 SEER. For some homeowners, there’s no limit to how much money they’re willing to spend upfront if it means lower costs in the years to come. For most people, though, choosing a new AC unit is all about balancing efficiency and budget.