Everything You Need to Know About SEER Ratings
When you go shopping for a whole-house air conditioner, you’ll have to look at a lot of factors. The air conditioner needs to be properly sized for your home. You’ll have to decide how it will work with your heating system and whether you want it professionally installed. And you’ll want to find a price point that’s within your budget.
Something that impacts that cost is the unit’s SEER rating. Find out all about this method for rating air conditioners.
Basics of SEER Ratings
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) laid out the initial definition for SEER ratings. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. It’s the rating that relates to a unit’s energy efficiency, or how much electricity is needed to run the unit compared to its cooling capabilities.
The units can range between a rating of 13 to 24. Higher numbers indicate a more energy efficient unit. Manufacturers use equations to determine the energy-used ratio over the same time period, not longer than a 12-month period. You can find the SEER rating on the unit’s box, typically in a yellow sticker labeled Energy Guide.
Choosing a SEER Rating
Between 1992 and 2006, the minimum SEER rating allowed for any unit was 10. In 2006, the minimum changed to the current 13 rating. The minimum SEER rating system changed again in 2015, when your location determined the minimum allowed. People living in southeastern and southwestern states — including California — now must choose a unit with at least a 14 SEER rating.
Except to meet the minimum requirement, you probably won’t walk into a store with a specific SEER rating in mind. Instead, you’ll use the numbers to help you choose between units. For example, you can look at two similarly priced units and see which has the better SEER rating.
SEER Ratings Impact on Cooling Costs
Many factors go into how energy efficient an air conditioner is. The SEER rating is a good jumping off point. As noted above, your climate impacts your need for cooling. That rationale is why higher SEER ratings are necessary in warm climates — not only to cut down on cooling costs but to ease the strain on the energy grid. If you like a cool house, consider a higher SEER rating.
Another factor is your house’s own thermal rating. If your house is leaking conditioned air, a high SEER rating won’t positively impact your cooling costs. All your ductwork and windows should be well sealed and insulated. Your attic could probably benefit both from more insulation and an exhaust fan.
Likewise, the majority of heat energy comes through your windows. A minimum step is to hang shades or shutters to keep the sun out. You could invest in energy efficient windows or at least have a film applied to your existing windows. When you’ve made such improvements, you might be fine with a lower SEER rating or decide the higher one is worth the investment.
Benefits of High SEER Ratings
If you are living in your “forever home”, consider one of the higher-rated units. Sure, improved performance comes with a significant jump in price. However, when you stay in your home for years, you can recoup that cost in energy savings.
If you value energy efficiency in the name of environmental consciousness, you may target the higher-rated units. Indeed, when central air conditioners are in the top 25 percent for energy efficiency, they’ll carry the Energy Star label. With such units, you reduce your carbon footprint.
In many cases, the purchase of an Energy Star certified air conditioner qualifies you for federal tax rebates. Therefore, you can see additional savings when you apply those rebates to the cost of the unit.
An air conditioner’s SEER rating is a tool that helps you decide which brand and model will best fit your home cooling needs. Contact Mauzy Heating, Air & Solar to discuss your options.