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What Is a SEER Rating, and Why Does It Matter for Me?

Central air conditioner

If you’re considering a new central air conditioning system and haven’t shopped for one in a while, you may be surprised at the sea of acronyms you’ll encounter in your search.

One of the most important of these acronyms is SEER, which is an abbreviation for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Here is some basic information about SEER to help you be a more informed buyer when the time comes to invest in a new A/C.

  1. What does SEER measure? SEER measures the efficiency of your home cooling system; the higher the SEER rating of a unit, the more efficiently it turns energy into cool air (think of it as you would MPG in a car).
  2. How is SEER calculated? SEER is a season-long measure of ratio of total cool air produced (measured in BTUs) compared to the energy consumed to produce that cold air (in watt hours) during the cooling season.
  3. What is a “good” SEER rating? Air conditioners produced today are required by law to produce a minimum SEER rating of 13 (in our area of the country; in some hotter regions, the minimum SEER is 14). Older A/C units could have SEER ratings as low as 7 or 8 – which means you’ll pay twice as much for the same amount of cool air!
  4. What does “payback period” mean? You pay more for a higher SEER unit – about 8-10 percent more, on average, for every 1-point increase in SEER rating. The payback period is the time it takes to recover – through reduced bills – the extra cost of buying an AC unit with a higher SEER rating. An 18 SEER central air conditioner might have a three-year payback period compared to a 14 SEER model, depending on how often it’s used (the more often, the faster the payback period).

While SEER rating isn’t the only factor affecting the efficiency of an air conditioning unit in your home (proper installation, maintenance and sizing of your equipment are also critical), it is nonetheless an important measure to keep in mind when shopping for a new air conditioner for your Massachusetts home.

Contact Needham today for a FREE estimate on a new central A/C – and don’t forget to ask about our specials and other incentives that can save you hundreds of dollars on a new high-efficiency unit!