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Five Things to Know About Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)

Air conditioning HVAC

Memorial Day is nearly here, and with it comes the unofficial start of summer. Is your air conditioner up for the hard work of another cooling season?

If the time has come to retire your old A/C, you’re going to need some basic knowledge about how to replace it. This week, we’ll talk about one of the most important factors in choosing a new cooling system: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER.

Demystifying SEER

Here are some SEER basics to help you become a more informed A/C shopper in the coming months. If you have any questions about SEER or any of the other factors that will help you choose a central air conditioner or ductless mini-split A/C, contact Complete Heating and Cooling today.

  • SEER measures the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. Think of it like MPG in your car: the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit is at turning energy into cool air.
  • What SEER actually measures is the total amount of cool air produced during a cooling season (measured in British thermal units, or Btus) compared to the amount of energy consumed (in watt hours) during the same period.
  • New A/C units and are required by law to produce a minimum SEER rating of 13. This is significant because some older A/C units can have a SEER rating as low as 8 – which means they use double the energy to produce the same amount of cold air as a similarly sized unit with a SEER rating of 16!
  • Most the central air conditioning units sold today have SEER ratings between 16 and 20; some ductless models have SEER ratings as high as 33.
  • The “payback period” is the time it takes to recover the extra cost of buying a higher-SEER A/C unit (prices increase by about 8-10 percent for every 1-point increase in SEER rating, all other things being equal). An 18 SEER central air conditioner could take as little as 3 years to pay for itself over a 14 SEER unit, depending on the workload (more work = faster payback period).

Of course SEER rating isn’t the only factor in home cooling efficiency: proper installation and maintenance of your equipment is every bit as important, as is correct matching of the system to the cooling load of your home (we’ll talk about these factors in a future blog).