When you want to compare the efficiency and estimate operating costs of central air conditioners, the SEER rating is your friend.
Short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, it’s a numerical rating devised by the Department of Energy. SEER appears on the yellow EnergyGuide label on every new A/C, as well as in manufacturer’s specifications. The numeral is a ratio that expresses the amount of cooling capacity of a given unit compared to the amount of electricity it consumes. The higher the SEER, the more energy-efficient the air conditioner.
How SEER Is Determined
In laboratory tests, a static indoor temperature is maintained while outdoor temperatures are varied from 65 degrees up to 104 degrees. This simulates the potential range of outdoor temperatures across an entire cooling season.
The testing process measures total cooling output of the air conditioner expressed in BTUs along with amount of electricity consumed. The final calculation divides total BTUs by total watt-hours to arrive at the SEER rating.
In our climate zone, SEER ratings currently range from 14, the minimum requirement as mandated by the Department of Energy, up as far as 25.
What SEER Can Tell You
- The higher the SEER number, the less energy a specific unit consumes to produce a similar level of coolness.
- Higher SEER can be expected to result in lower monthly energy bills for air conditioning.
- A/C units with higher SEER ratings typically incorporate smart technology such as variable speed compressors and fans that continuously adjust to indoor conditions for more consistent temperature control and greater comfort.
What Else To Consider
Higher SEER means a steeper initial purchase price compared to a standard SEER unit. Over time, you can expect lower operating costs associated with a high-SEER unit will compensate for the increased purchase price. How long this will take—and whether that time frame matches your expectations—are issues that an experienced HVAC contractor will be happy to discuss with you to help determine the right option for your specific needs.
For professional advice about using the SEER rating when shopping for an air conditioner, contact Hansberger Refrigeration and Electric Company.