Do You Really Need a High SEER?

Let’s face it, buying heating and air conditioning can be confusing. There are lots of terms that you have never come across before, and may never come across again. One of the most prevalent terms in the heating and air conditioning business is SEER, but what is SEER?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is a rating that describes how much energy the unit will use to produce a given amount of cooling power. Specifically, it is the cooling output during a season divided by the total electrical input during the season. The current laws on SEER were established in 2011 by the US Department of Energy and impose a regional approach.

The regional approach to SEER is both practical and a good explainer for the next question people have regarding SEER – do you need a high or a low SEER? There are several calculators available online to see how much a better SEER rating will save you specifically but the following example demonstrates how much money you can save by purchasing a more energy efficient model. Suppose a 5,000 BTU, 1,500 W unit that has a SEER of 10 BTU/Watt Hour. If it operates for 1000 hours during the cooling season, or 8 hours a day for 125 days, and electricity cost is $0.20/hour, then you will wind up saving $0.10 per hour, or $100 over the season.

In terms of consumer savings there is an important factor to take note of; the more you use your air conditioner the more money you will save from a higher SEER rating. That means that someone in North Dakota does not need as high of a SEER as someone in Alabama, thus the Department of Energy guidelines for SEER are established on a regional basis. Areas of the countries that have a longer cooling season will use the air conditioner more and thus reap more benefits.

As you can see, each consumer has different needs and should take those needs into account. By understanding SEER ratings and understanding how they influence your cost of use you can be sure to invest in the air conditioning unit that makes the most economic sense for you.