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SEER Options You Should Definitely Check Out and Energy Efficiency Standards from the Government

It’s easy to take your air conditioner for granted. You likely never give it a moment’s thought as it hums quietly in the background cooling your home to the perfect temperature on those sweltering hot days… until suddenly it doesn’t. Next thing you know you’re on the phone with an AC company who asks you what type of system you have, and all you know is it’s an “air conditioner” – you have no idea what kind of unit it is. Well, if you’re in the market for replacing your old air conditioner, then it’s time to educate yourself about an important component of your home that’s integral to your comfort, well-being and wallet.

Let’s cover the basic parts of a central air conditioning system, how it functions to cool the air, the ever-important SEER energy rating every new AC unit has, and how to find the perfect AC system for your home.

Central air conditioning systems come in three types: split systems, packaged units and ductless systems. Let’s just look at split and packaged for now. Split systems have two separate parts; one part located outside the home that contains the condensing unit and compressor, and one part located inside the home containing an evaporator coil. A packaged unit has the condenser, compressor and evaporator coil located in one single unit that typically sits outside the home on the roof or on a slab next to the foundation.


Split System vs Packaged Unit

Split and packaged systems both work the same way, however, there are some differences. For example, split systems are much larger than packaged units, are typically cheaper to repair and maintain, and come with higher energy-efficiency SEER ratings. Packaged units are typically cheaper to install because there’s just one piece, but exposure to the outside elements could cause damage or a shortened life span, and they have lower energy-efficiency SEER ratings.


Split System:

Split System

  • Much larger than packaged units
  • Typically cheaper to repair and maintain
  • Available in higher SEER-rated models


Packaged System:

Package Unit

  • Cheaper to install
  • Exposure to the outside elements could cause damage
  • Lower energy-efficiency SEER ratings


The deciding factor as to whether a split system or a package unit is the best one for you is largely dependent on the layout and size of your home. A good rule of thumb, though, is to stay consistent with what you already have and replace a split system with a split system and a packaged unit with a packaged unit, especially if you have been generally satisfied with the level of comfort your system provides.

To discover more about the different types of systems, click here to watch a video explainer designed just for you.


How Air Conditioners Work

Air conditioners use refrigerants to cool indoor air by drawing the warm air out of your home through ducts, and supplying cool air through the registers and vents in the ceilings or floors. Besides cooling the indoor air, air conditioners also regulate the ambient temperature of the home via a thermostat. Additionally, they act as dehumidifiers, because reducing the temperature of humid air reduces its moisture content, and air filtration systems as they remove airborne particles from the circulating air through the use of filters. That’s quite a lot going on for one air conditioner!

What’s even more impressive is how the components of an air conditioner, the coils, condenser, compressor, fans, and blower, replicate the physical law of when a liquid converts to a gas, it absorbs heat (known as phase conversion) in order to generate cooling. Warm air moves over refrigerant-filled coils, causing the refrigerant to evaporate from a liquid to a gaseous state – absorbing heat as it does so – and then it is compressed and condensed back into a liquid state for the process to begin all over again. The chilled air is then circulated throughout your house by blowers located in the air handling unit.

Some useful terms are included on the Cooling Cheat Sheet below.

Cooling "Cheat Sheet"


New Air Conditioning Systems Can Save You Money

Air conditioners certainly have come a long way since the first system was developed by Willis Carrier in 1902. The device he created blew air across chilled pipes to lower the temperature and humidity levels. Today’s air conditioning systems effectively and efficiently cool your home by using state-of-the-art equipment that uses a lot less energy than the models produced just a few years ago do.

In fact, there’s a good number of energy-efficient AC models to choose from now, ranging from 13 SEER all the way to 26 SEER, with higher-rated models being manufactured every year. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and indicates the energy-efficiency of a particular air conditioning system. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient it is, which means increased savings on your utility bill over the life of the air conditioner. Although more expensive than base models, you can usually recoup the extra cost of purchasing a high SEER unit over several years by the lower monthly utility bills you’ll receive. Most commonly, people gravitate toward the 14-18 SEER range when purchasing equipment for their home.

If your current air conditioner has been around awhile and showing signs of needing repair, such as not cooling your home like it should on hot, summer days, skyrocketing utility bills, or clanking, banging, or rattling sounds, then it’s probably time to start shopping for a replacement. The good news is that depending on the SEER rating of your current system, newer SEER models can save you a lot of money on your energy bill! If your current air conditioner is pretty ancient, then it could be an 8 SEER. Replacing it with a 16 SEER unit would save you nearly 50% on energy costs and significantly reduce your utility bill.

Saving money with your SEER rating


How to Find Your AC Unit’s SEER Rating

To find out the SEER rating of your current split system unit, look for the yellow and black tag stuck to the side of the condenser. You will see the words “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio” and the number underneath is the SEER number. If you can’t find it there, look for a performance information sheet stuck to the front of the air handler on the indoor part of the unit. Most packaged units have the SEER rating listed on the black and yellow “hang tag” located on the outside of the unit. If you’ve looked everywhere and still can’t find your SEER rating, then the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute has a handy directory look up on their website here, where you can put in the make and model of your AC system to find the SEER rating.

Now that you know your current system’s SEER number, you can calculate how much more energy efficient your new air conditioner will be. Chances are, your old unit has a SEER rating that is no longer made or allowed to be made by law. In 2015, the Department of Energy (DOE) mandated that all new air conditioners manufactured in the U.S. be a minimum of 13 SEER for northern states and minimum of 14 SEER for southeastern and southwestern states.

Use the link below to see the SEER Minimums map and discover the government requirements for your state.

Seer Mimimums Map


Why Having an Energy Efficient Air Conditioner Is Important

The U.S. Department of Energy implemented energy conservation standards for air conditioners, and other appliances we typically use on a daily basis, to help save consumers billions of dollars each year and to reduce harmful effects on the environment caused by our energy consumption. According to the DOE’s website, three-quarters of all homes in the U.S. have air conditioners which use close to 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, costing homeowners $29 billion annually. As a result, about 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year.

This is a serious concern because carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that traps heat within the Earth’s atmosphere (for decades, if not centuries!) and contributes more to global warming and climate change than any other green house gas. More and more extreme weather events are being linked to climate change, and the effects of climate change are far-reaching: from rising temperatures causing a shift in precipitation patterns that change the growing patterns of plants threatening wildlife dependent on this source of food, to rising sea levels eroding shorelines and destroying ecosystems, to farms and crops producing lower yields resulting in significant economic losses.

So, limiting CO2 emissions is imperative for protecting the environment and minimizing climate change. Do your part to reduce your carbon footprint by minimizing the amount of energy you waste as much as possible. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs, walk or ride your bike instead of driving a car, take shorter showers, and install an energy-efficient air conditioning system with a high SEER rating.


Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Your New Air Conditioning System

Now that you’ve determined you’re upgrading your current air conditioning system with a more energy-efficient one, and you’ve educated yourself about the different types of central air conditioning systems, there are some important questions you should ask your contractor before your new unit is installed, such as:

  1. What size system do I need to adequately cool my home? Don’t assume the size of the old system is the right size as it may not have been measured properly.
  2. Will the current ductwork suffice? What is the condition of the current ductwork; should the ductwork be cleaned before the new unit is installed?
  3. Are there any rebates, tax credits, or savings incentives for purchasing an energy-efficient system?
  4. What kind of regular maintenance is required? Do you offer a maintenance program?
  5. What type of warranty is there and what does it cover?

With a little bit of AC knowledge and asking the right questions, you will be able to make the best choice in air conditioning systems for your home.

The Top 5 List of SEER Levels You Need to Know

Why SEER Matters

You’ve determined it’s time to replace your air conditioning system and as you begin researching the best new options available, you’re presented with a dizzying array of choices. Terms such as tonnage, SEER, and load capacity are discussed, and you don’t understand any of it, so, you’re just going to trust that the local AC repairman you called is going to sell you the best unit for your home. Hold on…purchasing a new air conditioning system is a huge investment!

Depending on where you live, the lifespan of an AC unit could last 10-15 years. Besides the upfront cost of a new unit and installation, the type of system you purchase will affect your monthly utility bills over the course of that unit’s lifetime. That’s 10 to 15 years’ worth of utility bills coming out of your wallet. The decision to purchase a new AC system is not one to be taken lightly, nor handed over to someone who may not have your best interests at heart.

Doing your due diligence to research the different types of air conditioning units is not only your responsibility as a conscientious consumer, but it’s also not that difficult. Here at, we believe in educating consumers, so they can make the best purchasing decisions for their home and their budget. Continue reading to discover the top five SEER rated AC units.

Saving money with your SEER rating


Where to begin

When shopping for a new air conditioner, you’re going to want to pay attention to the SEER number. SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” which is a measurement of how energy efficient a particular AC system is.  The higher the SEER, the greater its energy efficiency.  The SEER number is important because it’s not only regulated and monitored by the U.S. Department of Energy, with minimum SEER ratings enforced across the nation, but also because the SEER number affects the cost of the unit. The higher the SEER rating, the more expensive the system. However, the higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is and, therefore, the more money you’ll save on utility bills over the lifespan of the unit. But, is the higher upfront cost really worth it? How much does a 16 SEER save over a 13 SEER or a 22 SEER over an 18 SEER?

In order to determine accurate cost savings across various SEER rated units, we simply need to do a little math. When trying to determine the best SEER rating for your home and budget, you’ll need to divide an AC unit’s rated BTUs by its SEER number to figure out how many watts per hour it consumes. It sounds more complicated than it actually is.

First, let’s get some basic definitions out of the way. BTU stands for “British Thermal Unit” and is used to measure heat energy. One BTU is approximately equal to the energy released by burning one match. As it relates to air conditioning, it’s a measurement of how much heat is removed from the air or, in other words, the “cooling power” of an AC unit. A 1-ton AC unit can remove 12,000 BTUs per hour; a 2-ton unit can remove 24,000 BTUs per hour, 3-ton, 36,000 BTUs per hour.  Kilowatt is a measurement of energy typically used by large appliances to measure how much energy they use.

So, back to our formula:


If you’re looking at a 3-ton (36,000 BTUs) AC unit with a 16 SEER rating, divide the number of BTUs by the SEER rating:

36,000 BTUs / 16 = 2,250 watts

Since utility companies bill in increments of 1,000 watts, known as Kilowatt hours (kWh), to get the hourly wattage consumption number from the annual number of hours, we just need to divide 2,400 by 1,000, which equals 2.25 kWh.

36,000 BTUs / 16 = 2,250 (÷1,000) = 2.25 kWh

To determine your annual operating costs with a 16 SEER, you’ll need to know approximately how many hours your AC system is going to operate over the course of a year based on your geographical region. For example, the state of Florida uses an average of 2,800 hours of AC operation a year. Northern states, of course, will have a much lower average.

The next part of the math equation is to take the number of hours of operation and multiply it by the number of kWh consumed per hour (2.25 kWh) to get the annual consumption in Kilowatt hours.


2,800 x 2.25 kWh = 6,300 kWh in annual consumption

Now, it’s just a matter of converting these numbers to dollars to get an idea of the annual cost. If you look at your utility bill, you will be able to determine the total cost per kWh. For Florida residents, the average cost is 11.6 cents per kWh, which we’ll put into our formula as .116.


6,300 kWh x .116 cents = $730.80

The approximate annual cost of a 3-ton 16 SEER unit in Florida is $730.80.

Applying this same formula to the other SEER ratings results in the following costs:

13 SEER = $896.45

14 SEER = $834.74

15 SEER = $779.52

18 SEER = $649.60

22 SEER = $519.68

These saving look impressive and you may want to run out and purchase a 22 SEER, but, remember, the higher the SEER rating, the more expensive the unit. You will have to determine if the initial upfront cost of a more expensive unit will be worth it for you over its lifetime.

Some things to consider would be, do you plan to stay in your home for the next 10-15 years? What is your budget? Do you prefer to pay more now to save more later each month? Is it important to you to have energy efficient appliances to help benefit the environment?

If you only intend to stay in your current home for five years, then comparing prices of different SEER units with the annual operation costs figured out above can help you determine if it’s worth it to have a higher SEER unit. For example, if the total cost including installation fees of a 13 SEER unit is $4,200 and a 14 SEER unit is $5,000, then that’s a difference of $800. When comparing the annual operational costs of the two SEER numbers calculated above, the 14 SEER unit has an annual savings of $61.71 more than a 13 SEER ($896.45 – $834.74). However, if you plan to only be in your home for five years, then the total savings of having a 14 SEER over a 13 SEER is $308.55, meaning you haven’t even recouped half of the increased cost of the 14 SEER yet. However, after 13 years, the extra cost will be recouped.


Higher SEER Rated Units, Are They Right for You?

The minimum standard SEER number for the northern states is 13 and for southern states is 14. Some SEER ratings, however, go as high as 26. Typically, higher SEER units are the best option for those who live in a climate that is hot and humid for most of the year and cutting energy costs is a priority, or for those who are dedicated to helping the environment by reducing carbon emissions with energy efficient appliances. As technology continues to improve, there will no doubt be more efficient models for consumers to choose from.

In fact, according to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which was adopted by the United States in 2009, a framework of upgrades has been laid out that will continue until 2030 requiring manufacturers and installers to use progressively more efficient units. These changes will drive down costs and reduce environmental damage, which benefits everyone.

Therefore, the minimum SEER value will continue to increase, with the next one likely to go into effect in 2023, where northern states must have a minimum of SEER 14 and southern states a minimum of SEER 15.


The Impact of Standardized SEER Ratings

The mandatory upgrade from a SEER 12 to a SEER 13 that took place in 2006 represented a 30% increase in minimum energy efficiency for air conditioners. What does this mean in terms of reduced energy consumption? According to the DOE, 4.2 quadrillion BTUs will be saved between 2006 and 2030 by using a SEER 13 instead of SEER 12. This equates to the amount of annual energy used by 26 million U.S. households, resulting in savings to the consumer of over $1 billion by 2020! Also, the SEER 13 standard has significantly reduced fossil fuel consumption and limited air pollution. Fewer power plants needed to be built due to a SEER 13 standard, which means nitrous oxides emissions and greenhouse gas emissions were significantly reduces. As the minimum standard SEER rating increases, even more savings to the environment and consumers’ wallets will occur.


History of SEER Ratings – We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Before 1980 ———-SEER 6 or less

1980 to 1985 ———SEER 7 or less

1986 to 1991———-SEER 8 or less

1992 to 2005 ———-SEER 10 – SEER 12

2006 to present ——SEER 13 or higher

That’s a lot of energy saved!

How to Determine Your Ideal SEER – 5 Simple Steps That Will Work for You

Think Before You Buy

Breakdown of SEER

The SEER rating on an air conditioning unit is one of the most important factors you should take into account when purchasing a new unit for your home. SEER, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a number that indicates the maximum energy efficiency of a central air conditioning (AC) unit while it operates over a typical “cooling season.” The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is, but also the more expensive up front. Yes, a more energy-efficient system will save you money on your monthly utility bills, and a less-than-honest sales person may convince you the savings are well worth it, but there are a few other things you need to consider in determining your ideal SEER number, in addition to that.

First, it will be useful to understand how a SEER rating is calculated. The total amount of energy output (measured in BTUs) used over the cooling season is divided by the total amount of electrical energy input (measured in watts) that is used. In other words, the amount of energy produced to cool a room to a specific indoor temperature is measured against the amount of energy consumed by the AC unit to create this cooling. This measurement is done under a variety of outdoor temperatures ranging from the 60s to the 100s, with variable humidity levels, while maintaining an indoor temperature of 80°F. The resulting average number is what determines the SEER rating.

Every AC system is tested by the manufacturer according to guidelines stipulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. The whole point of performing a test over time like this, with varying temperature conditions, is to try and gauge how much energy an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) unit consumes when used during a typical summer season in the U.S. However, not all climates are similar across the nation, and a 13 SEER in an arid, hot climate may not be as efficient as a 13 SEER in a milder, moderately warm climate. Similarly, an AC unit’s efficiency will fluctuate based on different weather conditions; how efficiently it runs when it’s 101F outside will differ from how efficiently it runs when it’s 85°F outside. The SEER number is not a constant—rather, it’s the maximum amount of energy efficiency an AC unit can achieve, which means a 16 SEER can reach a maximum operational efficiency of 16 but will sometimes operate at a lower efficiency as well, depending on varying weather conditions.

It’s important to remember that the SEER rating is not a constant value but changes often, much like the MPG of your car changes based on how you drive it. Keep this in mind when you come across a SEER energy savings chart, or one of the many SEER savings calculators you’ll find online. These tools use the maximum SEER number to show you how much energy is being saved, as if an AC unit is going to work at its maximum efficiency 100% of the time, which just isn’t accurate. Also, many of these charts and calculators base their savings percentages on an 8 SEER or a 10 SEER, when you may have a 12 SEER. So, if you see a chart with 50% savings listed above a 16 SEER, then that means a 16 SEER is 50% (at the most)more efficient than an 8 SEER only. If you have a 12 SEER and upgrade to a 16 SEER, you’ll see closer to 25% in energy savings, which is still pretty good.


Determining what is best for your home and budget

Higher SEER units cost more than lower SEER units, but perhaps you like the fact that higher SEER units will not only save you money on your utility bills, but will also reduce energy consumption all around, which is good for the environment, and a higher energy efficient model will reduce your own personal carbon footprint. Now you need to determine the best SEER for your home, your budget, and your lifestyle.

In order to do this, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How long do you plan to stay in your home? Higher SEER models will provide better efficiency, but it could take nine, ten, or more years to recoup the initial cost of the unit. If you plan to move within the next five years, a higher SEER may not be worth it.
  • What is the climate like where you live? If you live in a climate where there are several months that you don’t run your AC, then the yearly savings won’t be as great as if you lived in an extremely hot and humid climate where your AC is constantly running. So, if you use your AC only part of the year, it will take longer to recoup the initial investment of a higher SEER model.
  • What’s your budget? Not just for the cost of the unit, but for the projected costs of maintenance and repair as well? Higher SEER units have components that are usually two to three times more expensive than those used in base models, therefore, repairs will be quite a bit more expensive as well.
  • How important is it to you that your appliances are energy efficient in order to benefit the environment? If this is something you value, then a high SEER unit may be right for you.


5 simple steps to determine your ideal SEER

  1. Repair or Replace: First, determine whether you need a replacement, or if your AC unit can just be repaired. The average life span of an HVAC unit is 15 years (eight-ten years in hotter climates), so if your unit is nearing or has passed that mark, then it’s probably time to replace. Other signs your unit may need replacing include frequent repairs, rising utility bills and inadequate cooling of your home during the summer.
  2. Know the Essentials: Educate yourself on the process of buying an AC and get to know the common terms used when talking about them, especially as it relates to cooling. Besides SEER, other terms you should know are:
  • Air Handler: The part of the central air conditioning system that moves the cooled or heated air through the ducts.
  • Load Calculation: Measurements taken within a structure (such as square footage, insulation, ductwork, etc.) to determine its heat loss and gain so a properly sized unit can be installed.
  • Compressor: Located in the outdoor unit, the compressor circulates refrigerant throughout your AC system.
  • Condenser: A component of the outdoor unit that keeps the refrigerant cool.
  • HVACRefers to Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.
  • EER: Energy Efficiency Rating. A measurement of an AC unit’s energy efficiency under a single set of temperature conditions. The higher the EER, the more efficient it is. Visit our post on SEER to learn more and to read about how SEER and EER differ.
  • Evaporator Coils: Allows for the evaporation of cooling agents from a liquid into a gas, which absorbs heat from the surrounding air in the process.
  • Refrigerant: A chemical used in an air conditioning system that absorbs a lot of heat when it changes from a liquid to a vapor.
  • Tonnage: The cooling capacity of an air conditioner based on a measurement of how much heat an AC unit can remove from a home in one hour. The higher the tonnage, the more cooling capacity a unit has.
    Cooling "Cheat Sheet"
  1. Search Online for Your Model: Look at your current equipment and write down key elements like model number, manufacturer, SEER rating, etc. and perform a Google search on comparable equipment. Read reviews, compare costs, analyze guarantees and research manufacturers to get a better understanding of the investment costs involved and expected energy savings.
  2. System Choice: Is your current system or was your current system operating at a satisfactory level? If you don’t feel your current system is cooling your home adequately during the summer months and your utility bills seem particularly high, then replacing your old unit with a higher SEER unit will save you money and provide better cooling. Even if your unit is a 10 SEER and you upgrade to the minimum-required 13 or 14 (depending on where you live), you will still benefit from significant cost savings.
  3. Review Your Cash Flow: Look at your cash flow – determine whether you want to invest now or spend the money over the lifetime of the equipment. Spending more money upfront on a high SEER unit will result in lower monthly utility bills over the lifetime of the unit, but it could take years before the initial cost is recouped. If you’d rather pay more now to save more later, than a high SEER unit is a wise choice.


Common questions/FAQs about SEER

  1. Are higher SEER units better made?
    Base models, such as 13 SEER and 14 SEER systems, are made with the same quality equipment as higher SEER units. When you pay extra for a high SEER system, you’re paying for increased efficiency only, not better quality.
  2. Will the minimum-required SEER rating continue to increase?
    As technology improves and manufacturers continue making higher SEER models, it’s likely that every several years or so, the minimum SEER rating will increase. In fact, there is a proposal to increase the current 13 and 14 SEER minimum to 14 and 15 by 2023. Increasing the energy efficiency of all appliances is a move in the right direction for the environment and for consumers.
  3. How can I find out the minimum SEER rating for my state?
    Click here for this informative brochure by the U.S. Department of Energy.
  4. Are there rebate incentives for higher SEER units?
    Yes, higher SEER units typically come with incentives and/or rebates offered by federal, state, and local governments. Many utility companies offer rebates as well.
  5. Do I have to upgrade my unit to the minimum SEER now?
    No, if your older model is still working fine, then you do not need to replace it. However, it’s important to note that your old unit is likely going to cost you more to operate than a newer, more energy-efficient model would.
  6. What is a good SEER rating?
    14 and 16 SEER are good ratings for most people. Of course, everybody is different and certain factors such as personal lifestyle choices, concern for the environment, budget, and local climate should be considered. You can find 14 and 16 SEER systems that are well-made, energy efficient units that are both good for the environment and good for your wallet.

Simplifying SEER and Understanding Your HVAC Unit

Family Hugging


The Definition of SEER

What is SEER? The short and simple explanation of SEER is that it’s a number assigned to an AC unit indicating its energy efficiency. The higher the SEER number, the more energy efficient the system is, which is important because an energy-efficient unit will not only reduce your monthly utility bills, but will also reduce your carbon footprint, thereby benefitting the environment. Naturally, then, it would make sense to purchase an AC unit with the highest SEER rating available, right? Well, not necessarily. As we explain a little more about the SEER rating, you’ll understand why a high-rated SEER unit may not be the right one for you.


S-E-E-R – Breaking it down

SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.” The key word to remember in this acronym is “Seasonal,” as the SEER number is determined by measuring an AC unit’s efficiency as it operates over a period of time with varying degrees of temperature and humidity levels, which mimic a typical summer season for most areas in the U.S. This is typically referred to as the “cooling season.”

SEER ratings are calculated by measuring the amount of cooling provided (energy output, measured in BTU’s), during a cooling season and dividing it by the amount of energy consumed (energy input, measured in watts), over this same period of time. An AC unit that uses less energy to produce the same amount of cooling than another unit over the cooling season, operates more efficiently and will have a higher SEER number. Of course, the higher the SEER number, the more expensive the unit, but oftentimes the savings recouped from a more energy-efficient unit make up for the higher upfront cost. For example, if you replace a SEER 10 unit with a SEER 13 unit, then the same amount of cooling will be produced while using 30% less energy! That’s a 30% reduction in harmful emissions and a 30% reduction in your utility bill.  If you have a unit with a SEER rating that’s less than 10, and you upgrade to a SEER 13, or higher, then the energy and cost savings will be even greater.

When shopping for a new AC unit, the SEER rating is an important piece of information that allows you to compare the energy efficiency of air conditioners and help determine an AC unit’s approximate annual operating costs.



Oftentimes alongside the SEER rating, you will see an EER rating. EER stands for “Energy Efficiency Ratio” and is a number that measures an AC unit’s energy efficiency at a specific temperature, instead of over a period of time with different temperatures (hence, no “S” for seasonal). EER was created in 1975 by the Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) as a way of measuring the cooling efficiency of HVAC units. To determine the EER rating, the amount of cooling provided (energy output) is divided by the amount of energy consumed (energy input) while operating under a singular set of weather conditions, which is typically an outdoor temperature of 95°F, an indoor temperature of 80°F, and a humidity level around 50%.

Realizing that the EER rating doesn’t take into account certain variables, such as seasonal weather fluctuations and the resulting heat loss or gain that occurs when a system frequently cycles on and off, the SEER rating was developed in 1978 to more accurately gauge a unit’s efficiency during a typical summer season. The SEER rating, then, differs from an EER rating in that it is an average calculated over time; SEER is a measurement of an AC unit’s efficiency as it maintains a constant indoor temperature over the course of a cooling season with varying outdoor temperatures ranging from a low of 65°F to a high of 104°F with humidity levels ranging from 30% to 80%.

Just as with SEER ratings, a high EER rating indicates a more energy-efficient system and is a useful way to determine the efficiency of an AC unit when comparing across brands. However, the SEER number is a better indicator of an AC unit’s overall operational cost as it takes into account how well the unit works under a variety of weather conditions over the course of typical year. Just remember to always compare one unit’s EER to another’s EER, and SEER number to SEER number when looking at multiple units.



SEER by the Numbers (13/14 SEER, 16 SEER, 18 SEER, 21 SEER)

As previously mentioned, a SEER 10 unit replaced with a SEER 13 unit results in a 30% energy savings. What if you wanted to go even higher? Below is an example of the potential energy savings and cost savings of replacing a SEER 10 unit with a higher SEER-rated unit.

Based on a 3-ton AC with a SEER 10 rating that consumes around $1,323 in electricity per year:

  • A SEER 18 unit will produce 44% in energy savings per year and consume around $735 in electricity per year.
  • A SEER 21 unit will produce 52% in energy saving per year and consume around $630 in electricity per year.
  • A SEER 25 unit will produce 60% in energy savings per year and consume around $529 in electricity per year.

Increasing Your Savings With SEER


What does SEER have to do with MPG?

It’s important to note that an AC unit’s SEER rating represents the maximum efficiency of that particular unit. This means that an AC unit with a SEER 22 rating can reach an efficiency level as high as 22, but may not always operate at a 22. So, just like Miles Per Gallon (MPG), which is used to measure the gas efficiency of a car, the higher the MPG rating, the more miles per gallon you can get out of it; but only when it’s being driven under ideal travel conditions (good weather, safe speeds, level ground, etc.). If, on the other hand, you drive your 36 MPG rated car like one of the characters from the Fast and the Furious, then your car’s average MPG number will be much lower, perhaps in the 20s.

There are things you can do to help your AC unit run at its most efficient rating, such as maintaining a regular temperature in your home, keeping the air filters clean, and checking for leaks in the ductwork.


Benefits and Regulation

Created and regulated by the Department of Energy in 2008, the SEER rating helps consumers cut down on energy consumption and costs while providing better cooling for their home. Also, by raising the minimum SEER rating across the U.S., the depletion of natural resources will be reduced as will the emission of harmful gases into the environment. It is required by law that all central air conditioning units be evaluated, rated, and assigned a SEER number by the manufacturer in accordance with efficiency tests stipulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.


FTC and the US Department of Energy

In 2015, the DOE established new minimum efficiency ratings for three different portions of the U.S. – the North, the South, and the Southwest. For new central air conditioners manufactured and sold in the warmer, southern regions, the minimum SEER was raised to 14. For northern regions, the minimum remains a SEER 13. The standard SEER breakdown across the nation is as follows:

SEER 13 minimum: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming

SEER 14 minimum: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

It is not required that consumers immediately upgrade to a more efficient unit, rather the minimum rating only applies to new units being manufactured and sold in the U.S. after January 2015.

Also, the Federal Trade Commission’s EnergyGuide label (the yellow “hang tag” attached to heating and cooling systems), will now display a range of numbers representing the lowest and highest SEER rating for split-system air conditioners, instead of a single rating.


Types of AC

Now that you know about SEER and EER ratings and how they relate to an AC unit’s efficiency, understanding the different types of air conditioning systems available will help you decide which option is the best one for your home.

Window Units: Also known as “room air conditioners,” this type of system contains all the necessary AC components (compressor, condenser, evaporator, and cooling coil) into a single box that is placed either in a window or wall of a room. Blowing cool air directly into a room, this type of system is effective for cooling small spaces and homes. Window units only have an EER rating.

Central Air Conditioners: Distributing cooled air via a system of ducts, Central AC systems work best for larger homes and buildings.The two most common types of Central Air Conditioning systems are split or packaged units.

Split systems: A split system has an indoor component, which includes the evaporator coil and blower, and an outdoor component, which includes the condenser coils, condensing fan, and the compressor housed in a metal case. This type of system is economical because it shares the ductwork used by the heating system.

Packaged units: A packaged unit is usually located outdoors and combines the evaporator coil, condenser, and compressor into a single cabinet. Air is drawn from the inside through ducts in the wall or roof and returned, cooled, to the inside of the house. Packaged units also typically include heating coils eliminating the need for a separate indoor furnace.

Ductless Mini-Split Systems: Ideal for houses with no ductwork, the mini-split system uses tubing to combine the outside compressor and condenser to indoor air-handling units, which are typically mounted high on a room’s interior wall and circulates the cooled air with a fan. Each room, however, will have its own air handler, much like a window unit, with the ability to cool a room to a temperature different from other surrounding rooms.

When determining the type of air conditioning system for your home, it’s important you choose a system that’s best fits the size of your home. A system that is too large or too small will not adequately cool or dehumidify your home.


Getting Another Bid

Now that you have a better understanding of how the SEER rating can affect your energy savings and reduce your monthly utility bill, it’s important to shop around to find the lowest-priced air conditioning system with your ideal SEER number. Don’t accept the first bid you come across – get another one, and another one still from a variety of AC retailers, including online retailers. You will be shocked at just how much money you can save by cutting out the “middle man” and ordering your new AC unit online. Check out these lowest-guaranteed prices here!

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