What Are SEER Ratings and What Do They Mean for Your AC?
The summers in Sugar Land can be absolutely brutal due to the high temperatures and extreme humidity, and this can make it a nightmare if you don’t have working air conditioning in your home. When shopping for a new air conditioner, your primary goal is surely to find a unit that can effectively keep your home cool. That being said, you probably also want to know how much you can expect to pay in energy costs, and this will be determined by both the size and energy efficiency of the unit. The energy efficiency of central air conditioners, ductless mini-split ACs and heat pumps is measured using the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating scale, and here is a handy guide to help you understand exactly what these SEER numbers mean and how they are calculated.
What Is SEER?
SEER is a rating scale that is designed to estimate approximately how much energy a central air conditioner or other cooling unit will use on average over the course of the entire summer. Measuring the energy efficiency of furnaces and heating equipment is simple as the unit will always function at exactly the same efficiency level as long as it is working correctly.
Measuring the energy efficiency of an air conditioner, on the other hand, isn’t quite as easy. This is because the amount of energy the unit uses can fluctuate quite dramatically depending on the outdoor temperature and humidity level. This makes it nearly impossible to take a snapshot of the actual energy efficiency since it can change quite a lot from day to day and even hour to hour. The SEER rating scale was developed to overcome these issues and allow consumers to more easily compare the energy usage of different AC units.
How SEER Ratings Are Calculated
Before SEER ratings are calculated, an air conditioner is first tested to determine approximately how much energy it will consume over the course of an average cooling season. To determine this, the unit is run under a variety of conditions to simulate an average summer. The unit is subjected to a variety of humidity levels and temperatures ranging between 60 and 100 degrees to better estimate how much energy it will use in a single cooling season. The SEER rating is then calculated by dividing how many BTUs (British Thermal Units) of cooling it produces by the total energy consumption based on the earlier testing.
All this being said, it is important to note that SEER is merely an average of the total energy consumption. The fact that the summers in Texas are so hot and humid means that your air conditioner is likely to use much more energy than what the average of the testing showed. Nonetheless, SEER is still a useful way to compare the energy efficiency of different models, and it can also be used to get a rough estimate of how much money you can save by choosing a higher SEER model.
The EPA and other organizations have numerous tools available online that allow you to estimate your annual cooling costs based on location and different SEER ratings. This can be extremely useful as it makes it easy to compare the energy savings of a higher SEER model against how much extra the more efficient model costs. In this way, you can easily determine whether the energy savings of the higher SEER unit will offset the additional purchase price or if you’re better going with a lower SEER unit.
What SEER Rating Is the Best Choice for My Home?
Deciding what SEER rating is best for your house comes down to determining what your main priorities are and how much you’re willing to spend on the new AC unit. While a unit with a lower SEER rating will have a smaller upfront cost, it could still end up costing you more over the life of the unit due to the increased amount of energy it will use.
Currently, the minimum rating required by federal law for Texas and all of the southern US for residential cooling equipment is 14 SEER, and this is set to rise to 15 SEER at the start of 2023. Although 14 SEER is the minimum, this doesn’t mean that it is a bad choice. In fact, it rarely makes sense to choose the model with the highest available SEER ratings since they tend to be quite a bit more expensive. The only exception is if you’re trying to make your home as environmentally as possible and you don’t mind paying extra to do so since the energy savings will generally never offset the higher purchase price. This is why most homeowners usually go with something at the lower or middle of the range as these units will generally provide the best value for your money.
It is also worth noting that even the most basic 14 SEER air conditioner will still likely use less energy than your current unit. This is especially true if your unit is more than 10 or 15 years old since air conditioners tend to become less and less efficient as they age. In fact, this is likely to be true even if your current unit is only 8 years old. The reason is that prior to 2015, the minimum rating required across the country was only 13 SEER. If your current AC was installed before 2006, there is a chance that it is only 10 SEER as this was the minimum back then.
Compared to a 10 SEER AC unit, even a 14 SEER model can save you quite a bit on your energy bills. The EPA estimates that switching from a 10 SEER to a 14 SEER air conditioner can lower your annual cooling costs by 30%, and a 20 SEER unit could cut your energy costs in half.
Most residential central ACs and heat pumps are between 14 and 22 SEER, but there are some extremely efficient models that go as high as 27 SEER. Ductless mini-split air conditioners are generally quite a bit more energy efficient than central ACs with the average being around 20 SEER and some models going well above 30 SEER.
If you’re struggling to decide what SEER rating is best for your home, the expert cooling technicians at Custom Comfort Air in Sugar Land can evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and cooling needs to make it easier to choose the best option. We are a Lennox Premier Dealer, and we carry a range of AC units ideally suited for both large and small homes.
If you’re experiencing any issues with your current AC unit, we can also inspect it to determine whether it makes more sense to repair it or replace it with a new unit. Our technicians work on all types and brands of cooling and heating equipment, and we also offer numerous solutions that can help you improve your home’s indoor air quality including air scrubbers and air purification and air filtration systems. No matter what type of AC service you need, give us a call to enjoy the cool, comfortable home you and your family deserve.