Your Guide to Understanding SEER Ratings

SEER Rating in Kirkland, WA

If you’ve ever looked at an air conditioner’s specifications, you might’ve noticed the SEER rating. This little number has a big impact on how your air conditioner unit runs. What is a SEER rating and why do they matter? Keep reading to learn more about what this rating means and how it affects your HVAC system.

What Does SEER Mean?

When HVAC experts talk about SEER ratings, they are referring to the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is a special type of efficiency measurement that helps you see just how much energy a machine is using. A SEER rating is only used for air conditioners. If it is attached to an HVAC system that heats and cools, the SEER rating only measures the efficiency of the machine while it is cooling. SEER ratings are used on all sorts of cooling products. Standard electric air conditioners, window units, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits will all have a SEER rating.

As you can probably tell from the name, SEER ratings are calculated with a ratio formula. Experts start by looking at the air conditioner’s cooling output over a typical cooling season. In lab settings, manufacturers will run the air conditioner at a consistent temperature setting while outdoor temperatures vary from 60 degrees to 104 degrees. After monitoring the system for several weeks, they then divide the cooling output by the amount of energy the air conditioner uses.

Essentially, a SEER rating tells you just how much energy your air conditioner will need to maintain an indoor temperature while outside temperatures fluctuate. Since this rating monitors a system for a lengthy period of time, it provides a very accurate look at how well the air conditioner functions in day-to-day life.

The Difference Between SEER, EER, and HSPF

Since SEER and EER sound so similar and are both efficiency measurements, they frequently get confused. However, SEER and EER are actually two very different things. EER stands for the Energy Efficiency Rating of an air conditioner. Manufacturers calculated the EER by running the air conditioner in an environment that is always at 95 degrees. Then they divide the input electrical power by the machine’s cooling capacity.

This means that the main difference between SEER and EER is the air conditioner’s ability to handle temperature fluctuations. EER tells you just how efficient the air conditioner could be at peak conditions. Meanwhile, SEER tells you the machine’s efficiency in a normal cooling environment. Ultimately, EER is useful for figuring out how efficient a machine is when it runs nonstop. However, if you plan on having an air conditioner that turns on and off throughout the day, the SEER rating is more useful.

Another common energy efficiency rating you need to be aware of is HSPF. These two ratings are incredibly similar because they both look at a machine’s energy usage over an entire season of usage. However, HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, and it is used to measure the efficiency of a heater. HVAC units that both heat and cool your home will have both a SEER rating and an HSPF rating. Though these ratings are calculated the same way, they are not identical. One machine can have both a great SEER and a poor HSPF simultaneously.

Why Is SEER Important?

The energy efficiency of your HVAC system is definitely worth paying attention to. A higher-efficiency machine will use less energy to cool down your home. For most homeowners, the main perk of using less energy is that you save money. You’ll spend significantly less on your energy bills while still being able to enjoy a comfortable home. Furthermore, high-SEER air conditioners are more eco-friendly. Since there is a big demand for environmentally-conscious homes right now, a high-SEER system can boost your home value.

A system’s efficiency also provides you details on how well it runs. If a machine has a high SEER rating, this means it handles temperature fluctuations well. It might be able to adjust temperatures more quickly, and you are less likely to feel discomfort in extreme weather.

The SEER rating is particularly good for comparing different models while you shop for air conditioners. You can look at a variety of machines and quickly determine which one will be the most efficient. Even if you are looking at different styles of air conditioners, the SEER makes it easy to find an efficient model.

How to Interpret SEER Ratings

When it comes to figuring out what a SEER rating means, the most important thing to know is that higher is better. Hypothetically, the SEER scale runs from around five to 22. However, most modern air conditioners occupy a narrower range.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the minimum SEER requirement for most modern air conditioners is 13. You can occasionally find older models with a SEER of around eight, but this is fairly rare by now. Once a model is rated as 16 or higher, it is usually considered to be a high-efficiency machine. Most AC manufacturers produce air conditioners with a SEER rating of up to 18 or 20. Occasionally, you can find extremely efficient air conditioners with a SEER of up to 22.

Should You Get a High-SEER AC Unit?

There are plenty of reasons to be interested in higher-SEER air conditioners. If you have an older air conditioner, you could potentially cut your cooling costs in half with a new machine that has a higher SEER. However, if cost is your main concern, you will need to keep in mind that a higher SEER rating often means a higher price tag.

Once you get above 18 SEER or so, air conditioners can get very pricey. Manufacturing such a high-efficiency product is tricky, and manufacturers do charge quite a bit more. Furthermore, energy savings gradually drop off as SEER levels rise. For example, the jump from a 10 SEER unit to a 14 SEER unit results in higher savings than the jump from an 18 SEER unit to a 22 SEER unit. At a certain point, the higher cost of purchasing the machine can offset the energy savings you get.

Therefore, it is a good idea to consider your energy preferences and cooling needs carefully. Getting an air conditioner with a SEER of around 16 to 18 can provide you with significant savings without having high installation costs. Don’t forget that there are a lot of other ways to make your system more efficient too. Things like cleaning your ducts can help your HVAC system run as efficiently as possible.

If you are ready to improve your air conditioner’s energy efficiency, Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning is happy to assist you. Our team provides reliable installations, repairs, and maintenance for all sorts of heating and cooling systems. In addition to our Kirkland HVAC services, we also help homeowners manage their electrical systems and water heaters. To find out more about all our services, give us a call today.