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Central Air Efficiency - AC SEER Ratings

If you’ve done any shopping for air conditioners recently, you’ve probably run across the term SEER score. So what is a SEER rating? First of all, SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is more or less self-explanatory. This AC SEER rating describes how efficiently your air conditioner or heat pump can cool your home. Higher ratings are better; that is, the higher the score, the less electricity your air conditioner will use to provide the same amount of cooling power.

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AC SEER ratings meaning

SEER ratings have increased quite substantially over the last few decades. Back in the 1970s, for instance, the average air conditioner was SEER 6. Today, the bare minimum is 9.7 for single-package systems and 10 for mini-split air conditioning systems. The AC SEER rating of a 20-year old air conditioner is therefore likely to be quite low, meaning it struggles to cool your home in an efficient manner and will use more energy.

If you’re serious about saving money, though, there are plenty of air conditioning systems available with substantially higher AC SEER ratings. Top-of-the-line central air conditioners can get up to SEER 20, and ductless split systems can go even higher. Replacing your air conditioner with a more efficient model is a powerful way to save electricity; for instance, upgrading from an older SEER 9 air conditioning system to a high-efficiency SEER 18 AC unit will cut your energy usage in half. Here’s an AC SEER rating chart to help you visualize the relation between electricity costs and HVAC efficiency ratings:
AC SEER rating chart - AC efficiency vs electricity costs

As you can tell from the SEER chart, the higher your AC’s SEER rating, the less you will spend on energy costs per year as it represents your HVAC efficiency rating. You might therefore consider getting a slightly more expensive AC unit with a higher rating in order to save more money in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to find SEER rating on your air conditioning

The AC SEER rating can usually be found on your cooling system directly, on a black and yellow sticker located either on the side or on the back of the unit. It will then display in large numbers what your SEER rating is.

How efficient is your Air conditioner

Every air conditioner has a nominal AC SEER rating provided by the manufacturer, but because no two homes are alike, your energy performance may vary. Depending on the local climate, home layout, quality of ductwork, and insulation, your actual efficiency may be higher or lower than the unit’s HVAC efficiency rating. When we install an air conditioner or heat pump in your home, our team of air conditioner technicians will analyze your cooling situation and give you an actual SEER rating that will describe your air conditioner’s performance specific to your home.

The good news is that because SEER depends on more than the air conditioner itself, there are steps you can take to improve your energy efficiency without replacing your air conditioner. Adding more insulation to your home can help, as can having your ducts sealed. Even steps as simple as making sure the outdoor HVAC unit is in the shade, which makes it easier for the air conditioner to remove heat from the home, can change your HVAC efficiency ratings. We’ll be happy to help you optimize your home for highly efficient cooling.

Is a Higher SEER rating better?

Yes, absolutely. An air conditioning unit with an AC SEER rating of 18 will be much more efficient than one with a rating of 11 and will result in significant energy savings as well. When shopping for a new air conditioning unit, look out for the SEER rating. A higher-rated AC system might represent a bigger investment at first, but is easily balanced out by energy savings in the long term.

What is a good SEER rating?

Wondering what SEER rating should you get? Know that, in general, the highest SEER rating is always the better energy-efficient air conditioning but it also usually represents quite the investment. Aim for an air conditioner with at least a rating of 13 or 14 as anything less might end up costing you more money on the long term than you would save by buying a more energy-efficient model.

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