The seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, is the primary guideline to evaluate the efficiency of central air conditioners. When shopping for a new unit, SEER ratings are an important tool to compare the relative efficiency of different makes and models. The SEER rating for a central air conditioner is a two-digit number prominently displayed on the Department of Energy’s EnergyGuide sticker affixed to every unit, as well as included in the manufacturer’s specifications.
The SEER Calculation
SEER represents the ratio between the BTUs of heat energy an air conditioner removes from the air, also known as capacity, and the amount of electricity it consumes during the same time span. The rating is determined by laboratory tests that evaluate an air conditioner’s performance across a range of simulated outdoor temperatures from 75 degrees to over 100 degrees. These results are averaged over the length of a typical cooling season to arrive at a final SEER determination.
Minimum SEER ratings are federally mandated. Beginning earlier this year, SEER minimums are now keyed to geographical zone. Here in Florida in the southern zone, the SEER minimum has recently been increased to 14. As SEER climbs, efficiency rises proportionately. A new SEER 14 air conditioner today is about 40 percent more energy efficient than a SEER 10 unit from the 1990s.
Units with SEER ratings ranging above 20 are available, but increased efficiency comes at a substantially steeper sticker price. Though lower operating costs begin compensating for that higher initial investment immediately, the length of time before full payback occurs depends on additional factors like the overall efficiency of your home, how many hours a day you typically run the A/C, and the length of the cooling season in your area. A qualified HVAC contractor can clarify these variables and help you make the best choice.
For more information on seasonal energy efficiency ratio, check out Senica Air Conditioning, Inc.’s cooling solutions, or call 866-881-5935.