Every year, homeowners try to get one last summer out of their aging air conditioners before replacing them. Some make it, others don’t. If you’re ever the unlucky one, you’ll need to find a replacement fast -- you can only sweat it out for so long! So it’s important to understand one of the key data points when picking out a new system -- the SEER rating.
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. An air conditioner’s SEER rating is a numerical representation of the amount of cooling power produced per unit of electricity. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system. The more efficient the system, the lower the monthly power bill.
The SEER rating for any given air conditioning system should be easy to find. It will be in the product specs when shopping online, and any HVAC professional will have that information if you’re shopping via a personal consultation. When shopping at retail, just look for the yellow and black sticker that says “Energy Guide.”
All SEER ratings will be at least 13 -- that’s the current federal minimum. In the hottest regions, the minimum is 14. SEER ratings go as high as 25, but you’ll notice as you shop that higher SEER ratings generally mean higher prices.
The SEER rating is just one of many factors to consider when it comes to finding an air conditioning system that is a good value for your home and budget. Even though the upfront cost is higher, long-term operating costs will be lower -- so more efficient systems can be a good choice if you’re able to pay cash or secure good financing. If high financing rates threaten to wipe out your energy savings, you could be better off with a cheaper, less-efficient system.
Calculate Your Savings
If the SEER rating seems too abstract and you want a better estimate of what a particular air conditioner might cost to operate, you can turn to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has created a series of free, downloadable energy efficiency calculators that you can use to make more informed purchase decisions and anticipate costs down the road.
And if you find an energy efficient model that works for your needs and budget, be sure to use the EPA’s rebate finder to search for valuable rebates available in your area. Local utilities and government agencies sometimes offer these rebates to encourage energy efficiency upgrades.
Whether you’re currently in the market for a new air conditioning system or you just want to plan ahead for your next replacement, you can always count on your local HVAC experts to give you detailed information and professional service.