SEER? What Does That Mean?

An HVAC technician working on an AC unit

Ever look at one of those yellow Energy Guide stickers when you are buying a new appliance? Not certain what they mean? On air conditioners, one of the most important items on the sticker is the "Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating," or "SEER."

 

If you are buying a new air conditioner, you might have questions about what SEER means. You might also want to know how SEER affects the costs of running a new unit. Here are several of the most common questions consumers have about SEER.

What is SEER?

As mentioned above, SEER means "Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating." In general, the higher a SEER rating, the more efficient the unit will be in cooling down your house. A SEER rating is calculated by comparing the cooling output of the system to the amount of energy used. Under the same conditions, an air conditioning unit with a higher SEER will use less energy that one with a lower SEER.  

How does SEER affect my costs?

Higher SEER numbers affect costs in two ways. An air conditioner with a higher SEER often costs more than similar units with a lower SEER. However, air conditioners with a higher SEER use less energy, which can reduce energy bills. As a result, you may pay more upfront for a unit with a higher SEER but may save thousands of dollars during the lifetime of the air conditioner. 

It may also be a reason to change your current air conditioner. If your current air conditioner has a very low SEER or is breaking down, replacing it with a new air conditioner with a higher SEER may save you money. 

So this means I should buy an air conditioner unit with the highest SEER rating?

Not always. SEER tells you the unit's maximum potential. Even though your air conditioning unit may have a SEER of 20, it might run closer to a 15 on some days and 19 on others. It's similar to a car's miles per gallon. While your car may have a high mile per gallon rating, it always isn't running that high. Depending on how fast you are driving or how much you are starting or stopping, your miles per gallon will constantly change.    

SEER works similarly. Your air conditioner's performance is affected by many different factors and can vary throughout the day. Depending on those factors, it might not be worth spending the extra money on an air conditioning unit with a higher SEER that cannot work to its full potential.

What factors affect the SEER level of my air conditioner?

There are many different factors. One major factor is how often you maintain your air conditioning unit. Dirty filters and clogged outdoor units work less efficiently and can lower your SEER. Not repairing worn down or broken parts may also reduce efficiency. 

In addition, environmental factors can affect SEER. Air conditioners located in Florida, where there is more heat and humidity, will need to work much harder than an air conditioning unit located in the Northeast part of the United States. The size of your house and the amount of sunlight your house gets also will affect efficiency. In addition, the amount of time you run your air conditioner and your personal comfort level will play a role.     

How do I figure out the most efficient air conditioner unit for my house? 

There is no "one size fits all" choice for air conditioners. Choosing the right air conditioner for your house involves a lot of different factors. The size of your house and your own personal habits in using an air conditioner will play a huge role. In addition to considering how efficient you want an air conditioning unit, you need to consider other factors, such as cost and reliability.

If you are interested in knowing what is the right air conditioner for you, contact American Air Cares, for professional HVAC service in Palm City, Stuart, Ft. Pierce and surrounding areas. Our experienced technicians can discuss your options and help you find the most efficient air conditioning unit for your house.