You often see that an air conditioning appliance has a SEER rating of “X” or people brag that they use air conditioners with a SEER rating of “X” in their construction. Do you really know what that means, though? It all sounds great, but if you don’t know the logic behind it, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it is a measurement that is used to calculate the energy efficiency of your air conditioning system. It was defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. The scale of the rating goes from 8-23. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient your system is. The rating is calculated by dividing the cooling output (in Btu’s) by the total electric energy input (in watt-hours) within a period of time during a typical cooling season environment. The consistency of the ratings is ensured by conducting the tests of the equipment in a laboratory that mimics the exact set of indoor and outdoor conditions specified by the U.S. Department of Energy.
There is another measurement for the efficiency of your air conditioning unit, and it is called the EER (Energy Efficiency Ration); however, the SEER is specifically tailored to tell you what the efficiency of your unit is on a seasonal basis, rather than peak day operations. As of January 2006, all residential air conditioning units sold in the United States must have a SEER of at least 13. ENERGY STAR equipment, however, must have a SEER rating of at least 14 in order to be qualified. Window air conditioning units are exempt from SEER regulations, so you may see some of these units around with a SEER rating of as low as 9!
Newer equipment have higher SEER ratings, and provide substantial energy savings. By switching from a unit that had a SEER rating of 9 to a unit that has a SEER rating of 13, your power consumption is reduced by 30%! In some areas, this continual type of savings on energy bills can actually pay for the equipment itself. The SEER rating will have more significance to those that live in more extreme climates. For example, if you live in an area that is extremely hot 6-7 months out of the year, as opposed to an area that is somewhat hot for a period of 4-6 months, your SEER rating should be more of a concern.
However, SEER ratings don’t always guarantee maximum efficiency. Your system is only as good as the bells and whistles behind it. If your duct system isn’t engineered properly, you won’t have maximum air flow, which directly effects your efficiency. If your ducts and vents aren’t maintained properly (i.e. cleaned), then you will also reduce the effectiveness of your unit.
When purchasing a home, looking to buy an air conditioning unit, or looking to upgrade your existing unit, remember to closely evaluate the system’s SEER and EER ratings to get maximum energy savings.