What SEER Rating Should I Buy?

Homeowners today are keen to have appliances and home fixtures that conserve energy. So now, consumers have to understand the SEER rating for air conditioning units. The U.S. government introduced a standard, mandating that residential A/C systems made after 2005 should have a SEER rating of 13 as the minimum. The regulation was further amended in January 2015, stating that the minimum rating of 14 is required for air conditioners that will be used for Southeastern and Southwestern states that have hotter climates.

What is SEER and where do I find it?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. If you’re asking yourself, “what seer rating should I buy?” just keep in mind a higher rating means it is more energy-efficient. An A/C with a 16 SEER rating will use less electricity than one with a 14 SEER rating. Every new air conditioning unit comes with a yellow Energy Guide sticker. The SEER rating is indicated there, included in the model number. An air conditioning unit with a SEER rating of 13 will have a model number that starts with 13AC.

When making a decision on what SEER rating to buy for your Air Conditioner, remember that the higher SEER rating is equivalent to higher efficiency. Of course, this comes with a corresponding price. You will definitely spend more on A/C units with higher SEER ratings. Currently, the highest rating is 25, while the minimum is 13 or 14.

What SEER rating is Suitable For Me?

There are many factors to consider in determining what A/C SEER rating is suitable for your house. First thing is the location of your residence, followed by the climate in your area and inside your home, the size of your air conditioning unit and how long and how often you will be using the air conditioning unit each day.

When you are ready to purchase your next air conditioning unit, the SEER rating will be a key decision that impacts your initial cost. It can be difficult to make the right choice if the salesperson wants to ring up the sale and bombard you with all kinds of information. Most likely you will receive biased information because the store is pushing some particulars brands. This is one of the reasons why it is best to get in touch with a trusted A/C service company like Fischer Heating and Air Conditioning. We provide installation, repair, and maintenance and will give you the straight scoop on SEER ratings. You can be sure of getting the right information, the right choices, the right type of service, and a fair price.

If you intend to shop for a new air conditioning unit on your own, here are a few tips on how to compute the right SEER rating for you before you go to the store.

Simply put, you have to do some simple math computation.

Computation and comparison

The formula to find the most efficient air conditioning unit for you is to divide the BTUs by the SEER rating. Then divide again by 1000 to get the kWh (kilowatt-hour) you will use per hour. Multiply this by the annual average hours of operation. Multiply the product by the cost of the Kwh of the A/C unit. The computation will reveal how long it will take you to recover your investment on a unit with a higher SEER rating

As an example, let us compare two units – an A/C with a SEER rating of 13 and one rated 16 to see which SEER rating you should buy.



36000 BTU / 13 SEER = 2769 watts 36000 BTU / 16 SEER = 2250 watts
2769 watts / 1000 = 2.8 Kwh (round off) 2250 watts / 1000 = 2.25 kwh
2500* hours p.a. / 2.8 Kwh = 7000 Kwh 2500* hours p.a. x 2.25 Kwh = 5625 Kwh
7000 Kwh x .147 (per Kwh) = $1029** annually 5625 Kwh x .147 (per Kwh) = $827** annually
* ave. hours of A/C operation annually * ave. hours of A/C operation annually
** annual cost of operating a 13SEER ** annual cost of operating a 16SEER

Find the difference between the annual costs:

$1,029 – $827 = $202

Moving on, let us assume that a 13SEER A/C costs $4,200, while a 16SEER unit has a price tag of $6,000. Again you subtract the lower from the higher cost to get the difference, therefore:

$6,000 – $4,200 = $1,800

Divide the difference in cost by the difference in annual Kwh cost:

$1,800 / $202 = 8.9 years  – this represents the number of years it will take to realize your ROI (return on investment) for the air conditioning unit with the higher SEER rating.

Things you should know about SEER ratings

As a homeowner, you want to save as much as you can. So whether you are replacing your old air conditioning unit or planning to have a new system installed, here are some things you should know regarding SEER rating and how it can help you save on energy costs.

1. You can compare cooling costs

The cooling power of an air conditioner is defined in British Thermal Units or BTUs/hour. When energy was still cheap, homeowners based their choice of air conditioners on their cooling power. Today, with the energy costs going up, homeowners are more concerned about how much energy is consumed to cool a home. With SEER ratings, a buyer can easily compare the different A/C models’ operating costs. Generally, the more energy-efficient system has a higher rating.

There will be a price jump as the SEER rating goes higher. But the unit will pay for itself in a few years through the savings on your energy costs.

2. Minimum SEER rating differ by location

More than a decade ago, many air conditioning systems have between 8 to 10 SEER ratings. As technology continues to improve, the minimum SEER rating was about 13 SEER in 2015. Today, the SEER rating is based on the region, as the standard considered the environment, weather, and other conditions that affect the average heating/cooling needs of households in specific regions.

3. Standardized tests are the basis for SEER ratings

The standard efficiency test developed by the Department of Energy is used to rate every air conditioner. The test assumes that the indoor temperature is 80 °F, the relative humidity indoor is 50% and the outdoor temperature is 82 °F. Based on the rating the test arrives at, and A/C with a 15 SEER rating will be 60% more efficient.

However, the efficiency of your system also depends on your location, the condition of your ductwork, and your home insulation.

4. SEER ratings go lower with time

The efficiency of your air conditioning system becomes lower as the unit gets older, which also decreases its SEER rating. Regular maintenance can extend your system’s lifespan and lower your energy consumption by about 40%.

Admittedly, air conditioning units with higher SEER ratings will provide energy savings and have an efficient operation. However, it is better to consider how long it will take before you realize the savings against the cost of the unit. So when you’re deliberating on what SEER rating I should buy, it is better to consult the A/C experts at Fischer. They will be able to give you additional information and better options based on your actual need and situation. Give them a call at 206-202-9499 or 425-406-3050 at your convenience.

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