When you’re in the market for new electric air conditioning equipment, one of the most important factors you need to consider is the SEER rating. SEER, which stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” measures how much cooling power you get for every unit of electricity that goes into the machine. In other words, it’s an easy shorthand to gauge how efficient a particular model is, and therefore how much money you can save on your cooling bills.

Determine Your Cooling Output

The SEER rating is calculated by determining the cooling output of an electric air conditioning unit compared to the watt-hours of energy it consumes. This number is then adjusted to account for the range of outside temperatures likely to occur over a season, from 65 degrees up to 105 degrees. The calculations are somewhat complicated, but the final value is easy to understand – the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the machine.

Currently, the federal government requires that all new air conditioners be manufactured to meet a SEER rating of at least 13, while the Energy Star program certifies models that weigh in at 14.5 or higher. The criteria are slightly lower for heat pumps and split-system air conditioners to account for the built-in efficiencies of those technologies. Starting this year, the Department of Energy is also requiring that air conditioners sold in Southern states meet a slightly higher standard.

Beyond the Bare Minimum

You don’t have to stop at the minimum requirements, however. Some air conditioner models have SEER ratings as high as 23! More advanced models tend to be more expensive, but they can save you thousands of dollars in electricity costs over the lifespan of the unit. The hotter the climate and the more you use your air conditioning, the more money an efficient unit will help you save.

Note that the SEER rating isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to electric air conditioning efficiency. Another benchmark called the Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER, measures the cooling efficiency of a unit at a standard 95 degree temperature, without taking into account seasonal differences. Like SEER, a higher EER level means a more efficient air conditioner. For those who live in hot climates, the EER might give a more accurate account of the performance that can be realized from the unit.

More Tips to Save

Don’t forget that no matter what air conditioner you buy, the easiest way to keep your costs under control is to set the thermostat to a higher temperature and limit the amount you use the cooling system. You can also give your efficiency a boost by performing maintenance on your AC unit, shoring up the insulation in your home and installing a smart thermostat.

If you need more help picking out or installing your electric air conditioning, reach out to an HVAC specialist today.


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