I hate to say it, but it’s never a fun time purchasing a new central air conditioner. Chances are your old unit broke down during the hottest part of the summer. Heck, maybe it broke while you were at work and you came home to a house that was ninety plus degrees inside. You call a service company out only to find out that your air conditioner is on its last legs and the time has finally come to replace it with a new system.
The question now though is what do you replace it with? There are all different brands, makes, and models out there. It can be a little bit overwhelming, especially for those of you who aren’t as familiar with the ins and outs of air conditioning.
One of the most confusing parts of buying a new air conditioner is understanding the SEER. The SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a measurement of your air conditioner’s energy efficiency. This measurement is calculated by the total cooling output of your system divided by the total electric energy input, or Watt-Hours, required. So, in other words cooling power divided by electric power. The SEER rating/ratio is calculated over the entire cooling season as an average. It factors in a constant indoor temperature and then weighs that temperature against outside temperatures ranging from sixty degrees up to one-hundred degrees. By doing this range of temperatures they are able to calculate a typical season.
When you see a SEER rating on an air conditioner that SEER rating is that system’s maximum efficiency. If you went outside and checked the SEER on your current air conditioner it may say SEER fourteen. But, that fourteen rating is the maximum efficiency ratio and if your system is not tuned up every year and taken care of properly then you are most likely not at that SEER level. You will also not reach your maximum SEER rating if you are constantly changing the temperature throughout the day or even week. It is best to have one set temperature and stick with it. This ensures your air conditioner has a set target to reach and stay there.
In 2006 the United States Department of Energy, or DOE, required that air conditioners have a minimum of thirteen SEER. Then in 2015 another change was made by the DOE. This time they changed the minimum SEER from thirteen to fourteen, but only for specific states. This change focused on those states in the south east and south west of the country. This would include your hottest states in the Union including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas. If you live in the northern part of the country though then your minimum SEER rating is still at thirteen.
What is a Good SEER?
Alright folks, so now we understand what the SEER rating is, but now we need to know what SEER rating should you get for your next air conditioner? Air conditioners today can be purchased with a thirteen SEER all the way up to a twenty-five SEER. However, if you were to purchase an average air conditioner today you would most likely receive a unit between fourteen and eighteen SEER. This is the range that most folks are used to today.
The reason that most air conditioners found today are at that fourteen level is due to the cost of a higher SEER system. If you go up just slightly to a SEER sixteen system you could be paying as much as six-hundred to eight-hundred dollars more just on the system and install. If you went up to a twenty-one or even higher SEER system then you could be looking at multiple thousands more, sometimes as high as four-thousand dollars more. It is these high prices tags that scare a lot of folks away from the higher SEER models.
There are benefits though to a higher end system such as a SEER twenty-one. With this high end system you can save an estimated fifty to eighty dollars per month on your energy bill. This could be about five-hundred dollars a year if you’re running your air conditioner for about half the year. So, even if your higher end SEER model costs you two-thousand dollars more you could potentially earn that money back after four years of use. Along with that you also get a more stable and consistent temperature throughout your home.
I say potentially in the above paragraph as there are a lot of variables that you need to consider. It is not as simple as an even savings of eighty dollars a month. No, there is more to it than that. First, you need to remember that SEER is the maximum efficiency. Just like we mentioned in our previous section, your SEER rating will go down over the years. So, a SEER twenty-one system will lose efficiency as the years pass. The second point is that repairs on high end SEER systems can be quite expensive. Most contractors state that parts are two or three times as expensive when compared to a standard fourteen SEER system. A three-hundred dollar repair could turn into a nine-hundred dollar repair.
So, to answer your question here it depends on what you are looking for. There is no ‘Good SEER’ but it’s a matter of preference. Do you want to save some money in the beginning and get a fourteen SEER system? Or, do you want to spend more upfront and have that savings pass to you each month?
If it was me buying for my home I would opt for the fourteen SEER system. If you are really concerned about efficiency then maybe you go up to the sixteen. But, I wouldn’t worry about the very high SEER systems unless you are in an area where you are constantly running your air conditioner throughout the year. So, if you live in Phoenix or El Paso then you may consider a high end model. Otherwise folks, I’d stick with the standard fourteen SEER.