Determining the efficiency of a new air conditioner is as easy as looking for the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) number. These ratings are based on specific energy calculations done by approved testing agencies that verify the efficiency levels against standardized industry benchmarks. The SEER rating of an A/C is the cooling output in British Thermal Units (BTUs) during a typical cooling-season divided by the watt hours (total electric energy input) during that time.
For residential uses, SEER ratings can go up to 26, though that number is rising with constant improvements in technology. The higher the rating value, the more energy efficient the particular model is. As of Jan. 23, 2006, the federal government required all new central air conditioning units to have a measured value of at least 13. To get the prized Energy Star certification, however, the unit must be SEER 14 or above.
According to Energy Star, central air conditioning units with high SEER ratings use 30–50 percent less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid 1970s. They are 20–40 percent more efficient that units as little as 10 years old.
In addition to a high SEER rating, you should consider the EER. This rating measures the efficiency of the unit under the hottest temperatures. The EPA suggests purchasing a new unit with an EER rating of at least 11.6. This number can be more helpful for comparison than SEER in areas with very hot summers.
These numbers, of course, aren’t the only thing you’ll want to consider when purchasing a new air conditioner. A variety of advanced features also are available, including variable speed blower motors. These allow the system to run at a lower speed for a longer period for improved comfort, energy savings, air filtration and humidity control. Proper sizing of your new A/C is also an important factor.
For more expert advice about SEER ratings and other issues related to home comfort, please contact us at Comfort Systems. We’ve been serving Wichita and the surrounding area since 1996.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about SEER ratings and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.