According to the US Department of Energy, our air conditioners and furnaces use more energy than any other appliances in the home. Although our cooking appliances use much more energy, they’re only using it during times of meal preparation, where our HVAC systems run all day, every day, burning energy and leaving an enormous carbon footprint in their wake.
So, how can we know if our current heating and air conditioning appliances are operating efficiently and at the peak of performance? Of course, the most straightforward answer would be to have Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning install a brand-new 21-SEER rated 5-ton AC unit today. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the right answer for you and your home, but I had to try.
Every new heating and air conditioning system is assigned a SEER rating. That number will directly correspond to how efficient and how expensive your new HVAC system is going to be. Let’s look at what a SEER rating means to the average homeowner and why it’s so important to consider when installing a new HVAC system.
What is a SEER Rating?
The acronym SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It indicates the efficiency of an air conditioner’s cooling ability or a furnace’s heating ability, related to the amount of power being used. Trust me when I say there is a complex mathematical formula used to calculate the SEER rating, and it involves algebra, so I can tell you nothing about it. Suffice to say that the higher the SEER rating number, the less energy is required to operate the system, resulting in lower utility bills and a diminished carbon footprint. I can’t make it any easier than that.
When Did a SEER Rating Become a Thing?
Back in the glory days of cheap oil, gas, and electricity, nobody really paid any attention to the efficiency of their appliances before the energy crisis that started with gas shortages in the mid-1970s and continued through the mid-1980s with rising energy costs across all platforms. Soon, the need to apply some regulation to the sometimes-lofty claims of energy efficiency and performance being made by air conditioning manufacturers was apparent.
In 1987, a rating standard for heating and air conditioning systems that ranked their energy efficiency was introduced. By 1992, the SEER rating standard was turned into federal law, requiring that any HVAC-related product must have a SEER rating of 10 at the minimum. Early on, throughout the phase-in period of the first SEER-rated appliances, ratings of 8 and 9 were standard. We don’t see many of these early, inefficient models, as most of them have been replaced with newer, more efficient models.
What’s a Good SEER Rating on a New AC Unit?
At present, the minimum SEER rating for any home comfort appliance to be sold is 13, with 14 set to become the minimum as of 2023. Advanced, more costly air conditioners with SEER ratings of 20 and up are available. Still, the average homeowner should realize substantial, tangible energy savings with a unit in the 14 – 16 SEER range. Suppose your current heating and air conditioning system is meeting (or exceeding) the minimum SEER requirement. In that case, you can be confident that it’s performing well and saving you money on energy costs.
Is a Higher SEER Rating Worth Paying Extra?
The quest for the most efficient and highest-performing air conditioning system can be an expensive endeavor and often ends in disappointment. Installing an air conditioning system that is too powerful for your home is just as much of a disaster as installing a unit that under-performs. The oversized AC will lower the house’s temperature, but the frequent yet short, on/off cycles will not give the unit time to remove the humidity from the air. In other words, too much power in your AC system will lead to a very cool, but very damp house, which can create a host of other issues like mildew and mold growth.
A higher SEER rating will mean a higher level of comfort and lower monthly energy costs, but the upfront cost of the unit will be higher. Higher SEER units tend to come with features like variable-speed compressors, allowing the unit to stay on for more extended periods instead of starting and stopping. If you live somewhere with high humidity or if some rooms in your house are cold while others are hot, a higher SEER unit with this feature will make you much more comfortable.
If you live in a mild climate where humidity isn’t an issue, you may consider a lower SEER unit a better option as it will save you money on the installation. If you do go with a lower SEER unit, make sure you investigate the minimum SEER requirements for your region.
Shopping around for a new HVAC system can be an overwhelming experience, with so many makes and models to choose from. New furnaces and air conditioners far outperform their antiquated predecessors in performance and efficiency, along with offering an array of user-friendly features.
If you’re dealing with an older, poorly-performing, and inefficient heating and air conditioning system, give Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning a call today. Let us help you determine the proper size and SEER rating for your new system and install it professionally and promptly.
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