What is a SEER rating
One of the biggest reasons home owners purchase new air conditioning units, other than when their old unit breaks, is to lower their energy bill while boosting comfort. However, simply purchasing a “green” unit isn’t going to ensure that all of a home owner’s energy and comfort needs are met. Much more goes into it than that.
Meet the SEER Score
Like other products, green units come in various quality and budget levels. You could purchase a green unit that is 4% more efficient than a standard unit, which also costs 20% more than a standard unit, or you could purchase a green unit that is 50% more efficient than a standard unit, yet costs 35% more than a standard one.
In the example above it would be easy to decide between the two units presented. Deciding between dozens, or even hundreds, of similar units with confusing tradeoffs though is not as easy.
In order to standardize green units and their efficiency, so that comparing units isn’t so difficult, the US Department of Energy invented the SEER Score. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which in other words is a score that determines how much cooling you get out of each watt the unit draws.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the US Department of Energy’s minimum SEER score for AC units was 10. This means that units sold had to meet the SEER Score of 10, or else they were not allowed to be sold.
As technology improves, SEER Score minimums are bumped up by the Department of Energy. As of January, 2006 for example, the standard was raised to a minimum SEER Score of 13.
New rules from the Department of Energy are going to further raise the minimum SEER Score of AC units to 14 in 2015.
Although the minimum SEER rating units being sold start at 13 today, the best AC units run as high as SEER Scores of 23. With such a big difference in efficiency with models ranging from 13 to 23, there is a significant importance in learning about what SEER means, as well using this rating when purchasing AC units.
What Does a SEER Score Mean?
As mentioned earlier, this score is merely a ratio between the amount of cooling power a unit creates for every single watt it consumes. A SEER rating of 12 indicates that a unit is 12/10ths better than a 10 SEER system, or is 20% more efficient. A SEER rating of 14 indicates that a unit is 14/10ths better, and so forth.
Purchasing a unit that has a SEER rating of 15 for example would be 50% more efficient than a SEER 10 unit, and would cut your AC energy bill in half if your home relies on an outdated SEER 10 unit.
The Importance of a SEER Score
By comparing different units with different SEER Scores and prices, home owners can easily determine which units will pay off for themselves the quickest or the most. If your home is currently cooled by a SEER 12 unit which runs you $280 a year in cooling costs, a new unit with a SEER score of 16 would only cost $185 a year.
These unit efficiency ratings, along with price comparisons, can then help a home owner settle on the most cost-effective unit that meets their needs and budget.
Should I Take SEER Into Consideration?
The SEER scoring system is the main efficiency-rating method for units because they it accepted by consumers, manufacturers, and researchers as being more accurate than EER rating. SEER Scores not only take climates into account, but also cooling costs associated with running the unit at hand and other metrics that go into efficiency.
For example, SEER scores take into account whether your unit will run indoors or outdoors. EER ratings do not.
When It’s Time to Upgrade Your AC Units
If your unit begins to make noise that wasn’t previously there, it may be time to have it checked. Noise usually means that the unit is being over-worked and is no longer able to efficiently cool your home.
Units that are older than 10 years should also be replaced, no question about it. These units can have SEER scores as low as 8-10, which can really make your energy bill suffer.
Increasing energy, repair, and maintenance bills is also a clear indicator that your unit is no longer functioning at an optimal level. When it gets to the point that running your unit is rising in price every quarter, or even every month, it’s time to upgrade your unit before wasting more money prolonging its break-down.
Of course we don’t mean that all units which need to be repaired need to be replaced. No, what we mean is that if your unit is undergoing constant repairs and is raising your energy bill, it’s time to cut it loose.