Get The Cold, Hard Facts About SEER
What Is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio?
A central air conditioning units’ energy efficiency is regulated by the US Department of Energy and every unit is assigned a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating that measures how efficient a system is; the higher the SEER rating, the more substantial the energy savings.
SEER is calculated as the total cooling output, measured in British thermal units or Btu, delivered by the unit during its regular yearly usage period, divided by its total energy input, measured in watt-hours, over the same time period.
As these ratings can be a little hard to understand, we have put together the following guide to help you through the basics, so you can make a more informed decision when it comes time to purchase your new air conditioner.
SEER-Rated Devices Are Too Expensive
While it is true that more efficient appliances cost more, they typically pay for themselves with energy savings in just a few years. For most families, the additional initial investment of a high SEER-rated air conditioner is more than made up in just three and a half years. In addition, since most newer AC units last about 18 years, that is a pretty significant return on the purchase price.
Utility Bill Savings Do Not Really Cover the Cost of Air Conditioners with the Maximum SEER Rating (13)
According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the incremental cost of a SEER 13 air conditioner compared to a minimum SEER 10-rated unit is only about $171. With the average American household saving approximately $48 a year on electricity, it is clear that the difference is negligible and is more than recovered in just over three years. These estimates are based on the most recent national average for electricity rates and if they go up, the consumer payback will be even faster.
Some manufacturers would have you believe that the cost of more energy efficient appliances is simply out of reach for most people. These manufacturers often resist improving the efficiency of their products, insisting that higher environmental standards force them to charge unrealistic prices for these items. They sometimes grossly overestimate price increases in an effort to deter consumers from pushing for more efficient devices.
The truth is that the market, not industry or government projections, determines price fluctuations. When new standards are enforced, a high percentage of major manufacturers have no trouble updating their products without dramatic price increases.
High SEER-Rated Air Conditioners are Bigger Than Lower-Rated Devices, So Installing One Requires a Total Home Makeover
A few SEER 13 air conditioners are bigger than their lower-rated counterparts, but most are not. In fact many high SEER-rated AC units have advanced technology that enables the device to perform at a higher efficiency standard with a size increase of just a few inches. As with any other major home appliance, SEER 13 air conditioners are available in a range of sizes, so it is easy to find one that fits your needs and budget.