What Is a SEER Rating?

March 4, 2022
SEER Rating in Detroit, MI

The Department of Energy developed the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) evaluation or rating system for air conditioners in 1992. This rating system evaluates how efficiently an air conditioner converts electrical input into cooling power. It’s a mathematical calculation of the unit’s total cooling capacity over a one-year period divided by the amount of electricity it uses during that same period of time. Understanding SEER ratings will help you choose the right new air conditioner, take action to lower your home’s cooling costs and provide you with information on reducing your home’s energy use.

How Is a SEER Rating Calculated?

Manufacturers of air conditioners and heat pumps use a formula to calculate SEER ratings. The formula is a ratio of the cooling output for the cooling season divided by the electrical input over that same period of time. Another way to calculate SEER is to divide the British thermal units of cooling capacity by the number of watt-hours for the cooling season.

Who Determines the SEER Rating?

The Department of Energy sets standards for SEER ratings. In 2006, the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute created a system for standardizing the formula for SEER ratings. This ensures that each air conditioner and heat pump manufacturer calculates the rating with the same formula. When you’re comparing different models of air conditioners, standardization of SEER ratings ensures that you’re comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges. Energy Star, a joint program between the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, verifies manufacturer SEER ratings in the United States. The Energy Star program also certifies high-efficiency air conditioners. In order to gain Energy Star certification, an air conditioner must have a SEER of at least 14.

What Is a Good SEER Rating For An Air Conditioner?

In the Detroit area, a good SEER rating is 14. If you’re replacing a 15-year-old air conditioner with a SEER of 10 with a new unit that has a SEER of 14, this is a 20% to 30% improvement in energy efficiency. For optimal cooling efficiency, choose an air conditioner with a SEER rating of 16 or higher.

Do Air Conditioners Always Achieve Their SEER Ratings?

Although manufacturers calculate a SEER rating for each model of air conditioner or heat pump, this is a maximum efficiency rating. An air conditioner or heat pump achieves this maximum efficiency when it’s properly maintained and installed. A neglected or malfunctioning air conditioner may not operate at its SEER rating level.

Is There a Minimum SEER Rating for Air Conditioners?

When the Department of Energy started the SEER rating system 30 years ago, the minimum SEER rating for home cooling systems was 10. Every 5 to 10 years, the Department of Energy reevaluates SEER guidelines by region. In 2022, air conditioners installed in metro Detroit homes must have a SEER of 14 or higher. Heat pumps, which offer both heating and cooling functions, must also have a minimum SEER of 14.

How Can I Find My Air Conditioner’s SEER Rating?

Air conditioner manufacturers list the unit’s SEER rating on the product, in the owner’s manual and on their websites. The Department of Energy, Energy Star program and the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute also provide SEER listings for each make and model of air conditioner and heat pump.

What Air Conditioner Features Provide a High SEER Rating?

New air conditioners offer a range of features that yield high SEER ratings. Variable-speed motors and fans, which operate at the lowest speed needed to cool your home, reduce energy use and boost SEER ratings. High SEER units may also feature multi-stage cooling. To achieve the manufacturer’s stated SEER rating, you’ll need to pair the air conditioner with a matched air handler and change the air filter at least every three months.

Is a High SEER Rating Worth the Extra Money?

In moderate climates with high humidity levels, a high SEER rating could lower your cooling bills. Air conditioners with a high SEER cost more upfront, but over the lifetime of the system, this investment pays off. You may also be eligible for rebates, utility incentives and tax credits for installing an air conditioner with Energy Star certification and a high SEER.

How Does SEER Rating Affect the Cost of Operating My Air Conditioner?

High SEER ratings mean that your air conditioner minimizes energy use for cooling. The higher your air conditioner’s SEER rating, the lower the operating costs of your air conditioner. To determine the annual operating cost of your air conditioner, multiply its British thermal units per hour by the number of hours you use the air conditioner; then, multiply this by your electrical rate. Divide this by the manufacturer’s SEER rating.

What Are the Other Benefits of High SEER Ratings?

Investing in an air conditioner with a high SEER rating reduces your home’s carbon footprint. Your cash flow may improve as a result of lower electricity bills. New air conditioners with high SEER ratings offer improved indoor temperature and humidity control. Many utility companies and communities offer tax incentives and rebates that lower the cost of installing air conditioners with high SEER ratings.

What Affects an Air Conditioner’s Actual SEER?

While manufacturers calculate an estimated SEER rating for each model of air conditioner or heat pump they build, there are external factors that affect the actual SEER the unit maintains. Proper installation of the cooling system is critical to achieving the manufacturer’s stated SEER. That’s why only certified HVAC technicians should install your new air conditioning system. Some other factors that affect your air conditioner’s efficiency include keeping up with air filter changes and routine maintenance, maintaining clean air ducts, cleaning intake and outgoing air vents and clearing debris within 3 feet of the air conditioner’s indoor and outdoor units.

How Do SEER Ratings Impact My Home’s Energy Efficiency?

During the summer, cooling costs will be the biggest part of your electricity bills. A higher SEER rating for your cooling system could lower your cooling costs. However, it’s also important to make sure that your home is weatherized. For example, applying caulk and weather stripping reduces air leaks from your home and prevents outdoor air from seeping inside your house. Adding insulation, replacing old single-pane windows and choosing insulated doors will also boost your home’s energy efficiency. When your home doesn’t have as many air leaks, the strain on your air conditioner is reduced and keeps your home more comfortable.

Not in need of a new system just yet? We also offer heating installations plus cooling maintenance and repair throughout the Detroit metro area. Our indoor air quality, duct cleaning, duct repair and water heater services keep your home healthy and comfortable all year long.

You can also count on us for trustworthy UV lights, air filtration systems, humidifiers and ductless HVAC systems. Our service club provides you with peace of mind, a more energy-efficient home and discounts on repairs and products. For more information about SEER ratings or to schedule any of our services, contact us at C & C Heating & Air Conditioning today!

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