Understanding the SEER rating system allows homeowners and business owners to confidently compare various HVAC systems to determine which system is best for their needs. In this article, we discuss SEER energy efficiency ratings, understanding a SEER rating calculator, and we answer common questions such as “what is a good SEER Rating?” and “is a higher SEER rating worth it?”
“SEER” stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. When looking for a great HVAC system, it’s important to consider the SEER rating of the particular air conditioner that you may purchase. Not all HVAC systems are created equal.
While investigating the SEER ratings of various air conditioners and heat pumps, know that the higher the SEER rating the greater energy efficiency the equipment will have. The greater energy efficiency your HVAC equipment has, the better energy savings you can expect to receive. SEER ratings can vary quite a bit. For example, you may hear of SEER ratings between 13 to 30, depending on the particular piece of equipment (e.g., mini splits, heat pumps, air conditioners).
History of SEER Ratings
The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (“EPCA”) provides a framework for the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) to regulate energy efficiency in various consumer products and certain industrial equipment. While there is a large variety of consumer products and industrial equipment covered under the EPCA, this article will focus its discussion on air conditioners and heat pumps, which are subject to the EPCA laws. The EPCA requires that the DOE evaluate test procedures for covered equipment at least once every seven years. The laws surrounding energy efficiency have evolved significantly over the years, and continue to change.
SEER standards were implemented in 1992 by the DOE. SEER standards as promulgated in the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 established minimum energy efficiency requirements for central air conditioning and heat pump equipment sold within the United States. Between the years 1992 and 2005, central air conditioners in the U.S. were required to have a minimum SEER rating of 10.
In 2006, manufacturing standards were published by the DOE for the purpose of increasing energy efficiency of air conditioners being manufactured in or imported into the U.S. The new standards issued by the DOE required these air conditioners have a minimum SEER rating of 13. Note, beginning in 2006, “Energy Star” central air conditioners were required to have a SEER of at least 14. The term Energy Star is a label to help consumers identify which systems meet the performance requirements established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2011, the DOE established regional standards for HVAC equipment. The United States was divided into two main regions, north and south, based on population-weighted number of heating degree days (“HDD”). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, states with 5,000 HDD or more are considered to be within the northern region, while states with less than 5,000 HDD are considered part of the southern region. The southern region has since been split into two separate regions: “Hot-dry” southwest region and “hot-humid” southeast region.
The northern region consists of the following states: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The southeast region consists of Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and U.S. Territories. The southwest region consists of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Nevada.
In 2015, the DOE updated the energy efficiency standards once again requiring air conditioners in the northern region have a minimum SEER rating of 13, and air conditioners in the southeastern and southwestern region a minimum SEER rating of 14.
Most recently, the DOE mandated new minimum cooling energy efficiency requirements for residential and commercial air conditioners and heat pumps. The DOE’s new mandate will take effect on January 1, 2023. What does this mean for you? It means that air conditioners installed in northern climates, which includes Kansas, must have a minimum 14 SEER rating and heat pumps a minimum 15 SEER rating.
How Are SEER Ratings Calculated
To keep it simply, SEER equals the cooling output of a system divided by its overall power consumption during the warm part of the year (when the system is cooling). The higher the SEER rating the more energy-efficient the system is.
SEER Impact on Electricity Bill
Is a higher SEER rating worth it? Below we’ll discuss how SEER ratings can impact your utility bill.
Electricity is measured by kilowatt-hours (“kWh”), and electrical customers are generally billed by the amount of kWh that they use. This is notable because if the SEER rating on your air conditioner is low, it will be using far more kWh than an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating. Here is an example of the significant impact a higher SEER rating can have when it comes to your monthly utility bills: Upgrading from an air conditioner with a SEER rating of 9 to a SEER rating 14 system, could reduce energy consumption by more than 35%. This means that if your bill was $100.00 per month with your SEER 9 system, you could reduce your utility bill by more than $35.00 per month by upgrading to a SEER 14 air conditioning system.
So, to answer the question of “is a higher SEER rating worth it?” the answer is yes! By investing in HVAC equipment with high SEER ratings, don’t be surprised when you experience lower monthly energy bills. In addition to lower energy bills, HVAC equipment with higher SEER ratings are often equipped with features to reduce humidity, maintain temperatures even amidst extreme weather, and more evenly spread cool air. Additionally, air conditioners with higher SEER ratings often have 2-stage or variable speed compressors, and variable speed blowers. Whereas, air conditioners with lower SEER ratings typically only run on one speed, single stage.
SEER Energy Efficient Savings
It’s understandable if you want to know exactly how much money you will save by investing in HVAC equipment with a higher SEER rating. Keep in mind that there is not a one-size fits all answer to calculate SEER rating cost savings because the efficiency of an HVAC system depends on various factors, such as, but not limited to, the size of your home or business, insulation of your home or business, and average seasonal temperatures.
The graphic below is from Trane. It uses miles per gallon in a car as an analogy to better understand HVAC SEER ratings. Think of it this way, the miles per gallon that you get in your car varies based on the terrain that you are driving on. Driving on the highway yohttps://www.energystar.gov/products/most_efficient/central_air_conditioners_ and_air_source_heat_pumps
Wondering which air conditioners are the most efficient? There are many air conditioning brands, makes, and models to choose from. Energy Star has compiled a helpful guide with a SEER rating chart for air conditioners and air source heat pumps to review to see AC seer ratings and the best SEER rating AC’s. This Energy Star guide is also helpful if you are searching for mini split seer ratings or heat pump seer ratings. Remember that you should always consult with a heating and cooling professional to determine the best HVAC system for your particular needs.
At Larry Cook Heating & Cooling, we work on all makes and models in the HVAC business, such as, LG, Trane, Carrier, Rudd, Goodman, Lennox, Bryant, Bosch, and York. HVAC companies will often suggest SEER Ratings between of 14-30. At Larry Cook Heating & Cooling, we have been impressed by Trane, LG and Bosch HVAC systems. We have had many customers tell us how happy they are with their energy savings by investing in HVAC equipment like Trane’s XV201i system, and LG’s Wall Mounted Duct-Free Mini Splits.
Lets also take a look at the Bob Vila’s list of top air conditioner brands and models for 2022:
- TRANE – Trane XV20i TruComfort Air Conditioner
- Lennox – Lennox SL28XCV Air Conditioner
- Rheem – Rheem RA17 Air Conditioner
- Carrier – Carrier Infinity 21 Central Air Conditioner
- Goodman – Goodman Split Air Conditioner
- York – York YXT 19 SEER Two Stage Air Conditioner
- Ruud – Ruud Econet Enabled Ultra Series Variable Speed UA20 Air Conditioner
What is the Best Air Conditioner for Your Home
Before selecting which air conditioner or heat pump you will install in your home, be sure to contact Larry Cook Heating & Cooling’s expert HVAC technicians for a free estimate to walk you through the process and to select the best HVAC system for your particular needs.