What Is a SEER Rating?

Using your HVAC system maintains a comfortable temperature in your Safety Harbor, Florida, home. However, when temperatures are high, it can cause your energy bills to go up. Knowing your HVAC system’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating can help you determine its energy usage and take steps to keep your utility bills low. To learn more, check out this comprehensive guide to SEER ratings.

What Is a SEER Rating?

A SEER rating is an energy-efficiency rating assigned to an HVAC system. It indicates the amount of energy the unit will use over the course of a year. The higher the rating, the more efficient the model. The main purpose of these ratings is to make it easier for people shopping for new HVAC systems to choose energy-efficient models.

In the past, many air conditioners had SEER ratings of 6 or lower. However, in 2006, the Department of Energy made it mandatory for every HVAC system to meet minimum SEER ratings. As a result, new models on the market have ratings ranging from 13 to the mid-20s. The minimum SEER requirements vary from one region to another. Air conditioners in the northern region, for instance, must have minimum ratings of 13, while those in the southern and southwestern regions, including Florida, must have ratings of at least 14.

How to Use SEER Ratings to Calculate Energy Costs

The way to determine the SEER rating of an HVAC system is to divide its annual cooling output by the total amount of energy it consumes. You can calculate your air conditioner’s annual cooling output by multiplying its British thermal unit per hour (BTU/h) by the number of operating hours in a day and the operating days in a year. Here’s an example:

10,000 BTU/h x 8 hours a day x 200 days a year = 16,000,000 BTUs a year

To calculate your HVAC unit’s annual energy consumption, divide its total cooling output by its SEER rating. For instance:

16,000,000 BTUs ÷ 16 = 1,000,000 Wh (watt-hours) or 1,000 kWh (kilowatt-hours)

If the cost of your electricity is 12 cents per kWh, the total energy cost incurred from using your air conditioner to cool your home over the course of a year will be:

1,000 kWh x $0.12 = $120

How to Choose the Right SEER Rating for Your Home

If you’re planning to replace your old HVAC unit with a more energy-efficient one, it’s important to choose a model with the right SEER rating. Bear in mind that a high-SEER air conditioner is typically more expensive to purchase, but it can be worth the extra cost if it helps you save substantially on your energy bills in the long run. To make an informed buying decision, understand the different types of HVAC systems available on the market. These include:

  • 13- to 16-SEER models: These can be single-stage or two-stage HVAC units. (See below for multi-stage information.) A single-stage model runs at full capacity or not at all. They tend to turn on and off more frequently than multiple-stage units, which can contribute to more energy consumption, increased wear and tear, and uneven temperature distribution. In addition, they remove less moisture from the air than higher-rated units, so your home might feel more humid in the summer.
  • 16- to 20-SEER models: HVAC systems with SEER ratings of 16 to 20 are usually two-stage units. They can operate at 35% to 40% capacity or 100% capacity. If they run at low capacity most of the time, they can produce gentler and longer cooling, more even temperatures, and better humidity control. In most cases, two-stage systems use variable-speed motors to deliver greater indoor comfort than single-stage units.
  • 19- to 26-SEER models: HVAC units in this SEER range usually have variable-capacity compressors. Many can run at capacities ranging from 25% to 100%. By operating at more precise capacities, they can keep your home comfortable with minimal energy consumption.

If you want to learn more about SEER ratings or install a high-SEER HVAC system in your home, contact our professionals at Pinellas Comfort Systems by calling (727) 315-0791.

Image provided by iStock

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