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Air Conditioning System Efficiency Ratings

Question: What is my Air Conditioning System’s SEER and why should it matter? 

Answer: The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is used to measure how much cooling a given system produces (BTUs) for each unit of energy (watt hours) it consumes. In essence, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently the air conditioning system cools a given space.  It is important to note that SEER is the AVERAGE computed DURING A COOLING SEASON using a constant indoor temperature and a series of varied outdoor temperatures – ranging from 60 degrees to over 100 degrees – to simulate a typical cooling season.

Keep in mind that SEER is a MAXIMUM RATING. It is not designed to represent the constant performance of your air conditioning system. Just because you purchased a 22 SEER system, it will not ALWAYS perform at a 22 SEER.

A good analogy to SEER is your car’s Miles Per Gallon (“MPG”): Your car’s advertised MPG might be 30 mpg but you won’t see 30 mpg in “stop-and-go” city traffic. By the same token, if you are constantly adjusting the thermostat during the day or asking your system to keep your house at 65 degrees during the hottest part of the day, you won’t experience the 22 SEER that was attributed to your system.

As you might guess, higher-SEER systems are more expensive that a baseline new system. When contemplating a replacement system, our clients often ask us whether a higher-SEER system with “pay for itself” and its increased price with the energy savings. That is a very difficult question to answer. There are many variables at play.

If your current system is a 10 SEER, a baseline replacement system would likely be a 14 SEER. If you wanted to replace your unit with a 22 SEER system, it would likely cost 30-40% more than the 14 SEERs. A good compromise may be a 16 SEER system as you are getting a good deal more efficiency than the system you are replacing yet not paying too much for a system that may not deliver the savings you’d expect. If your system is expected to be running 18-22 hours per day, a 22 SEER system might be the choice for you. Aside from that, you can save some money all the way around with a 14-16 SEER system here in Florida.

Keep in mind that the more expensive the system, the more expensive it is to replace components. The compressor within a 22 SEER condensing section may cost 40% more than the compressor in a 16 SEER system. This is one of many things to keep in mind when calculating the lifecycle costs of a replacement system, which could last up to 15 years if maintained properly.

When it comes to SEER, we recommend that you strike a reasonable balance between cost of the system and estimated energy savings over the long term. We at AC Today Sarasota & Bradenton can help you navigate through this sea of numbers.