What is a SEER Rating

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is, simply put, a measuring system for determining the comparative efficiency of an air conditioning unit. It’s a math formula that begins with the cooling output of a unit during a typical cooling season, divided by the total electricity input during the same time frame. The higher rating an AC system has, the lower the amount of energy consumed.

The Department of Energy has established a standard that requires air conditioners built after January 26, 2006 requiring a minimum SEER number of 13. With that baseline determined, manufactures have an idea where they wanted to be, and consumers a better comparison tool. An objective benchmark led to greater innovation for better SEER ratings and made shopping easier.

Why a High Number is Important

A homeowner who installs a three-ton unit with a SEER rating of 16 will see an estimated savings of $2,070 over the life of equipment. Additionally, they will be responsible for emitting 30,000 pounds of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to planting four acres of forest. The environmental impacts mitigated by an efficient cooling system make seeking the highest number possible worthwhile. Add in the money savings and it’s an easy decision.

Not the Only Rating Number

Some feel the SEER is limited by its own formulations. The temperature for determining SEER ratings is constant at 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The EER is an alternative measuring formula that consists of a unit’s Btu’s over wattage consumed. Btu stand for British Thermal Unit, and it represents the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree.

The EER rating is seen as more accurate when it comes to figuring out how an air conditioner will perform when it’s really hot out. The assumption is that the baseline 82 degrees isn’t high enough to measure how a unit will work under heavy load. The DOE recommends an EER number higher than 11.6. The best way for consumers to ensure they are getting the most efficient unit they can is to aim for high numbers in both categories. That will mean spending a little more up front. The money saved over the life of your air conditioner, coupled with the lessened environmental impact, help make it an easy option.

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