Frequently Asked Questions About SEER Ratings

SEER is the “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio” for air conditioning units. It’s a term the US Department of Energy uses to rate the energy efficiency of air conditioners. An air conditioner’s SEER is found by taking its total cooling output (in BTUs) during its annual usage period and dividing that by its energy input (in watt-hours) over the same period.

The US government uses SEER ratings to mandate the level of energy efficiency required in air conditioner units. The SEER standard was raised from SEER 10 to SEER 13 in 1987. This change required all units to be 30% more efficient. There’s now some talk of moving down to a SEER 12 standard, but that hasn’t been decided.

What Consumers Need to Know

All technical definitions and legalities aside, SEER ratings are actually quite easy to understand. An air conditioner unit with a higher SEER rating is more energy efficient than one with a lower rating. Units with higher SEER ratings are generally more expensive to acquire but will result in lower energy costs, paying for themselves over time.

Some consumers are concerned about the SEER 13 standard, but here are four facts to allay those worries:

  1. The SEER 13 standard doesn’t create difficulties for low-income families. Lower income families rarely purchase an air conditioning unit themselves. They usually rent their homes, which means they reap the benefits of lower energy bills without paying for a slightly more expensive air conditioner.
  1. Lower utility bills will cover the cost of SEER 13 units. A SEER 13 unit should pay for itself in 3.5 years and continue functioning at its more efficient level for another 15 or so.
  1. People can afford to replace SEER 10 with SEER 13 units. At most, a SEER 13 unit should cost 8% more than a SEER 10. Assuming a high price of $5,000 for the unit, that means a SEER 13 will only cost $400 more. That’s not a huge difference when considering a purchase of this amount.
  1. SEER 13 units aren’t much larger than SEER 10 or 12 units. Buildings shouldn’t need major renovations to hold SEER 13 air conditioners.

The End Results

SEER ratings are easily understood, and the legalities of the government mandates shouldn’t have a major effect on consumers. Higher SEER air conditioners will always pay for themselves over time.

If you’re considering replacing your old, less efficient air conditioner with a newer one and you live in the Phoenix area, contact Emergency Air Heating and Cooling. Our experts can discuss your options and help you decide on the best system for your needs.