SEER Rating, Explained

There are so many factors that apply when it comes to getting the best possible air conditioning. Austin residents want the most value for their dollar and a large part of that comes from maximizing energy efficiency. The first step to making the best decision when it comes to AC replacement and AC repair in Austin is to know the important terms.

SEER is one of those terms. You may have heard it before, when air conditioner shopping. Or maybe you’ve never heard it before. Either way, it’s worth getting a good grasp on what it means because it relates to energy efficiency. We all spend a good amount of money on air conditioning so getting the best deal is important to us in Austin. Air conditioning is worth a little bit of education. So to learn all about the SEER rating and how it applies to you, read on below.

SEER: Meaning and History

First, let’s start by just breaking down the acronym. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, or AHRI. The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute was formed in 2008 as a result of the merging of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, or the ARI, and the Gas Appliances Manufactures Association, or the GAMA.

The AHRI has several purposes. It performs political advocacy for the various industries it oversees. It conducts research in the realm of heating and air conditioning. It awards scholarships, shares data, and perhaps most importantly, maintains technical standards. Technical standards are the benchmarks that all certified products sold under the category of air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration have to meet.

The same year that it formed, the AHRI updated the technical standard known as SEER, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER of an air conditioning unit is determined by the amount of cooling output it produces in a typical cooling season divided by the total electrical input used to create that output in the same season. Therefore, the higher SEER rating an air conditioning unit has, the greater energy efficiency it has, as efficiency is defined by output per input. In the US, the units used in calculation of SEER are BTUs, or British Thermal Units, to energy consumed, measured in watt-hours.

Minimum and Recommended SEER Ratings

The minimum standard for the SEER ratings of air conditioners sold in the US has changed over the years. In 1987, legislation was passed that went into effect in 1992, which required all whole-house air conditioning systems to have a SEER rating no lower than 10. This changed in 2006, after which a SEER rating of 13 was required. To obtain an ENERGY STAR certified rating, an air conditioning unit must have a SEER of 14.5 or greater.

In 2015, the standard requirements changed slightly. The Department of Energy proposed new rules in 2011 that take into consideration the different circumstances that affect energy efficiency when looking at different regions of the United States. So, in 2015, the SEER requirements changed for certain regions of the US. For the Southwestern region of the US, split-system central air conditioners must have a SEER rating of 14 or greater. The same requirement now exists for the Southeastern region of the US as well. The rest of the US must conform to the previous minimum SEER standard of 13.

Determining what SEER rating you should look for in your next air conditioner is going to be based on a variety of factors. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to recommended SEER rating. Ratings go as high as 25 but most people don’t need that high of a rating in their air conditioning unit. The major factors you should take into consideration are how long you’ll be staying in your current home, how often you’ll anticipate using your air conditioning, the climate in your area, and the size of the system that you’ll need. For a hotter climate, in a home you’ll spend a lot of time in for years to come, a high SEER rating will be worth it. You’ll be trading off a more expensive initial cost for years of significant savings on energy bills.

Luckily, there are ways to make the decision easier for you. ENERGY STAR has a tool on their website called an energy savings calculator that can help you make the right choice. Or, better yet, you can call a trusted Austin air conditioning repair company like AC Express and we can assist you with our expert AC knowledge in making the choice that’s right for your specific case.

Limitations of the SEER Rating

Despite its usefulness, the SEER rating has its flaws. The Seasonal part of the acronym refers to the estimated overall performance of the machine over the year, with all the changes in temperature across the seasons. That means that there is going to be some inaccuracy when it comes to the SEER rating and actual energy efficiency.

The EER, on the other hand, measures an air conditioning unit’s energy efficiency at any given point, not over the entire year. SEER is measured using a baseline outside temperature of 82 degrees. That means for temperate places in the US, the SEER rating of an air conditioner will be fairly accurate. For hotter places though, like Austin, Round Rock, Buda, and the areas surrounding, EER will provide a more accurate portrayal of energy efficiency. EER is more universal, whereas how much energy efficiency you’re getting from an AC with a specific SEER rating will vary based on where you live.

That’s why looking at SEER ratings is a good starting point but when it comes down to making a decision, don’t focus on SEER ratings entirely. It’s not as straightforward as a better SEER rating equals a better deal.

SEER and Austin Air Conditioning Repair

The fact is, living in Austin, air conditioning can get expensive. We live in a climate that requires air conditioning most of the year. This means that the savings you can get from buying an air conditioning unit with a greater SEER rating will be very significant and only more so as time goes on.

When it comes time to call an Austin AC repair company like AC Express, you may be tempted to just repair your current system rather than replace, as it would be cheaper at the moment. But consider this; a lot of houses still have old air conditioners with SEER ratings of 9 and below. It is estimated that upgrading from an air conditioning unit with a SEER of 9 to one with a SEER 13 will reduce energy consumption by around 30%, which is estimated to save roughly $300 a year. For hot places like Austin air conditioning savings could be even higher.

So, in the long run, upgrading to a better air conditioner with a higher SEER could be the better deal, especially if you plan on living at your current residence for a while. Either way, for AC replacement or air conditioning repair in Austin, come to AC Express for expert and quality service and care. Call today for same day AC repair! (512) 866-5520