Whether you’re a new homeowner, recently bought a new air conditioner, or just want to stay informed about proper efficiency methods toward keeping temperatures comfortable and cost effective, an awareness of the SEER rating will help you on all fronts.
SEER Rating: Defined
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and you may have seen the term labeled on different products if you’ve ever shopped for a heat pump or air conditioning system. SEER was originally created by the U.S. Department of Energy so that consumers have a reliable way to compare the energy efficiency levels between devices. Essentially, the higher a product’s SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is. For example, since 2006, contemporary U.S. law requires all heat pumps and air conditioners score a SEER rating of 13, which is a 30% increase in the efficiency standard from the previous required score of 10.
SEER ratings are determined by measuring the cold season’s annual cooling output (measured in BTU’s per hour) divided by the annual electric energy input. All AC cooling equipment is tested for SEER in secure environments that enable quality control and safety precautions before being sold to consumers. Since all SEER-certified devices are tested under very similar circumstances, the chance that substantial differences between efficiency levels is low, increasing the likelihood of a quality product.
SEER Ratings: How They Affect Air Conditioning
Before installing an A/C unit, consider that a SEER score signals the air conditioner’s maximum potential. For example, when a given unit shows that a value of 19 SEER, the rating can only be as high as 19 SEER. While it can achieve that efficiency level under the right conditions, it is not designed to always perform at 19 SEER because other natural factors limit its performance, including physical limitations based on thermodynamics. Plenty of factors affect an air conditioner’s efficiency and quality, such as direct sun exposure, fluctuating outdoor temperatures, and building structures.
SEER ratings vary across devices and acceptable SEER levels do change over the long-term, meaning that very high-ranking SEER units and tools may not seem to have as much bang for your buck. However, regular maintenance on any system will save you on installation and repair costs down the road while keeping your system at its peak performance. For instance, if a unit rated at 20 SEER functions at an average of 12 SEER, it’s probably time to contact an HVAC specialist who can help you determine the best ways to keep your system running at the level it’s designed to and capable of.