If you’re shopping for a new air conditioner, you’ve probably been bombarded with information and statistics about different makes and models and why each of them is better than all of the rest. This can be confusing, intimidating, and even frustrating to work your way through, especially if you’re getting seemingly conflicting or counterintuitive information from different sources. If you’re tired of the stress, our team is here to help you better understand one of, if not the most important measurement of an air conditioning system: its SEER rating.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” and is essentially a way of comparing air conditioning systems to each other based on the amount of energy they consume. The number is calculated by taking the amount of cooling output that a particular unit can produce over the course of a typical cooling season and then dividing it by the amount of energy that the unit consumes over that same timeframe. The result is usually rounded and given as a whole number, with higher numbers meaning better energy efficiency.

Today, regulations and standards dictate that all new units installed in southern markets like California are required to have a minimum SEER of 14. However, is your new system compliant with that new rule? Unless it’s newer than around 10 to 15 years, there’s a good chance it’s probably not. As recently as 2006, the average SEER of a brand new system was down around 9 or 10, and these systems have only become less and less efficient as time goes by. While you’re not required to replace your old system with a new, higher SEER system under these laws, you will be required to meet minimum SEER standards the next time you replace your air conditioner completely.

How Much Energy Does a Better SEER System Save You?

There’s a common myth or misconception out there with many people that says that a 14 SEER system is a “bottom of the barrel” option or the “bare minimum” when it comes to energy efficiency standards. While it’s true that this is the minimum, the truth is that these are anything but poor choices for system replacement. In fact, a 14 SEER system is going to save you hundreds of dollars per year on your energy costs in comparison to your old 9 or 10 SEER system.

Let’s do a comparison. If we assume an average electricity price of around 19 cents per kilowatt-hour (a rough average for the state of California) and an annual air conditioning use of around 500 hours, then your current 10 SEER air conditioner is costing you around $342 per year to operate. However, upgrading to a 14 SEER system brings this cost down to $244, a savings of nearly $100 per year, or roughly around 29%!

Now let’s expand that out over the lifespan of your air conditioner. In approximately five years’ time, that savings adds up to $489, in ten years up to $977, and nearly $1,500 over the next 15 years! That’s a huge savings, and the numbers will likely only grow as energy prices across the state continue to climb!

Is Higher SEER Better? Not Always.

Speaking of common misconceptions regarding SEER ratings, there’s another big one that floats around: the idea that a bigger number is better. It’s true that a higher SEER rating saves you more money on energy costs, but at the cost of a much higher installation expense. A higher-SEER system is going to cost you more, and that alone makes more efficient systems not always the best choice, depending on your situation. If you’re looking for a more efficient system and your budget allows you to go for a higher-SEER choice, then by all means you should consider it an option.

However, we strongly advise against breaking the bank just to try and get the most efficient system possible. There comes a point where the added cost of additional efficiency drastically outweighs any of the savings you might see for your system, and we don’t want to encourage anyone else to go past that. Likewise, there are plenty of other factors that weigh in on an air conditioner’s performance, including air quality, air ducts, and choosing a system that’s the right size in addition to the right efficiency rating.

Learn more about replacing your air conditioner from the local experts at John Owens Services! Dial today to request a consultation for your new system installation.


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