What is a SEER Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating?

A “seasonal energy efficiency rating,” also called a “SEER,” is a measure of an air conditioning system’s efficiency. By stating the average electricity consumption of an air conditioner during a typical “air conditioning season,” the SEER system allows consumers to more accurately estimate their energy usage than older rating systems allowed. A higher SEER indicates that an air conditioner uses less energy than those with a lower SEER.

For its calculation, a SEER assumes an air conditioner will be in use 1,000 hours per year, which represents eight hours of usage per day for 125 days during the course of a year. Those living in more southerly locations will significantly exceed this, so a higher efficiency rating is even more beneficial. Additionally, larger houses require more energy to remain at a comfortably temperature and benefit more from high efficiency.

The United States mandated that all new air conditioning units manufactured after 2005 be rated SEER 13 or higher. For an air conditioner to receive an ENERGY STAR certification, it must have a SEER of at least fourteen. Small window units have no such requirement and often have a SEER of around ten.

Upgrading an existing air conditioning system to one with a higher efficiency rating yields significant savings; upgrading from a SEER 9 system, which was previously a common rating, to a SEER 13 system will reduce electricity consumption by a bit over 30 percent. Upgrading from SEER 9 to SEER 16 will reduce energy consumption by nearly 45 percent. While exact savings depends on several variables, most homeowners will see an electricity bill reduction measured in hundreds of dollars per year.

To achieve a higher efficiency, manufacturers use thicker, more efficient metals in their air conditioners. Further, higher rated units generally have multiple compressors and larger coils. This raises the cost of the air conditioning system, so consumers must balance the cost of the unit with their expected energy savings. Most consumer guides recommend purchasing a system with a SEER of at least sixteen.

Additionally, air conditioning units degrade over time. An old unit which had a SEER of nine when it was first installed may currently be operating at a lower SEER. Air conditioning units today tend to retain their rating longer, but it is worth noting that the more expensive materials used in more efficient systems can be expected to help maintain the unit’s rating longer than less efficient systems.

And for those who seek to reduce their impact on the environment, a system with a higher efficiency rating helps reduce energy-related pollution. Systems with a higher SEER will also last longer and reduce the amount of material that ends up in a landfill.

At one time, those looking to purchase a new air conditioner had no means to calculate the energy cost of their purchase; manufacturers had no incentive to focus on efficiency over cost. The SEER system has provided consumers with a valuable tool to calculate the true cost of their new air conditioner.

How to Improve Air Conditioner Efficiency During the Summer

Summer Energy Efficiency Tips: Air Conditioning Usage

Running an air conditioner in the summer is a luxury in some places and a necessity in others. Whether you need it, or just want it, running an air conditioning system can be the biggest consumer of electricity in your home in summer. Using your air conditioning system correctly, keeping it well maintained and taking some other actions toward saving electricity can help keep this cost to a minimum.

There are several kinds of air conditioning systems that are installed in modern homes. Window units, split and packaged systems are the most common. All types of air conditioners should be inspected at least once a year, preferably before they are put into use for the season. Any problems that could reduce efficiency should be fixed before the system is used. A few basic maintenance tasks can go a long way toward safe, efficient operation.

If you do it yourself, be sure to turn off the power to the A/C at the breaker box before opening or working on the machine. Cleaning the coils with a soft brush and removing dust and debris will make the air conditioner cool more efficiently. Filters should also be checked for dirt build up. Some kinds are washable and others must be replaced. Refer to the owner’s manual, or ask a service technician, if you are unsure about the filter in your unit. Having spare filters on hand can save time and frustration.

If the unit is a model that goes through a window or other opening in the wall, check that it is properly sealed all around and tilting outward slightly. If air is leaking around the unit, it will be working harder and costing more. If it is sloping the wrong way, it will not run well and could leak into the room.

Check the grooves that lead water out of a window unit , or the condenser pan if you have a split or packaged unit. Water should be draining properly and no leaks should be detected, except where water exits at the drain.

If all systems are go, and the air conditioner is well maintained and operating at good efficiency, you can still lower your electric bill in other ways. Keeping the thermostat set at 78º Fahrenheit when you are home and turning the unit off when you are ways are other measures that will cut the power costs.

Saving electricity in other ways around the house will also compensate for the increased electricity you need for the air conditioner. By turning off lights and appliances that are not in use and doing laundry at non-peak hours, money can be saved toward cooling costs. Most computers and TVs use power even when they are turned off. To save money on them, plug them in on a power strip and then flip the switch when they are not being used.

Having your house insulated and using double glazed windows cuts costs for both heating and cooling. Weather stripping around doors and windows is a smaller job, but can also significantly reduce the need for air conditioning.

By maintaining your air conditioner properly, keeping the thermostat turned up a bit and reducing other electrical uses, you can increase summer energy efficiency and keep your house pleasantly cool at the same time.