What is a good SEER rating for my AC?

An air conditioner’s SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, rating will tell you how energy efficient your AC unit is. An AC with a SEER rating of 16 will perform more efficiently than one with a SEER rating of 14. The higher the SEER rating for your AC unit, the less annual cost it will take to operate because the unit uses less energy to cool your home.

In 1992, the United States Department of Energy required all AC units sold to have a 10 SEER rating or higher. Prior to this, the average home AC unit had a 6 SEER rating. In 2006, the DOE raised the minimum level for AC units sold to 13 SEER. As of 2012, manufacturers craft AC units with SEER ratings as high as 23. But how high of a SEER rating do you really need?

If you’re operating an AC unit with a SEER rating less than 10, you will likely benefit from purchasing a newer model with a higher SEER rating. Because you can generally expect your air conditioner to last you 15 to 20 years, the overall energy savings from operating an AC with a higher SEER rating would likely exceed the cost of purchasing the new unit. For example, if you’re currently running an 8 SEER unit and switch to a 16 SEER unit of the same capacity, you could expect your new unit to cool the same space for half the energy.

To calculate the actual savings for a higher SEER model, you can multiple the model’s BTU (British Thermal Unit) times the number of hours you plan to operate the unit during the year (if you plan to run your AC 8 hours a day during June, July, August and September, that’s about 960 hours a year). You would then divide this number by the SEER rating, multiply by the kilowatt hour cost (the average cost in the Baltimore, MD area in 2012 is a $.13 kw hour cost), and divide by 1000 watts per KW. You can then compare the yearly savings of operating a higher SEER unit verses the purchase cost of a new unit.

At All Seasons Heating & Cooling, we provide a variety of Baltimore air conditioning services, including new energy efficient AC unit installation.

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