What Is a SEER Rating?

If you’ve shopped for a new cooling system, you’ve probably noticed something called a SEER rating on each model. You might know it’s important but do you know what exactly it means and what a good SEER rating is? Let’s cool off and learn more about SEER!

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and it rates the efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. SEER is calculated by taking the “cooling output during a typical cooling-season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period.” Usually found on a sticker somewhere on a system’s exterior, SEER is intended to help consumers better compare models and pick the one that has their desired efficiency. A SEER rating notes the maximum efficiency of a unit, so it’s possible that you won’t always attain that highest level. During heat waves, for example, your system will work harder than usual and you may not reach max efficiency. There are other factors that can affect efficiency, such as dirty coils, duct leaks, and poor airflow, so don’t skip your regular maintenance checks.

Did you know? Since a ductless heat pump both heats and cools, it will have a SEER rating to measure its cooling ability and something called a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) to measure heating efficiency.

What is the best SEER rating?

SEER ratings range from 13 (the minimum required) to 26. To qualify for ENERGY STAR, an air conditioner must be at least 14. This doesn’t mean that a system rated 13 is inefficient and one rated 26 is the best, though. Efficiency and, more importantly, the most efficient system for your home, is based on multiple factors.

Factors to take into consideration:

  • Size and orientation of your home
  • Geographical location
  • Condition of ductwork in your home
  • Type and amount of insulation
  • Presence of other energy-saving features
  • How long you plan to live in your home
Family on couch in air conditioning image

A note on budget and efficiency

Budget is another important factor when considering SEER ratings. In general, high efficiency systems cost more to purchase but cost less to operate. If you’re planning on living in your home for a long time and/or you’re concerned about monthly utility bills, then a high efficiency system might be a good choice. If you’re not concerned with paying a higher utility bill and/or you don’t want to pay a lot of money upfront, then a system with a lower SEER may make more sense. A professional HVAC expert can work with you to balance your concerns and needs and find the best SEER rating for your family.

What’s in a number?

Every brand is a little different but there are improvements in temperature balance and dehumidification with a higher SEER rating. In general, you can expect to see these benefits and features by rating.

  • At 13-16 SEER: Most of these cooling systems are single-stage, which means they run at full capacity and turn off and on frequently. They don’t remove as much moisture from the air as other systems.
  • At 16-20 SEER: These two-stage systems can run at low or high capacity. Low capacity produces balanced, gentle cooling with better humidity control.
  • At 19-26 SEER: Variable-capacity compressors regulate the speed of air so the system can keep the home’s climate precisely balanced.

Ready for a new air conditioner?

If you’re fed up with uncomfortable temperatures, contact Comfort Heating & Cooling for a free estimate. We’ll assess your home, your needs, and your budget to provide you with a professional and reliable recommendation whether it’s a ductless heat pump or an air conditioner. Don’t forget to check out Summer Specials! For a limited time, you can receive a free air conditioner or electric furnace with purchase.

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