A new air conditioning system is a considerable expense. So, when you’re in the market for one, you’d want to do all the necessary research to ensure you make the right choice. With so many acronyms and definitions, it can be hard to know what’s important and what’s not.
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is a common acronym in the HVAC world, but what does SEER mean? Should you worry about it? Casper Friendly Services, skilled HVAC technicians in Jackson, NJ, will cover all the details in this post.
What Is a SEER Rating?
The SEER rating is a measure of how much energy an air conditioner or heat pump will use in cooling your home over one year. It’s a measure of the system’s efficiency. For example, the SEER rating for air conditioners and similar HVAC equipment is like MPG (miles per gallon) for your car.
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) determines the minimum SEER for air conditioners per time.
Manufacturers typically aim to meet those minimum expectations or better. They are also required to list the SEER rating on most types of air conditioners, including mini-split, window, and central air conditioning systems.
You will also find SEER ratings on heat pumps. However, the rating is for the cooling function. The heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) measures the heating mode’s efficiency.
Air conditioners with a high enough SEER rating receive the Energy Star rating for efficiency.
To calculate SEER for an air conditioner, divide the cooling capacity by the total electric energy it consumes. Higher numbers denote an efficient air conditioner.
Benefits of a High SEER Rating
Looking at the definition above, it’s clear that you should buy an air conditioner with a high SEER rating. Below are the benefits you can expect to enjoy by going that route:
Lower Energy Bills
A high SEER rating means that the air conditioner and heat pump will consume moderate levels of energy during the cooling season. Thus, such units will put more money back into your pocket at the end of every month.
According to the Department of Energy, switching to a high SEER air conditioning system can lower your energy bills by up to 40%.
More Efficient Cooling
Many factors contribute to the lower energy consumption. However, high on the list is the variable-speed compressor manufacturers install in high SEER air conditioners. Standard two-stage compressors only have two levels of operation: high and low.
On days when the weather is more agreeable, the compressor will primarily operate on the low setting. Vice versa for when the weather is very hot and humid.
Switching between the two modes can save you money, but the weather here in New Jersey is rarely that black or white. The result is days when the air conditioner uses too much energy than it should due to the inefficiency of the compressor.
A variable-speed compressor is more efficient because it can operate on multiple levels, allowing a custom energy output based on what the weather calls for during that particular. The fewer stop-starts keep your home at a stable temperature without using up too much energy.
Tax Credits and Rebates
The government and utility companies are at the forefront of the drive to get more people paying attention to their air conditioner’s SEER rating.
They want more people to conserve electricity to lower the pressure on the electricity grid. To further push this, utility companies offer rebates worth hundreds of dollars to anyone who upgrades to an air conditioner with a high SEER.
Similarly, homeowners now qualify for an HVAC tax credit of up to $600 from the federal government if they install a high SEER air conditioner, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
Combined, these rebates can lower the cost of your new air conditioner by 20-30%.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the electric power sector is responsible for more than 31% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S. This is because electricity production requires burning fossil fuels. Using more energy means you’re contributing to the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere.
Buying a high SEER air conditioner reduces the amount of energy you burn cooling your home. As a result, you’ll contribute your quota toward reducing the greenhouse gas emissions due to air conditioner usage.
What Is the Difference Between SEER and SEER2
SEER2 is a new standard launched in 2023 to replace SEER. It’s a measurement that better reflects the external field conditions for HVAC units installed in different parts of the country.
SEER2 offers a more accurate measurement of energy efficiency because it considers other factors such as regional climate data, humidity, temperature changes, and more.
SEER and SEER2 readings are generally similar, but the latter is typically 4.7% lower. So, if you want to find out the SEER2 of your current air conditioner, you just need to reduce its SEER by 4.7%.
What Is the Difference Between SEER and EER?
EER means Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s another measure of air conditioner energy efficiency, but EER doesn’t measure the air conditioner’s efficiency over the entire cooling season.
It’s also mostly used for measuring efficiency with window AC units, while SEER measures energy efficiency for central air conditioning systems and heat pumps.
Another major difference between SEER and EER is that the former accounts for the system stopping and starting, while the latter only measures efficiency when the system is running at a steady rate.
What HVAC SEER Rating Should You Aim For?
Now you know the answer to “What does SEER mean in HVAC terms?” the next logical question is working out what SEER rating you should aim for when it’s time to buy your new air conditioner.
The first thing you should keep in mind here is that any new air conditioner with a significantly higher SEER rating than your old unit is good enough, resulting in significant energy savings.
However, it’s good to ensure your new unit meets the recommended minimum SEER for your region at the very least.
For New Jersey and the bulk of the North Region, the old recommended minimum was 13 SEER. Today, the recommended minimum is 14 SEER and 13.4 SEER2. Is there any benefit to choosing a unit with efficiency higher than the recommended minimums? Absolutely. You can enjoy the benefits of using a high-efficiency system even further.
Does a High SEER Always Mean a High Energy Efficiency?
In a word, no. Buying an air conditioner with the highest SEER doesn’t always mean the perfect level of energy efficiency.
You should keep in mind that the SEER only measures the potential efficiency of your air conditioner under the perfect conditions.
The exact levels of efficiency you’ll get depend on factors such as the size of the air conditioner in relation to your home, the experience levels of the installation crew you hire to install the air conditioner, the height of your ceiling, the condition of your ductwork, your home’s insulation, the settings on the thermostat and more.
The air conditioner’s efficiency will also drop if you use it for a year or more without any maintenance. That’s why HVAC technicians recommend regular maintenance.
Away from the air conditioner and the state of your home, other factors you can’t influence, such as the temperature outside, may also affect your air conditioner’s efficiency.
So, looking at these factors, it’s important to call in an HVAC technician to evaluate your cooling needs and recommend the right-sized air conditioner for your space.
Otherwise, you could buy that unit with a high SEER rating only to find that the energy efficiency is far lower than you expected compared to your old unit.
What Are the Disadvantages of a High SEER HVAC System?
The only major downside of a high SEER HVAC system is the higher upfront cost. As you slide up the rating scale, you’ll find that the air conditioners cost more than similar-sized units of a lower rating.
However, this isn’t quite a disadvantage because the air conditioner will pay for itself over time due to the lower energy bills.
If your budget is lower than what it would cost to get a high SEER unit that will meet your needs, you can either consider your financing options or install a slightly lower SEER unit. Remember, improving on the SEER of your old unit should be your first priority.
Get the Answers to Your HVAC Questions from Casper Friendly Services
At Casper Friendly Services, we believe it’s a good decision to invest in a high SEER system within your budget. However, if the cooling output from your current air conditioner is still good enough to get you through the hot summer months, you don’t need to worry about switching to a higher SEER system just yet.
Do you need to explore more answers to the question, “What does SEER mean in HVAC?” Do you have other heating and cooling questions to ask an HVAC technician? We can help.
Call the Casper Friendly Services team in Neptune, NJ, today at 732-838-9062 to schedule a consultation.
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