SEER is the standard that is used in the air conditioning industry to rate the energy efficiency of central, ductless and heat pump air conditioning units. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Box air conditioners, like the ones you mount in a window, are rated by a different standard called the EER, or Energy Efficiency Ratio. The EER rates how much cooling power the box unit can produce at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. SEER rates the energy efficiency of an air conditioning unit to create cooling power for an entire season of temperatures that range from 65 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Are the SEER Standards?

The federal government sets standards for the SEER of air conditioning units sold in the country. The standard has different guidelines based upon whether you live in a state in the north or south of the country. If you are in a northern state, the minimum SEER rating of a new unit sold is 13. In the southern states, the minimum SEER rating at press time in 2022 is 14. Virginia is covered under the SEER ratings for states in the south of the country. Most central air conditioning units sold today have SEER ratings in the range of 15 to 18.

The SEER standards for air conditioning units that were sold 10 to 15 years ago are far lower than the standards for units sold today. The SEER rating requirements by the Department of Energy have steadily increased over time. Many old central air conditioning units put into service 15 years ago have SEER ratings as low as 8 or 9. This makes it worth your while to consider a new air conditioning unit if your unit falls into that age of service. You will save money in the summer on your electric bill with one of the more energy-efficient units.

New SEER Ratings for 2023

The SEER minimum rating standards are set to go up again in 2023. As of 2023, the new SEER minimum standard for air conditioners sold in the north of the country will be 14, and the new SEER standard for air conditioners and heat pumps sold in the south of the country will be 15. This does not mean that you will be forced to buy a new air conditioner in 2023. The new SEER minimum rating will only apply to new units being installed from that year and beyond.

The Higher the SEER Rating, the Greater the Cost of the Unit

Air conditioning units with higher SEER ratings tend to cost quite a bit more than those that are just barely above the current SEER minimum standard. For example, jumping from a 14 SEER air conditioning system to a 16 SEER system averages around $900 to $1,500 more. Jumping from a 14 SEER unit to a 21 SEER model can initially cost $3,000 to $5,000 more.

Some units have SEER ratings as high as 23. As a consumer, you will need to weigh the initial cost of the air conditioning unit versus the energy savings you will enjoy over time by purchasing a more expensive unit with a higher SEER rating as compared to purchasing a model with a lower cost that has a more modest SEER rating.

Another really important consideration, though, is that an air conditioning unit can only do so much. Factors in your home such as poor placement, inadequate insulation and leaky window and door seals can hamper the efficiency of even the best of units. At Meade’s Heating and Air, we also will help you evaluate your insulation and other factors that can lower the efficiency of your cooling system and provide solutions to help you get every drop of efficiency out of your new HVAC system.

Why Do Some Units Cost So Much More Than Others?

The typical 14 SEER air conditioning system will either be cycled entirely on or off. The more efficient 21 SEER and above systems have a high and low mode when they are cycled on to cool your home. When they first come on, they will likely be on high mode to cut down the heat in the room. Once the room is a certain temperature, they will cycle on to a low mode. The 14 SEER systems have no low mode because they only have the high stage. This makes them less energy efficient. Still, a 16 SEER system will be twice as energy efficient as the 15-year-old air conditioning system that is in some homes today. Those are only 8 SEER.

Another factor to consider when deciding between different modern air conditioning systems is that the most efficient units with the dual-stage compressors are much more expensive to fix when they have gone out of their warranty period. The 14 SEER models cost around $1,300 to replace a failed compressor. The 21 SEER models cost $2,000 to replace the compressor.

The advantage of the two-stage systems is that you will experience fewer hot versus cold zones in your home. You will also have less humidity. Finally, the two-stage systems are quieter. Some HOAs require quieter air conditioning units.

How Do You Determine How to Save the Most Money on an Air Conditioning Unit?

First, look on our Meade’s Heating and Air website to see what special savings and dealer rebates may be available when you make your computation to weigh which unit is the best for your budget. Also, realize that you do not have to do this computation for yourself if you don’t like math. We can calculate the energy savings versus initial unit cost of air conditioning units we offer that are a good fit for your home and then present these calculations to you.

An easy way to make the calculation between different new units with different SEER ratings is the following savings:

  • Upgrading from 14 SEER to 16 saves you 14%of your energy bill
  • 14 to 20 SEER saves you 43% on your energy bill

So, just realize that going from 14 SEER to 16 will save you $14 of every $100 dollars on energy. 14 to 20 SEER will save you $43 of every $100 on energy costs because it is a very advanced, two-stage system.

At Meade’s Heating and Air, we can help you figure out the best new air conditioning system for your needs and budget. We are located in Sterling, Virginia. We serve all of Northern Virginia, including McLean, Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

We have skilled and professional technicians who have years of experience in the HVAC business. We are available 24/7, and we often arrive within an hour of your call for service. Our BBB rating is a solid A. We also offer special deals, dealer rebates, service maintenance agreements and financing offers to help you fit your new air conditioning unit into your budget.

Call us at Meade’s Heating and Air in Sterling, Virginia for any questions you have about SEER ratings or to schedule an in-home evaluation for air conditioning installation services. We provide comprehensive heating, cooling and indoor air quality services.

Meade's Heating and Air

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