What Does SEER Mean? | Winters Home Services

August 2, 2021

We measure air conditioners in a massive number of ways, and each measurement tells us a little bit of information about how a system works. However, among all of these different statistics and numbers is a measurement that is arguably more important than all the rest: a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or “SEER” rating for short. What exactly does this number do and why is it so crucially important to know? This blog will discuss it in greater detail so you can better understand your own air conditioner or get valuable information that can help you make a more informed buying decision.

What Is a SEER Rating?

To put it simply, SEER ratings are an easy way of expressing and comparing energy efficiency. This measurement is obtained by comparing the amount of heat removed from a set quantity of air with the amount of energy it takes to do so. The two measurements are combined, and the result is typically rounded to the nearest whole number (though you might sometimes find a system that advertises itself with a half-number expressed as a 0.5 level). The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient a system is.

As little as 20 years ago, air conditioners regularly came in at around eight to ten SEER when tested in laboratory conditions, and this was believed to be remarkably efficient. However, that isn’t the case today. Advancements in technology and materials as well as motivation by changing requirements have created systems that are considerably more efficient today. In fact, you can’t even buy a system as low as eight to ten SEER today. Depending on where you live in the country, the minimum SEER rating you can buy will be either 12 or 13 (as a northern state, Massachusetts has a minimum of 12).

Choosing a System with the Right SEER Rating

So, what exactly is the “right” SEER rating? Should you always buy a system with the highest possible efficiency rating? How do you know if your current system’s efficiency could be hurting your pocketbook? If your air conditioner has broken down badly and needs to be replaced, or if you’re simply looking to get ahead of an aging system and replace it before it quits, then these are just a few of the questions you’re likely asking yourself.

It might concern you to learn that there really is no right answer when it comes to SEER ratings. Unlike other measurements that require a precise fit like AC capacity, a SEER rating is something you will get to choose for yourself. Some people truly want an ultra-efficient, eco-friendly cooling system for their home. Others might simply be looking for the most affordable option, and efficiency might not play as big of a role in their selection. Regardless of where your priorities lie, there are some things you should keep in mind when considering your system’s SEER rating.

First, it should come as little surprise, but a more energy-efficient system will carry a higher price tag, and that might cut into your actual savings from purchasing the more efficient option. Sure, a more energy-efficient system will save you more money on your energy bills, but will that additional savings make up for the added initial overhead on your initial system purchase? If a 14 or 16 SEER system won’t save you enough money each month to cover the difference, then you might actually be better off simply purchasing a less-efficient system.

However, more efficient systems also have another advantage—rising energy costs. When energy costs go up, those with inefficient systems feel the strain a lot more than those with more efficient alternatives. While any system will lose efficiency over time and use, systems with a higher SEER rating will generally pay off a lot more in the long run when energy costs go up.

Another thing to consider is that a “minimum” SEER system is not a “bottom-of-the-barrel” option like so many people perceive it to be. Sure, it might be the minimum you can buy, but that doesn’t mean these systems are inefficient. In fact, switching from a 20-year-old eight SEER system to a new 12 SEER option is a huge improvement, and you will see a huge difference in both your home comfort and your energy bills almost immediately! The difference will be even greater for more efficient options as well. However, don’t let a limited budget stop you from upgrading—you aren’t installing an inferior product, and the difference it will make to your home will be monumental.

Is it time to replace your air conditioner? Let the experienced team of pros at Winters Home Services guide you through the process of choosing the perfect new system for your home. Dial 617-221-5899 and schedule an appointment today.