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When buying a new air conditioning unit, one of the essential questions a homeowner should ask is: how efficient is my new system? The energy efficiency of an AC system depends on many factors including average outside temperature, overuse or under-use of a system, how long a homeowner runs the air conditioner, and the SEER ratio of the unit, among many other factors that always seem to change. An efficient unit uses the least amount of energy to cool a household for a year properly, and energy savings means more savings on energy bills in the future.

At Carini Heating, Air and Plumbing, our HVAC specialists install, repair, and maintain air conditioning systems in the San Diego area, so we know a thing or two about AC. In fact, let’s take a closer look at SEER, one of the most important elements that goes into determining energy efficiency before you choose your next air conditioning system.

What is SEER and How is it Calculated?

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, determines the average efficiency of an AC system. This ratio tends to be a heavily-considered factor for homeowners when they are in the market for a new AC system.

SEER is calculated by dividing the unit’s produced cooling output by the amount of electrical energy (in Watt-Hours) it uses throughout a single “cooling” season; using this calculation, you can figure out your current unit’s efficiency and compare the ratio to the SEER of your new unit. Instead of worrying about the calculations right now, the SEER rule-of-thumb is: the higher the ratio, the higher the average unit efficiency.

SEER Over the Years

Ever since the 1980s, SEER ratings have been the best way to know the average efficiency of an AC unit and have been subject to two U.S Department of Energy mandates increasing the minimum SEER. In 1992, the mandated minimum SEER was 10, which was then increased to 13 in 2006. Now, 13 years later, the average SEER is between 14 and 16, with some units exceeding 21. Air conditioning technology has improved dramatically, providing us with modern energy-efficient models that make the systems of the 90s and early-2000s pale in comparison.

What is the Best Ratio For My Home?

From what we have covered so far, the easy answer to this question should be the highest number possible. On paper, as the SEER number increases, the energy usage drops proportionately so that a 16 SEER model uses approximately 13 percent less energy than a 14 SEER model. In terms of cash savings, buying the 16 SEER instead of the 14 SEER will shave about $0.13 off each dollar charged on your energy bill – if your bill was $100 even, your bill would only come to $87.

All in all, those savings seem absolutely worth it to install the higher rated system, but there is one drawback: the increased cost of equipment and labor to install the system. AC units with higher SEER ratings cost more than their less efficient brothers, making deciding to splurge on the higher rated system more complicated. But, if you consider that the average lifespan of an AC unit is 15 to 18 years, you will have plenty of time for the unit to pay for itself. Also, in the short-term, those decreased energy bills will take less money out of your paycheck each month.

In the end, it is up to you to determine what is best for your home, but your trusted air conditioning specialists at Carini are available to discuss available options in more depth to help you decide. Give us a call today!