That blazing Lowcountry summer will be here before you know it, bringing the steady hum of air conditioning systems with it.
Because we run our AC a lot around here, energy efficiency helps keep us cool without burning up our wallets.
A SEER rating helps you compare systems to see that you’re getting an efficient one. It’s one of the primary factors in choosing your HVAC, along with picking the correct size.
But just what is a SEER rating? What does it mean, and how can you tell what you have? Let’s take a look at this important number.
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s a number comparing the cooling output of a system over a typical season to how much energy it uses. Since these ratings were adopted and standards set, energy consumers have saved trillions of dollars.
You calculate the SEER rating over an entire cooling season – spring, summer, and sometimes the cooler fall and winter seasons around here – using a constant indoor temperature and outdoor temperatures from 60 degrees to over 100 degrees.
A SEER rating is a maximum efficiency rating. It works a little like your car’s gas mileage. You might get 24 mpg on the highway, but only 18 mpg if you’re stuck in city traffic.
The same goes for your AC. If you’ve seen the ENERGY STAR stickers and wondered what a 13 seer rating is, that’s the minimum SEER a unit can be manufactured with today and the numbers to up to 25. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit.
In recent years, HVAC efficiency standards have been changed to account for the different climates nationwide. This sets a minimum SEER rating that can be sold in a region. South Carolina is part of the Southeast region. Since we use our AC a lot more than other regions, we have a higher minimum SEER at 14.
So just what is the rating of your current unit? Along with age, this can tell you if it’s worth it to consider upgrading to a new system now that you know what a high SEER rating is and what is considered low.
Look for the yellow and black energy guide sticker on the side of the condenser. If the sticker is still there, you should see the SEER rating in large numbers.
If you don’t find it there, it might be recorded on the air handler or indicated at the beginning of the model number. For example, XC21 followed by other numbers would mean a SEER of 21.
Now that you know what is a SEER rating, also know there is no magic number to tell you what a good SEER rating is for your home. If your unit is more than 10 years old, you’re likely to benefit from a new system as the standards have been raised quite a bit since your system was installed. Also, there are numerous tax credits and other incentives that can reduce the cost if you upgrade to a higher SEER system.