A very important consideration while buying a new HVAC system is its SEER rating. There are so much confusion and misinformation regarding this key matter that one does not know where to look and whom to believe. Many times people call us to know whether a higher SEER rating is better for the HVAC system. Mind you, their knowledge about SEER is very basic. Hence, today’s aim is to tell you as much about SEER as possible, but in a manner that you can understand and relate to. After that, we shall answer the above question.
SEER – What Is It?
SEER stands for the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. It is the ratio of the cooling that an air conditioner provides over a normal cooling season, divided by the power it consumes in Watt-Hours. Typically it is calculated over a complete cooling season with a static indoor temperature and a variable outdoor temperature.
In layman terms, SEER is the energy efficiency of the HVAC. Like you calculate the mileage of your vehicle in miles per gallon. SEER calculates the cooling provided for every unit of power used.
Is SEER Always The Same?
Let’s go back to the example of your vehicle’s mileage. As long as the road is smooth and there is no traffic, the mileage is constant. Nevertheless, as soon as your vehicle encounters traffic or a jam, it’s altogether another story. The mileage starts falling. The same is the case with the heating and cooling system. Under ideal conditions, it will give the efficiency equivalent to the SEER rating. When the conditions become less than ideal, the efficiency of the system drops.
The important thing to remember here is that the SEER rating is the maximum efficiency that the system can provide. It can never exceed the stated figure. Nonetheless, the efficiency can drop depending on the lifestyle, usage, system settings, local climate, equipment maintenance, etc.
What Constitutes A Good SEER Rating?
SEER rating usually ranges between 13 to 25 SEER. At present, the minimum SEER as mandated by the law is 13 SEER, though the value may differ slightly depending on the state regulations. However, as per the new standard that will come into effect in 2023, the mandatory minimum rating will upgrade to 14 SEER. So, according to law, a good SEER rating would be 14 SEER.
Now let’s come down to personal preferences. The law has dictated the lower value but put no cap over the highest one. One can go as far as their pockets allow. Critical is to remember two important things:
1. As the SEER rating increases, so does the price of the HVAC system.
2. Buying a new unit with a SEER value next in line to the present HVAC system will not give as many savings as skipping one value in between. For example, if your current system has 14 SEER, you should skip 16 SEER and buy 18 SEER to get the most of your investment.
Is A Higher SEER Rating Better For Your HVAC System?
Most people assume that the higher the SEER, the more they can save. Though the logic is not wrong, that is hardly a universal truth. Let us validate this statement through some key points.
1. Actual Efficiency Varies – As we mentioned above, many factors govern the heating and cooling system’s actual output. To reiterate, some of them are the accuracy of installation, system maintenance, temperature and fan settings, etc. The SEER value just indicates the system’s maximum efficiency. The actual efficiency may be far less than the expected one due to the stress on the system and its wear and tear.
2. Higher SEER Units Are Costly – Those systems with a greater SEER value are costlier than those with a lesser one. So, a high rating is synonymous with an expensive unit. Add to it the fact that in truth, it may or may not deliver exactly on the stated SEER rating. Hence, where you were expecting to break even in a couple of years, you actually land up losing on the savings because of the hefty price tag.
For these two critical reasons, we at Aztil Air Conditioning are not in favor of recommending the top end SEER models to our clients. According to us, there needs to be a balance that one should try to strike between efficiency and the unit’s asking price.
So, Is There A Magic SEER Figure?
Why beat around the bush? There is no magic SEER figure that will give you the best of both the worlds. Any SEER rating over 13 is good. It satisfies the state requirements as well as gives you efficient cooling without a very expensive investment.
If your current HVAC system has a SEER rating of less than 13, replacing it with a unit having at least 16 SEER will significantly reduce your cooling costs. Furthermore, the manufacturer’s rebates and tax credits can help bring down the cost of a high SEER unit. Therefore, don’t forget to look into those.
The Grand Finale
High SEER rating systems are definitely better, but in the real world, seldom do they deliver on the stated rating. It is not the fault of the system that it fails to do so. Instead, typically, the conditions are less than ideal, which makes it impossible. The best bet is to buy a unit that fulfills the state’s regulatory requirement and comfortably fits your pocket without putting you under any financial strain.
Aztil Air Conditioning recommends all its current and prospective clients not to make a purchase decision solely based on the SEER rating. Though it is an important consideration, there are several other factors one needs to take into account. If you are confused and need help in deciding upon a suitable HVAC unit, feel free to contact our air experts. We are operational in West Palm Beach, Florida, and can take care of all your HVAC needs, including installation, repairs, and maintenance. To book an appointment, call us at +1-888-729-8452.