You probably know that an energy-efficient air conditioner can help you save money, but it can also cool your home more efficiently. If you are considering upgrading your air conditioner, or your existing system is showing signs that it’s at the end of its life, the SEER rating is one of the most important factors to consider when shopping for a new AC system.

Here’s what you need to know about SEER ratings and why they matter.

1. SEER Ratings Allow You to Compare Cooling Costs

An air conditioner’s cooling power is typically defined in BTUs (British Thermal Units) per hour. In the past, when energy was very cheap, homeowners usually chose air conditioners based on their cooling power alone. As energy costs increase, more buyers are concerned about the cost to produce cooling power.

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is the ratio of the system’s total cooling output over a season compared to the total energy consumed during a season. Using SEER ratings, you can compare the operating costs of different air conditioner models.

The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the system will be.

2. Minimum SEER Ratings Vary by Area

About 15 years ago, most AC systems were between 8 and 10 SEER. Efficiency ratings continue to improve, however. Before 2015, air conditioners had to have a rating of at least 13 SEER. Now minimum SEER standards for split-system central AC units based on the region. Currently, the minimum SEER rating requirement for Las Vegas is 14 SEER.

In the North, the old minimum standard of 13 SEER is still used. In the Southwest, including Las Vegas, air conditioners must have a SEER rating of 14 or higher.

3. SEER Ratings Are Based on Standardized Tests

It’s important to understand that SEER ratings don’t tell the whole story. Every air conditioner receives a rating based on a standard efficiency test designed by the Department of Energy. These tests assume an outdoor temperature of 82 degrees, an indoor relative humidity of 50%, and an indoor temperature of 80 degrees.

Based on this rating system, an air conditioner with a 16 SEER rating is 60% more efficient than a system with a 10 SEER rating. This assumes that your home and climate matches those in the standardized test. A SEER rating won’t tell you the whole story because efficiency changes depending on your home’s conditions.

In Las Vegas, the average temperature can reach higher than 110 degrees during the summer, far higher than the 82 degrees used in the standard test, and this will affect the efficiency of the air conditioner. Other factors that can influence your system’s efficiency include your insulation and whether your ductwork has leaks.

4. You Can Calculate Energy Use with the SEER Rating

Unlike BTU, which measures a system’s energy output, the SEER rating compares energy output to energy consumption. It’s possible to calculate your system’s energy use just with the SEER rating and BTU.

If you have a 24,000/BTU air conditioner with a 16 SEER rating and it’s run for 8 hours per day over a 125 summer season, it’s total cooling output over the summer would be 24 million BTU (24,000 BTU x 8 hours x 125 days). With a 16 SEER rating, the system would use 1,500 kWh (24,000,000 BTU / 16 = 1,500,000 Wh).

If you pay $0.12 per kWh, the cost to run your air conditioner for the summer would be $180 (1,500 x 0.12).

This calculation is based on the same conditions used for the SEER rating, however. Because Las Vegas summers are much hotter, it will require more electricity to cool the air in your home.

5. A Higher SEER Rating Can Pay for Itself

While a higher rated air conditioner will cost more upfront, it’s usually worth the investment. Despite the high price jump above the minimum 14 SEER rating, an energy efficient air conditioner can pay for itself in just a few years with substantial energy savings — especially in hot climates like Las Vegas.

Even the mandated increase from a 13 to 14 SEER rating can pay for itself after just four years. Remember that a central air conditioning system has an average lifespan of about 15 years. Once you make up the difference in price, you can enjoy a return on your investment for the next 11 years. It is important to understand that the new system must be installed correctly to achieve the desired SEER rating of the equipment. Many factors must be addressed when installing the newer higher SEER systems. A high SEER system installed incorrectly can result in little or no energy savings.

6. Your SEER Rating Decreases with Time

Every air conditioner will become less efficient as it gets older which decreases the SEER rating. This happens with every appliance, but you can extend the lifespan of your air conditioner and keep it working as efficiently as possible with regular maintenance. Regular maintenance of your air conditioner can reduce your energy costs by up to 40%.

If your air conditioner is more than ten years old or you are experiencing issues like warm air, moisture problems, increasing electric bills, or loud noises, call Right Now Air for AC repair in Las Vegas. An AC check-up can pinpoint the cause of any problems you’re experiencing. If repairs aren’t the cost-effective solution or your system is old and expensive to operate, our HVAC specialists can help you choose a new energy-efficient air conditioner to keep your electric bills affordable.

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