One of the challenges you will face when choosing between different air conditioners is comparing different systems that seem to offer the same capabilities. Fortunately, there are ways to distinguish different air conditioners if you know what you’re looking for.
One of these distinguishing characteristics is a unit’s SEER rating. Keep reading to understand what a SEER rating is and why it’s important to help you choose the best air conditioner for your home.
The SEER acronym stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which is a fancy term that’s meant to encompass a lot of information. Essentially, the SEER rating is a way to objectively measure the efficiency of a particular air conditioning unit to ensure you can make an informed choice that balances price with efficiency. Without the SEER rating, you’d be left to navigate the characteristics of the air conditioner on your own with no guarantee that you were making a good investment.
How Is It Measured?
The basic calculation for the SEER rating divides the output of the unit by the input of energy. The output refers to the cooling output, captured as a unit of energy using BTUs, or British Thermal Units.
This measurement is meant to be an estimate of how many BTUs the air conditioner will produce in a typical warm season based on its daily cooling capacity. So, the hourly capacity is multiplied by the number of expected running hours in a day, and that is multiplied by the expected number of running days in a season to arrive at the expected seasonal output.
Once the seasonal cooling output of the unit is known, that is divided by the expected required input of energy to achieve the estimated output. Since the power draw of a specific unit can be measured over a specific time, the daily and seasonal power draw of a unit can be known, as well. Once this is calculated, it’s simply a matter of dividing the seasonal cooling output with the seasonal power input to arrive at the seasonal energy efficiency ratio.
Why Does It Matter?
While it’s good to understand the math behind the rating, the good news is that no one at Sun City Mechanical will ever ask you to do that math. The manufacturers calculate the SEER ratings of the units they sell as required by federal law. This helps keep manufacturers honest and helps keep consumers informed.
When looking for an air conditioner, it’s crucial to know the SEER ratings of each unit you consider because that will tell you how efficiently a particular unit uses power. In the case of SEER ratings, higher ratings are better, which makes sense considering how the SEER is calculated.
Since cooling your home is quite energy intensive, you want to be sure that the power that’s being used by the compressor is being converted into cooling capacity, at least as much as possible. Whatever power is being used for other purposes could be considered lost or wasted power, which is something you want to minimize since it’s akin to throwing your money away.
How Else Is Energy Used?
Since a higher SEER rating indicates a more efficient unit, you may be thinking to yourself, “I’ll just purchase a unit with a SEER rating of 100 from Sun City Mechanical and call it a day.” The problem is, no air conditioner is even close to being that efficient. That’s because an air conditioner uses energy in a variety of ways.
Like many other mechanical systems, much of the energy in an air conditioner compressor is lost as heat energy. The compressor works hard to remove heat from the refrigerant before it compresses the gas and sends it back through the refrigerant line to restart its journey.
During this hard work, the compressor creates heat, even as it’s removing heat from the refrigerant. Already, this makes the unit less than 100% efficient. Combine that with the mechanical energy of the fan, the sound energy of the fan, the compressor and the thermal energy of the compressor coils, and you can see why air conditioners rarely receive higher than a 22 SEER rating.
What Should I Look for Then?
Since you can’t find a unit with a perfect SEER rating, what should you be looking for? For starters, federal regulations require all air conditioning units to have a SEER rating of at least 13. Therefore, if you’ve had your current unit for more than a decade, you’re likely in for a big efficiency increase no matter which unit you buy from Sun City Mechanical.
Rising above the federal minimum are units that are ENERGY STAR-certified. To achieve this rating, an air conditioner must achieve a SEER rating of at least 14.5. Since this standard was set in place in 2006, though, a large majority of the units you’ll see on the market qualify as ENERGY STAR units. Therefore, it’s best to move up from there, until you get to the point where the increased cost would be impractical given the local energy costs.
Speaking of energy costs, that should definitely be a consideration when choosing your air conditioning unit. Without a doubt, a unit with a higher SEER rating will save you money on your utility bill, regardless of how expensive your energy costs are. However, if your energy costs are fairly low, paying a high price for an air conditioner will mean that it will take you a long time to recoup the higher costs through energy saved. In some cases, you may never recoup the costs, meaning that you’ll have wasted money with nothing to show for it.
A Note on Maintenance
Although the SEER rating can provide guidance as to which system is most efficient when you first install a new air conditioner, the rating does nothing to tell you how efficient your system is after it’s been installed for a few years. Therefore, it’s important to properly maintain your air conditioner. Doing so will help it maintain its efficiency throughout its life, meaning you get the best return on your investment.
The experienced technicians at Sun City Mechanical work hard every day to provide outstanding results for our customers. As a family-owned and -operated business that is focused on integrity first, we work to ensure that you’re always getting your money’s worth when you choose us to take care of your HVAC system or plumbing needs. We strive to be good citizens in our community, serving as sponsors for local civic organizations and sports teams.
Whether you’re looking for a new air conditioner with a high SEER rating, need maintenance or repair on your current air conditioner, or have any type of plumbing problem, feel free to give us at Sun City Mechanical in Buckeye, AZ, a call. We are ready to assist you with your needs.