Most people ignore their air conditioner’s SEER rating. Others don’t know where to find it. And then you have the few who aren’t even aware that such a thing exists. But a SEER rating is more important than some homeowners give it credit for, and it’s certainly a factor that should be taken into account when choosing a unit.
What is SEER Rating?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, also sometimes referred to as Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (although this term is technically incorrect). It’s primarily used as a metric unit to measure the ratio of your air conditioning unit’s cooling output per energy consumed during a typical season. The energy absorbed is consequently measured in watt-hours.
Where Can I Find My AC’s SEER Rating?
For most air conditioners, the SEER rating can be found on the outside of the unit. It’s typically printed on a bright yellow sticker or paper that may say something along the lines of “Energy Guide.” If you’re unable to locate it, most models will have their SEER rating listed online.
The Air Conditioning Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) website is an excellent place to start, as it holds the most comprehensive SEER rating database online.
What Does This Rating Mean?
So, what does your AC’s SEER rating actually mean?
It’s a way to measure how energy-efficient your air conditioning unit is. The higher the SEER rating, the better the unit is at conserving and utilizing energy. In the long run, this means better cooling systems and better airflow. It also means less energy consumed per use, thereby a lower monthly energy bill and more long-term savings. The more energy-efficient an air conditioner is, the longer it is likely to last.
For those concerned about the state of their carbon footprint, it is also more environmentally-friendly.
The standard modern air conditioning unit has a SEER value of 13 or 14. This is because all states have a minimum SEER rating that must be met by commercially available AC units, and the minimum rating usually falls around those two numbers. A higher rating does mean a more energy-efficient unit, but it’s not an immediate reason to upgrade—especially if your air conditioner is functioning just fine.
One thing to keep in mind is that the SEER rating refers to the unit’s maximum energy efficiency potential. This means that the unit will not always function on the specified efficiency level—just that it has the capacity to. So, between an air conditioning unit rated 18 and a unit with a rating of 21, there frankly isn’t much of a difference.
The unit that is a 21 SEER may function more often at 16 or 18-level efficiency than it does at 21. Likewise, the 18 SEER unit may continuously perform at its peak efficiency level. So if you do have the budget to upgrade from 18 to 21, you may do so. Just know that it isn’t necessary.
On the other hand, if you’ve got an older model that’s rated 9, upgrading to the standard 15 SEER unit is definitely in your best interest. At that low of a SEER rating, the actual energy consumption per use is just straight up wasteful.
Overall, your AC’s SEER rating does matter. If you find your unit doesn’t function properly, consumes too much energy, or isn’t cooling the house down as well as it should be, your SEER rating should be the first thing you look at. Should you decide to replace your existing air conditioner, the SEER rating is undeniably a great way to narrow your choices down—and can ultimately be the sole deciding factor.