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SEER Ratings 101: Getting the Best from Your Air Conditioner

Let's say you finally decided to invest in a decent cooling system for your home. How do you know if you've found an energy-efficient air conditioner? The exterior doesn't necessary tell you. The price isn't always an indication either, so how do you know that you’re getting a quality appliance? You have to look for the SEER rating.


What Is a SEER Rating?


“SEER” stand for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” and the rating is based on that ratio. To find that ratio, experts measure the cooling output during the hot season and divide that by the amount of energy the A/C unit uses. The less energy it uses, the better the score.


You can find formulas online and calculate the SEER rating of your air conditioner yourself, but most newer models come with the rating listed on the invoice or somewhere on the model.


What Is a “Good” SEER Rating?


The highest SEER ratings are—not surprisingly—the best SEER ratings. The best air conditioners on the market rank at 30 for mini-ductless A/C units and 75 for ground-source units. However, you don’t need anything nearly that high-tech for your apartment, house, or business. You’ll have a very efficient system even if you buy one with a rating of 16.


Keep in mind that SEER ratings will be lower in climates with higher temperatures. No matter what, your air conditioner will have to work much harder and use more energy, so the SEER rating will go down. You’ll have to shoot above your minimum rating to get the results you want.


Is the Rating Worth Replacing Your Air Conditioner?


The answer to this question depends entirely on you. Obviously a brand new, highly-efficient air conditioner will cost a lot of money. Most cost hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, and sometimes that cost doesn't include labour or installation.


However, a newer, more efficient A/C will also help you save money. It will also drain less electricity, resulting in lower energy bills and a little more spending money for you. A superior A/C unit's efficient use of energy will pay for itself many times over after you've purchased it, so you’ll be financially ahead in the long run.

Replacing your air conditioner isn't the only way to make your home more energy efficient. A tune-up on your furnace or water heater will also help.