When you’re in the process of purchasing a new air conditioner, you will see a big yellow sticker on the unit, telling you the efficiency rating of that specific system. These efficiency ratings play a vital role in determining how much the system costs to purchase and operate.
The efficiency of a central air conditioning system is measured by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and energy efficiency ratio (EER). An air conditioner with a high SEER rating will cost less to operate each month. On the other hand, you will be required to pay a higher price for an energy-efficient system. Similarly, a higher rated Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) means a more efficient air-source heat pump. If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, we believe it’s worth investing in a system with a high SEER rating.
What does SEER mean?
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The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) is designed to measure the efficiency of an air conditioning systems. The definition of a SEER rating is the total amount of electrical input required to operate an air conditioning system over an average summer season, compared to the amount of cold air the system generates.
This rating is assigned based on an average, lower temperature of 82 degrees. You should know that a 16-SEER air conditioner achieves this rating within this temperature range but not at higher temperatures. This measurement system is based on temperate climates in the middle of the United States. There are also resources online to calculate SEER ratings.
What does EER mean?
The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is similar to calculating the total “highway miles” of the system, as it is tested based on higher operating temperatures of 95 degrees or higher. This type of rating allows you to measure how efficiently a system will operate based on specific temperatures outside. This rating also takes into account humidity removal and is useful because it shows how an air conditioner performs under maximum cooling load. The higher the Energy Efficiency Ratio, the more efficient the system!
It’s important to be familiar with both Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings (SEER) and Energy Efficiency Ratios (EER) because an average central air conditioner needs to operate efficiently on mild, warm, hot, and humid days. You shouldn’t sacrifice one rating for the other, and it’s important to keep in mind that an air conditioner unit with a high SEER rating won’t necessarily also have a high EER rating. Look at both ratings to make a wise purchase.
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What does HSPF mean?
The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) is a metric that is used to determine the efficiency of heat pump systems. The higher the HSPF rating, the more efficient the heat pump. The definition of a HSPF rating is the amount of heat generated throughout an average winter season, compared to the total quantity of electricity that is consumed.
In the United States, split-system heat pumps manufactured in 2015 or later must have an HSPF of at least 8.2, and single package units must have an HSPF of at least 8. The maximum possible HSPF rating for today’s most efficient heat pumps is 10.
What’s More Important: SEER or EER Ratings?
Both ratings can be useful at different times in different situations. The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) measures a snapshot of a moment in time, whereas the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) measures usage over time. Therefore, HVAC experts say SEER represents a more important number to pay attention to for long-term energy usage. “I always concentrate more on SEER than EER,” says Dan Rich, Service Manager for ServiceMark’s King of Prussia office. “We’re always available to discuss the different ratings and what they mean to the pocketbook”, added Dan.
George Davis, Marketing Manager for ServiceMark in the Exton, PA office, reminds homeowners that energy efficiency ratings are only one element of how much power your system will consume, and many other factors influence your energy bills during a hot summer or cold winter.
“If the system is not installed correctly, or if you have duct leakage or bad insulation, the SEER and EER won’t matter,” he says. “I’ve seen cases where a company installed a 14-SEER system for someone and saved them just as much money as a 20-SEER system by making some upgrades to their home’s insulation and over-all weatherization so they’re not losing conditioned cool or hot air.”
Additionally, each rating is dependent on the climate. For example, in warmer climates, the EER rating is more accurate, and in more moderate climates, the SEER is more accurate.
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Government Minimum Efficiency Rating
It’s helpful to learn the government’s minimum efficiency ratings in order to do some comparison shopping. In order to encourage residential energy efficiency and conservation of natural resources, the government established federal minimums for air conditioning efficiency in 1992. Learn more!
Prior to 2006, manufacturers had to create air conditioners that met the 10 SEER minimum. Starting in 2006, the minimum rating was raised to 13 SEER, and as of 2015 the minimum was raised to 14 SEER for most systems except split-system air conditioners, which remain 13 across the U.S, except for a few states where the minimum was bumped to 14.
Today’s cooling systems generally achieve a minimum Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) rating of 10, though some states, as detailed below, have higher requirements. In order to attain Energy Star status, air-source heat pumps and central air conditioners must maintain 12 Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) rating for split systems and 11 for package units.
Choosing a cooling system that merely meets the minimum won’t help you achieve optimal energy efficiency, however. Instead, give high-efficiency air conditioning systems a second look, especially if you live in a very warm or humid climate such as the Middle Atlantic region. Heating and cooling experts recommend high-efficiency air conditioners and heat pump systems that start at 16 SEER and 13 EER.
The Value of EER and SEER Ratings
Comparing two systems with a 14 SEER rating and differing EER ratings is helpful to homeowners when comparison shopping. Make sure you are familiar with the definitions of SEER and EER ratings and the ways each of these metrics are related to the climate.
A system rated 14 SEER and 10.52 EER has a lower cooling capacity at 36,000 British thermal units (BTUs) but has an increased power requirement of 3,420 watts. A 14 SEER air conditioner with a higher EER of 11.37 has an increased cooling capacity (37,800 BTUs), but a lower power requirement (3,320 watts). The higher EER-rated system, therefore, costs less to operate.
No matter what ratings you choose for your new system, you can take steps around the home to boost its efficiency even higher. Talk with a licensed plumber and HVAC technician on our team about sealing air leaks and upgrading insulation. In addition, it’s important to have your ductwork sized when installing new equipment. Our team of licensed technicians offers HVAC repair services for inefficient furnaces, broken air conditioners, and loud boilers. Proper installation and care for your air conditioning system goes a long way toward helping it operate at peak efficiency for many years and the team at ServiceMark is prepared to help you install a new energy-efficient central air conditioner.
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