Efficiencies of Air Conditioners

Energy Star LogoWhen purchasing an air conditioning unit this is one of the most important things to consider. The higher efficiency that an AC is the more expensive it will be. You'll need to determine your rate of investment payback. If the higher efficiency AC is going to save you more money in the next couple of years than a lower efficiency one then that's the level you'll want to be at.

Air conditioner efficiency is rated on the SEER scale which is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER rating indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. The minimum SEER allowed today is 13. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label for central air conditioners with SEER ratings of 13 or greater, but consider using air conditioning equipment with higher SEER ratings for greater savings.

The general rule of thumb here is how often you are going to use the unit. If you live further north and only run the AC a couple times a month for a 3 month span of the year then you'll want a unit with a lower SEER rating. The further south you live, the more you run your AC the higher SEER rating you should look for. Remember what we learned in the sizing a unit section as well.

Also take into account any government incentive programs that may give you a discount or a tax break on a higher SEER unit.

There are a number of SEER calculators out there that attempt to tell you how much you'll save. These calculators are often using national averages and will not necessarily tell you how much you'll save. Where you live and how much you use your AC matters! The only way you can get an exact cost savings is by looking at your own bill, having a previous unit with a SEER rating you can compare to, and doing the math. This article has some tips and calculations to assist with that.

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