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PA energy rebatesWhen it comes to conserving energy, SEER numbers can be confusing. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and when you boil it down to basics, that’s all SEER is. However, understanding the type of savings you can expect from a new air conditioner isn’t always easy.

What Exactly is SEER?

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is simply a measure of a system’s efficiency. Think of it like you would gas mileage. Most car owners understand the more miles per gallon (MPG) a vehicle gets, the more fuel efficient it is.

SEER ratings are just like MPG ratings. The higher the SEER, the more energy efficient the system.

All newly manufactured units are required to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. However, many of today’s models have efficiency ratings as high as the mid-20s.

How SEER is calculated

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings are calculated by plugging specific numbers into a formula.

This important rating is determined by taking a system’s cooling output during a typical cooling season and dividing that number by the electric energy input during the same period.

Thinking of the rating as a ratio, SEER is the comparison of British thermal unit (BTU) of cooling to watt-hours of energy consumption.

If that sounds like Greek to you, you are not alone. Understanding SEER in terms of mathematics is often best left to the professionals. No one is expecting the typical homeowner to whip out a slide rule and calculate their units rating.

Finding Your Unit’s Rating

Most AC units have a large yellow “Energy Guide” sticker that displays the system’s efficiency rating. The SEER rating will be listed near the top of your unit’s manufacturer’s label.Look for the beginning digits of the model number. For example, an air conditioner with a rating of 13 will typically have a model number that begins with 13AC.

What You Need to Know About SEER

A higher rating equals better energy efficiency.

Better energy efficiency benefits you in two ways. First, you will save money on your monthly cooling bill. With less money spent on utilities, you’ll have more funds to enjoy some summer fun.

The second benefit is a reduction in your carbon footprint. While this benefit won’t help your bank account, it will help the environment. The less energy used to cool your home, the less fossil fuel you consume. And the less fuel you consume, the less carbon emissions make it into the air we breathe.

As of 2006, the minimum requirement for central air conditioners is a SEER rating of 13. The U.S. Department of Energy awards an Energy Star label to systems with higher ratings.

If you have an older cooling system, it may have a rating as low as six. These older systems are extremely inefficient when compared with today’s newer models.

If you want to save money and the planet, make sure any new AC installed in your home has the highest efficiency rating available. Combined with correct unit sizing and professional installation, you should see a great improvement in your energy consumption.

A Note About SEER Ratings

Very controlled laboratory conditions are used to determine Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings. Using high performance measuring equipment, unit efficiency is determined without an air duct system. It is important for the consumer to understand that laboratory conditions do not mirror the actual conditions your HVAC system will be operating under after it is installed in your home.

The SEER is the system’s energy efficiency at one specific operating condition. Actual system performance will vary based on installation procedures and the quality of your home’s duct work.

A new AC unit will undoubtedly save you money on utility bills, however SEER is only one factor in your home’s energy consumption. A professional should test any new system with approved testing methods after installation. This will help ensure you get the maximum savings your new energy efficient system has to offer.


If you are interested in learning more about SEER and high-efficiency air conditioning systems, contact your local HVAC professionals. Not only can they help you find the ideal system for your home, they can also help you keep it running efficiently.