When looking at new air conditioning units, how much is the SEER factoring into your decision? Are you familiar with the SEER guide label on air conditioning units and what it could mean for your home? Simply familiarizing yourself with this scale could simplify the process of choosing an air conditioning unit.

What SEER Can Tell You

Before an air conditioning unit is available for sale, it’s tested and given a SEER. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, and is a rating that indicates the energy ratings of a specific air conditioning unit. The rating is determined by taking the cooling output during a typical cooling season and dividing it by the total electric energy used during the same period. A higher SEER rating indicates that the unit will use less energy to cool your home.

The SEER is listed on the blue Energy Star tag so that you can easily compare the efficiency of air conditioning units. While federal regulations put into place in 2006 require that new units have a SEER of at least 13, Energy Star certified central air conditioning units must have a SEER of 14.5. To earn an Energy Star label of “Most Efficient,” air conditioners must be rated at an 18 or higher.

How SEER Helps Choose the Right Unit


Image via Flickr by Furniture San Antonio

Understanding seasonal energy efficiency ratings help homeowners make informed decisions about the best cooling system for their homes. A central air conditioning unit with a SEER of 14.5 may be appropriate for a home in the Pacific Northwest, while homes in hotter regions would be better served by a unit with a higher SEER. While units with higher SEER are more costly initially, energy savings over time help justify the cost. There are units available with SEER between 18 and 23, and some ductless units have a SEER even up to 33.

For comparison, many window air conditioning units, which are much less efficient, operate with a maximum SEER of 10. Many HVAC professionals recommend units with SEER of at least 16. Homeowners who are concerned with balancing the cost of the initial investment and energy efficiency should consider choosing an air conditioning unit with a SEER between 16 and 18.

Keep in Mind

The SEER reflects the unit’s efficiency under the best possible circumstances, meaning it may not always perform to the standard indicated. Air conditioning units may lose efficiency over time. If your unit is ideally operating with a SEER of 16, it may become less and less efficient as it ages, costing you more to cool your home.

Not currently shopping for an air conditioning unit? Many homes have an air conditioning unit that is over 10 years old and may have had a SEER under 13 at the time of installation. Replacing an old unit with a more efficient one could mean huge savings on utility bills.

Your system will always operate best when your unit is properly sized to fit your home and installed correctly. Partner with an HVAC technician to learn about energy efficiency and which unit is best for your home.