Answering 5 Quick Questions about Cooling Efficiency

Posted: April 20, 2016

Cooling efficiency

Posted: April 20, 2016
Posted by: Gerald Kuller, Home Comfort Manager

Home cooling systems continue to get more energy efficient with each new generation of appliances – great news for you and for the environment.

But how do you measure that efficiency, and how do you use that information to choose the right central air conditioner or heat pump for your home?

In this post we’ll answer 5 quick questions about cooling efficiency. Next week we’ll talk about how these ratings can help you choose a cooling system that’s right for your home.

5 Quick Questions about Cooling Efficiency

  1. What is SEER? Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) measures the energy efficiency of your HVAC system – in other words, how efficiently it turns electricity into cool air (think of it the same way you would think of MPG in a car). The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit is.
  2. How is SEER determined? The SEER rating of a air conditioning unit is the amount of cool air produced during a typical cooling-season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. In the United States, SEER is a ratio of cool air produced (measured in British thermal units, or Btus) to the energy consumed (in watt hours).
  3. What SEER ratings are available? Since 2006, 
federal law has required a minimum SEER rating of 13 for new central air conditioners and heat pumps (in some hotter areas of the country, the SEER minimum has been raised to 14). Some older A/C units have a SEER rating as low as 8. Most of today’s best-selling models offer SEER ratings between 14 and 18 – but there are some mini-split (ductless) A/C units available with SEER ratings up to 33!
  4. What is a “payback period?” The “payback period” is the time it takes to recoup the extra expense of a more efficient unit in the form of lower energy bills (the cost of an A/C unit increases about 8-10 percent for every 1-point increase in SEER rating, assuming a similar-sized unit from the same manufacturer). The typical payback period for choosing an 18 SEER central air conditioner over a 14 SEER model can be as little as 3 years, depending on the workload (more work = faster payback period). The payback period can be significantly shorter if you replace an 8 SEER air conditioner with a 16 SEER model, since energy use will be cut in half.
  5. What is Energy Star rating? The federal government began the Energy Star program to identify energy-efficient products. Currently, for a condensing unit to meet Energy Star requirements it must be rated 14 SEER or higher.

Considering a new A/C unit for your home? Contact Wilson today for a FREE estimate just in time for summer!

Next week – Heat pump, Central or ductless – what’s the right solution for my home?