What’s A SEER Rating And Why Does It Matter To My A/C

By: Brian Schutt  |  August 7, 2012

If you’ve done any air conditioning or heat pump shopping recently you’ve probably run into the term SEER.  In the midst of a bunch of other technical terminology that was unfamiliar, you may or may not have had this acronym unpacked for you.  In an effort to simplify what can sometimes be a complicated process, I wanted to walk through SEER ratings briefly, so your purchase will hopefully be more straight forward.

SEER is the metric used to determine efficiency for air conditioning systems and heat pumps.  SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is defined as the total cooling output (in British thermal units or Btu) provided by the unit during its normal annual usage period divided by its total energy input (in watt-hours) during the same period.  Essentially, the number determines how many watts of energy is required to cool your home in a given time period.  While the amount of cooling that’s needed should remain constant, how much energy required can be reduced as your SEER rating increases.

So what’s that mean to you? Well, as you may have seen in your estimate, the baseline efficiency is now 13 SEER.  With each +1 SEER, you should expect around a 10% increase in efficiency.

So if the 13 SEER Air Conditioner is estimated at $3,000

And the 16 SEER Air Conditioner is estimated at $4,000

A couple of contingencies that you need to factor in when determining payback time. How many days will you be using A/C? In Indiana, that number is roughly 125 days annually.  Secondly, what is your current electric bill during these months?

For our example, let’s say you have a 10 SEER system now, and you’re looking at the above options to replace that system.  Let’s also say that your current electric bill is $200 from May to September. Our estimated savings with the increased efficiency would be: $60/month for the 13 SEER system, and $120/month for the 16 SEER system.  During these 5 months where you use A/C, you’d benefit roughly $300 annually with the 16 SEER system.

The next important question, how long will you be in your home?  As the numbers above indicate, you will pay a premium for the higher efficiency equipment.  The benefits improve the longer you live in your home, and therefore this is a major factor in decision making for customers.

Whatever your situation, be sure to do the math before making a decision.  What you don’t know can cost you.

Brian Schutt


is the co-owner of Homesense Heating | Cooling. Born and raised in Indianapolis, he loves the city and its people, and is committed to bringing a servants mindset into the heating and cooling industry. One of the ways he does that is to translate the technical language of HVAC into the manageable and understandable for homeowners.

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