As you shop and get estimates for a replacement HVAC System, one of the most common terms you are going to hear is SEER. With this post, I hope to help you better understand SEER Ratings and the effect on the cooling efficiency of the unit you choose to buy.
What is SEER? Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio
SEER is a measurement of cooling efficiency by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institue. In a nutshell, it is the rating of efficiency a unit delivers, by determining the amount of energy needed to produce overall btus of cooling capacity over the course of a cooling season. For consumers like you and I, the only thing you need to be aware of in regard to SEER Ratings, is that the higher the SEER Rating, the more efficiency the unit, which results in lower operating cost for you!
- The HIGHER The SEER – The MORE Efficient the Air Conditioner
- The Lower the SEER – Means HIGHER Cost to Operate
How Much is Each SEER Rating Point Worth?
There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to determine how much money you may save on a higher efficiency, higher SEER unit. The biggest variables are:
- The amount of time the unit will be running in the cooling season
- The cost of your electricity in your area
For instance, if you live in an area with fewer cooling hours per season, it is going to take longer to realize a return on your investment, than if you live in a place like Texas or Florida, where you cool your home almost year round.In other words, if you live in a place where you only cool your home for 2-3 months… but you heat the3 home for 7-8 months, your money is much better spent on a higher efficiency furnace, versus higher seer cooling.
Calculating Initial Cost Versus Lifetime Savings
Determining a good estimate of savings per seer rating point can be done at HVACOpCost.com (opens in new window) Use the example below to determine your cost savings, and see if its worth the initial cost of higher efficiency (SEER) cooling system.
**Note – Since I am ONLY comparing the savings for a higher efficiency COOLING SYSTEM, I am not changing any values on the heating side of this estimate tool.
Step 1 – Choose Your Location
Look on the map and find the zone that you live in. If you are on the borderline of two zones, I would recommend choosing the hotter zone. The zone map is based off of cooling hours in the specific areas and will automatically populate some of the form tables to perform the calculation.
I am on the borderline of 3 & 4, so I used area 4 for my own homes calculation.
Step 2 – Size of Your Home
In order to get a rough estimate of the equipment size for your home, you need to input the square feet of conditioned space in your home. If your entire home is cooled when the air conditioner is running, then enter the square footage of the entire house.
My home is 3760 square feet, so I simply entered 3800 in the home size box.
Step 3 – Review the Information and Set your Desired SEER rating
As you can see in the image to the left, most of this table is already completed for you! The top box contains the estimated equipment size, electric rate and cooling hours for my home, in my area. The fields ARE editable, so if one of the values is way off from your data, you can make adjustments before getting a final saving estimate.
For my own SEER Savings estimate, I left all of the fields the way the system delivered them, with one exception. Since I am calculating the savings from a 13 SEER unit to a 15 SEER unit, I changed the Cooling Standard and Cooling High Efficiency information to reflect my quotes.
I have 2 estimates from the same contractor.
- 13 SEER Standard efficiency replacement unit – $3460.00 installed. (Includes AC and Coil)
- 15 SEER higher Efficiency replacement – $4900 installed (includes AC and Coil)
Now that the figures represent my own cost comparison, I will click the “Calculate button” at the bottom center of the page to see my approximate cost savings with a higher efficiency air conditioner.
Higher SEER Air Conditioner Savings Estimate and ROI
The image below are the results of my higher efficiency air conditioner savings estimate.
Looking at the results table, I can clearly see that going from the standard 13 SEER unit to a higher efficiency 15 SEER unit, will save us approximately $345 per year! That's quite a bit of difference!
Overall Savings from Higher SEER
[adsenseone]Once I factor in the HVAC Energy Credit Plan, and the $300 (dollar for dollar tax savings) tax credit, the true cost of going with a higher efficiency unit is remarkable!
- $1440 Initial cost difference
- $645 First Year payback ($300 Energy tax credit, plus $345 in energy savings)
- = $795 Total cost increase in year 1 for a high efficiency cooling system!
The higher efficiency air conditioner will cost me a bit more out of pocket at the time of purchase, but within 3 years, I will have paid myself back for the purchase and realize an immediate payback on my investment!
Conclusion – Higher Efficiency helps not only the environment, but it helps save money!