SEER Rating Chart: Is Higher SEER Rating Worth It?

While sifting through various HVAC systems in your search for the perfect fit for your home, you’ll notice that every AC unit has a SEER rating.

Some air conditioners have ratings in the high twenties, while others dip into the low teens. The highly efficient AC units tend to have a hefty price tag tacked to them, while the less efficient models have a more approachable price.

Are the higher SEER ratings worth the extra money? This article delves into SEER ratings to help you determine if you should fork over the extra cash to purchase a highly efficient air conditioner or not, so keep reading to learn more!

What Is SEER Rating

All AC systems have a particular SEER rating. But, what does SEER mean?

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, measures an HVAC unit’s energy efficiency. Or, for a more formal SEER definition, it calculates air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency through a simple formula.

The formula takes the total electric energy input for a cooling season and divides it by the total electric energy input during the identical time frame, which equals the SEER rating.

You may or may not know your home’s AC SEER rating. The concept is quite simple yet plays a massive role in deciding which unit suits your home and climate.

When you’re shopping for a new HVAC system, particularly an air conditioner, you’ll notice various SEER ratings on the units. Generally, the ratings will span a range from 13 to 28 SEER, although not all brands offer highly efficient units.

Some smaller or more affordable brands have models that top out at a maximum rating of 17 SEER. The industry’s leading brands offer ratings up to the high twenties, with some models boasting ratings as high as 28 SEER.

What SEER Rating Should I Buy

It’s essential that you choose a SEER rating that is appropriate for your home and climate. For example, if you live in a hot, arid climate, you will need an AC unit with a higher SEER rating. Otherwise, you’ll have a super sizable cooling bill.

On the other hand, if you live in a cool environment that experiences moderate summers, you can get by with a moderate SEER rating.

SEER Savings Calculator: How To Calculate

Use our savings calculator if you’re replacing an older HVAC system or simply want to see the cost savings between various SEER ratings. Once you determine what size of air conditioner you need, adjust the top setting to the appropriate size.

If you’re building a new home or aren’t sure what size of air conditioner you need, simply multiply the square footage of living space in your home by 20, which is how much cooling output you need per square foot in BTUs.

Once you find the answer, divide it by 12,000 (1 ton of air conditioning equals 12,000 BTUs). The answer you get represents the size of the AC unit you need in tons.

The second toggle represents the SEER rating of your old conditioner (if applicable). Adjust it as necessary. Finally, the third toggle represents the SEER rating of your new air conditioner.

With the three boxes on the bottom, you can adjust your state, the number of cooling hours per year, and the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour. On average, most homes use about 1,300 cooling hours per year. Generally, the electric rate is approximately 13.31 cents per kilowatt hour.

Once you adjust each setting, the box on the bottom displays your electricity savings based on your unit upgrade. The calculator is an excellent tool to determine electricity savings with an upgrade or even to determine the running cost differences between two AC unit sizes you’re considering.

SEER Rating Chart

The chart below depicts various SEER ratings and their annual running costs. The cost savings column displays cost savings compared to the 10 SEER model.

The AC Electricity Yearly Cost column displays running costs based on 3,288 cooling hours, a relatively average cooling season.

Most HVAC brands offer a comprehensive lineup that spans a wide range of SEER ratings. Since certain areas don’t need sky-high SEER ratings, some people may deem the expensive, highly-efficient models unnecessary.

SEER RatingAC Electricity Yearly CostCost Savings
10 SEER$1,3230%
11 SEER$1,2039%
12 SEER$1,10317%
13 SEER$1,01823%
14 SEER$94529%
15 SEER$88233%
16 SEER$82737%
17 SEER$77841%
18 SEER$73544%
19 SEER$69747%
20 SEER$66250%
21 SEER$63052%
22 SEER$60254%

3-ton AC.  3,288 yearly cooling hours.  11.18 cents per kWh.

What Is A Good SEER Rating?

A good SEER rating depends on the application, scenario, and type of HVAC system. So, what is a good SEER rating for an air conditioner? There isn’t an easy answer or magic number, simply because it depends on your particular scenario.

Generally, anything over 13 SEER will get the job done. However, if you live in a hot climate or want better energy efficiency, you’ll need a higher-rated unit.

The Department of Energy (DOE) outlines specific minimum efficiency standards to ensure the comfort and safety of citizens throughout the United States. These efficiency standards apply to various household appliances, including HVAC systems, meaning AC units must meet these guidelines.

The DOE designed the outline based on the weather in the portion of the country. There are two primary categories: north and south. The southern section splits into two sectors, southwest and southeast. The southwest is categorized as “hot-dry” and has a minimum of 14 SEER.

The southeast is “hot-humid” and also has a minimum of 14 SEER. The northern portion of the US requires a minimum rating of 13 SEER.

There are dozens of brands to choose from, each offering units spanning various SEER rating ranges. The most efficient ratings on the market reach as high as 28 SEER, which is a drastic jump from the 8 and 9 SEER units of earlier years.

Ensure the AC unit you choose meets your region’s requirements, as specified by the DOE.

Highest SEER Rating: Is Higher SEER Rating Worth It?

The SEER rating chart below depicts a lengthy list of the HVAC industry’s most efficient AC units. On the low end is Payne’s PA16NW, with a rating of 17 SEER.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find the Lennox SL28XCV that boasts ratings of 28 SEER, which is currently the highest SEER rating available on the market.

The chart displays the annual running costs of each model and the yearly cost savings of each. You’ll notice a considerable difference between the less efficient models and their highly efficient counterparts.

Air ConditionersHighest SEER RatingAC Electricity CostCost Savings
Payne PA16NW17 SEER$778 / Year0%
Tempstar TVA919 SEER$697 / Year11%
Heil HVA919 SEER$697 / Year11%
Day and Night CVA919 SEER$697 / Year11%
Comfortmaker CVA919 SEER$697 / Year11%
Armstrong 4SCU20LX 20 SEER$662 / Year15%
Ruud UA2020.5 SEER$646 / Year17%
Rheem RA2020.5 SEER$646 / Year17%
Coleman AL2121 SEER$630 / Year19%
Luxaire AL2121 SEER$630 / Year19%
York YXV21 SEER$630 / Year19%
Trane XV20i21 SEER$630 / Year19%
American Standard Platinum 2022 SEER$602 / Year23%
Amana AVXC2024.5 SEER$540 / Year31%
Goodman GVXC2024.5 SEER$540 / Year31%
Bryant 186CNV26 SEER$509 / Year35%
Carrier 24VNA626 SEER$509 / Year35%
Lennox SL28XCV28 SEER$499 / Year39%

3-ton AC.  3,288 yearly cooling hours.  11.18 cents per kWh.

While the more efficient units tend to save you a substantial amount in yearly running costs, they tend to be considerably more expensive than their less efficient counterparts.

The decision as to whether the higher rating is worth it ultimately falls to you: you need to consider your budget, as the startup cost of a new system can be high, your climate, and your home.

Additionally, if you have a large home and need a larger unit to accommodate it, you’ll run into higher prices. However, you may be able to find rebates in your area for higher efficiency models. Several organizations offer various rebates, as well as the government, which may provide a tax rebate for your high-efficiency AC unit.

Remember that the system won’t always work at its SEER rating capacity, especially as it ages. It’s similar to the concept of miles per gallon in your car. While the car may get 25 miles to the gallon in an ideal situation, it may not always perform well.

The same concept applies to your HVAC system. It may have to run longer cycles than usual when the temperature outdoors is substantially higher than the thermostat inside is set at.

AC SEEROld AC Electricity CostNew AC Electricity CostElectricity Savings Per Year
10 seer vs 14 seer$1,323$945$378
12 seer vs 14 seer$1,103$945$158
12 seer vs 16 seer$1,103$827$276
13 seer vs 14 seer$1,018$945$73
13 seer vs 15 seer $1,018$882$136
13 seer vs.16 seer$1,018$827$191
13 seer vs 17 seer$1,018$778$240
14 seer vs 15 seer$945$882$63
14 seer vs 16 seer$945$827$118
14 seer vs 17 seer$945$778$167
14 seer vs 18 seer$945$735$210
15 seer vs 16 seer$882$827$55
16 seer vs 17 seer$827$778$49
16 seer vs 18 seer$827$735$92
16 seer vs 20 seer$827$662$165
18 seer vs 20 seer$735$662$74

3-ton AC.  3,288 yearly cooling hours.  11.18 cents per kWh.

EER vs. SEER

If you’re searching for a new air conditioner, you may have noticed both EER and SEER ratings. While similar, they are slightly different. Both ratings play critical roles in selecting the perfect fit for your home.

Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) measures the energy efficiency of an air conditioner at a specific outdoor temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the model.

To calculate EER, divide the input electrical power (in watts) by the cooling capacity (in BTUs).

Since EER is measured at a higher temperature, it accounts for the AC running steadily. Generally, you’ll see EER on window air conditioners.

On the other hand, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio measures the AC unit’s efficiency over a cooling season. As with EER ratings, the higher SEER ratings indicate a more efficient unit. SEER ratings are calculated using the cooling output over a typical cooling season and dividing it by the total electric energy input in the same period.

Unlike EER, SEER ratings account for the air conditioner starting and stopping because it’s measured over an entire cooling season.

So, while EER measures a unit’s efficiency at a particular outdoor temperature, SEER measures the unit’s overall efficiency throughout an entire cooling season at various outdoor temperatures.

They’re both helpful pieces of information, as EER encompasses a more specific scenario while SEER ratings offer a generalized perspective.

Generally, if you live in a climate that regularly is 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher during the cooling season, you should pay attention to EER ratings. On the other hand, consider the SEER ratings if you live in a moderate climate.

Although SEER and EER are useful in different scenarios, don’t entirely disregard one instead of the other. The chart below explains the equivalent alternative in EER versus SEER.

EERSEER
8 eer9.11 seer
10 eer10.43 seer
12 eer13.71 seer
14 eer16 seer
16 eer18.29 seer
18 eer20.57 seer
20 eer22.86 seer
22 eer25.14 seer
24 eer27.43 seer
26 eer29.71 seer
28 eer32 seer
30 eer34.29 seer
31 eer35.4 seer
32 eer36.6 seer
33 eer37.7 seer
34 eer38.9 seer

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