The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), developed by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, is an important tool for evaluating the efficiency of a central air conditioner. Provided by the manufacturer in standard product information, the SEER is derived by dividing the total BTUs of energy produced over a normal cooling season by the total kilowatt hours of electricity consumed. Air conditioners manufactured today have SEER ratings ranging from 13 to 24, with the higher number representing the greatest efficiency. Higher SEER ratings generally imply higher upfront purchase expense, too. However, lifetime savings can easily offset increased initial investment. Your HVAC contractor can help you strike a balance between these two considerations.
In addition to SEER rating, keep these factors in mind when replacing your cooling system:
- High-temperature ratings (known as EER) are helpful when evaluating air conditioner efficiency during the dog-day periods of intense usage. The higher the EER number, the better
- A variable-speed air handler uses less energy than a conventional one-speed, full-go handler. It adapts its speed to the conditions in your home and provides better air filtration and humidity control
- Make sure the new unit has a fan-only mode. On cool nights, this option enables you to circulate air through the HVAC ducts instead of running the A/C and can result in significant cost savings
- Scheduled filter replacement is vital to the air flow that gives your new cooling system its efficiency edge. Choose a unit with a filter replacement light to remind you when a filter change is due
- Every time your air conditioning system stops, residual cool air is stranded in the ducts. An automatic fan delay feature on a new unit will keep the blower running a few minutes after the compressor shuts down, purging the ducts of conditioned air that otherwise would be wasted