When you purchase most large appliances, there’s a yellow ENERGY GUIDE label that shows the efficiency of that appliance. An air conditioner has a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). What is a SEER rating?
SEER tells you more about the efficiency of an AC system. It’s determined by dividing the cooling output during the supper by the amount of energy used in the summer. The cooling output is measured in British thermal units (BTUs).
In addition to SEER, there is also EER which extends beyond a season and looks at the energy efficiency over a year rather than just a season.
The History of SEER Ratings
SEER ratings have been around for a long time, and in 1992, laws were changed requiring appliances to have a minimum SEER of 10. As efficiency standards change in an effort to slow the effect of emissions on the environment, SEER standards continue to increase. SEER 13 became the requirement in 2006 and SEER 14 in on split-system ACs in 2015.
The latest change took place on January 1, 2023. SEER was replaced with SEER2. Past SEER tests used the cooling output without considering external conditions like the static pressure experienced once an air conditioning system is installed. It’s a more realistic measurement.
SEER2 means there are now requirements for the north and the south. Split systems in the south need a SEER2 rating of 14.3 or better if they have a capacity of 45,000 BTU or less or 13.8 if they’re over 45,000 BTU.
The bottom line with SEER2 is that you get maximum cooling through your entire home using as little energy as possible. You’ll have a cool home and save money on your electricity bills at the same time. How much can you save?
It’s estimated that moving from a 14 SEER2 rating to a 16 SEER2 rating reduces your electricity bills by around 6.7%. Higher SEER2 ratings mean more efficiency. While a higher SEER2 will increase the cost of the AC unit, the savings you gain can help pay for the unit over time.
Suppose your current system was installed in 2013 and has a SEER rating of 12. It’s a two-ton AC system, which means it likely uses around $1,100 in electricity per year per the national average. You upgrade to a SEER 2 system with a rating of 18. You’ll save 33% on your energy bills. By the end of 10 years, you will have saved close to $3,050. Spend even more and get a 20 SEER 2 system and save 40% or almost $3,700 after 10 years.
Things to Consider When Shopping for a Central AC System
When you’re shopping for a new AC system, what should you be considering? While the price is important, it’s not a leading factor. You must have a system that meets your local requirements. Your home’s size and layout are also important considerations. A home with floor-to-ceiling windows and an open floor plan may require more cooling power than a home with small windows and lots of small, closed-off rooms.
If a new AC system that was built before January 1, 2023, does not meet the current Southeast SEER2 standards, it cannot be sold or installed. This is important to remember as you may spot an affordable AC system online and think the discount is amazing. If it lacks the appropriate SEER2 rating, it’s illegal to install it. Work with a professional AC installer to protect yourself.
Systems that don’t meet current standards may need to have additional components added to them to bring them up to code. This includes the installation of thermal expansion valves. This is something best left to the manufacturer, so buy new and make sure it is SEER2 compliant when you do.
It’s so important to have a free professional AC estimate. Your current ductwork, home size, insulation, appliances, and people living in that space can all impact the effectiveness of your home cooling.
You can’t just purchase a system that’s larger than you need. It will turn on and off too much, which drives up your electricity bill with repetitive system start-ups. Plus, it puts additional strain on the motors and fans, so you’ll pay more for repairs.
Some people aim to buy a system that’s smaller than they need in hopes of saving money. This is also a bad practice as it requires the system to run longer than expected, which also increases energy usage and leads to more frequent repairs.
If your current system’s ducts are old and clogged, a new AC system is not going to work effectively. A duct cleaning and restoration is best if you want to have a system that does everything you expect from the start.
What Does SEER2 Mean for You?
Are you worried about what this change in SEER2 requirements means for your current AC system? It doesn’t mean you must rush out and replace your system. But, when it is time to upgrade your system, your new system must meet the current SEER2 standards.
We do have one thing you should consider. If you plan to sell your home soon, you may be required to upgrade in order to secure the sale. A buyer may not want to invest in a home where the AC system isn’t up to code.
Don’t panic and feel you must act now. But, if you do have an older system, it’s important to consider the benefits of upgrading to a system with a compliant efficiency rating. While there is the cost of the new system plus installation, the money you’ll save on electricity bills will help the system pay for itself in little time. Use ENERGY STAR’s online savings calculator to get an idea of how much you can save.
Plus, you have tax incentives and rebates that can help drive down the amount you have to pay. Florida Power & Light (FPL) offers a $150 instant rebate as long as your new AC unit is installed in a residential home, has brand-new internal and external units, and is rated 15.2 SEER2 or better. You must have it installed through a participating contractor
Residents who install new AC systems with a SEER2 rating of 16 or greater also qualify for home improvement tax credits of 30%, up to $600. If you take the $150 FPL rebate and $600 federal tax incentive, you’ll get $750 back on the installation of a new central AC system.
Even better, you qualify for additional tax credits if you need to improve your attic insulation. You can get up to $1,200 (up to 30%) on attic insulation upgrades, too. There is a yearly limit of $3,200 in one year, but that reduces your overall expenses by a lot.
Talk to All Year Cooling about the discounts you can get on a new AC system. In addition to tax incentives and power company rebates, All Year Cooling has end-of-the-year discounts available. You could save money on a brand new central AC system that cuts your electricity bills and comes with a 10-year warranty that continues delivering savings for the next decade.