If you are in the market for a new cooling system for your home, it pays to be familiar with SEER. SEER means Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is used to measure the energy efficiency of the cooling unit in your home comfort system. To determine SEER rating, manufacturers measure the cooling a unit puts out over a typical summer season and divide it by the amount of energy the unit used during that time. The higher the SEER number, the more energy efficient a cooling system is. In South Carolina, the minimum SEER required by law is 14, however, there is a split system available with up to a 33 SEER rating at the time of this blog. From 14 to 33 is a big range and it's easy to get overwhelmed by all of the different options.
Cost vs. Savings: Is Spending More for Higher SEER Worth it?
One of the most frequent questions customers have is, "If a higher SEER number means greater energy efficiency, should I buy the highest SEER I can for my home?" Surprisingly, the answer is no. As the SEER goes up, so does the cost of the unit - by a large margin. Higher SEER units are also more expensive to repair and feature newer technology that, in some cases, isn't as reliable as the older technology of units with SEER ratings below 20. Also keep in mind that the SEER rating represents the maximum possible energy efficiency in optimal conditions. Similar to when you buy the latest smart phone that has up to 8 hours of battery life. Most users won't get the full 8 hours without needing to recharge because the way each individual uses the device affects the battery life. The same is true of SEER ratings - so a SEER of 18 really means *up to 18*.
While higher SEER does translate to less energy consumption and lower utility bills, the amount of savings for most average sized homes does not balance out the increased cost of the highest SEER rated systems. If your home is close to the average of 2,000 sq ft and you use your cooling system an average of 5 months of the year (we are in South Carolina, after all), a cooling system with a SEER rating of 14 or 16 provides you a sturdy and reliable unit with a comfortable reduction on your electric bill. If you choose an option with a SEER over 20, with installation, that system can cost in the ballpark of double the amount of the lower SEER system while only providing a few dollars more energy savings - during the 5 months of the year when you are actually running your air conditioning. If your home is much larger than average or you live in an area where you will be using your cooling system for more than two-thirds of the year, systems with SEER ratings of 18-20 could be worth the higher cost of the system.
Choosing a new HVAC or heat pump system with the best SEER rating for your home and specific needs doesn't have to be an overwhelming process. Carolina Comfort Systems can help! Our experts can review your current system and explore how much you can expect to save on utilities for different SEER rated systems to help you find the best value for your home.