Summer is here! That means it’s time for Floridians to start sweating their power bills!
Summer is the time of year where many homeowners in the south decide that enough is enough, and begin investigating replacing their ancient air conditioning unit.
Which criteria are most important when trying to buy a new air conditioner? How much money can switching save me?
It’s not always easy to figure out.
People trying to buy a new air conditioner find themselves faced with an overwhelming number of data points to make a decision based off of. One of those metrics are SEER ratings.
Since heating and cooling units use more energy than any other system in the home, especially in Florida, the efficiency of an air conditioner can make a big difference when buying a new one.
SEER stands for the Season Energy Efficiency Ratio.
What is SEER?
SEER is a standardized form of measuring how much energy HVAC equipment uses to tell you how much energy the unit will use to cool your home under certain conditions. SEER specifically measures how much cooling a system puts out for each unit of energy it consumes.
There is something called the EER, or Energy Efficiency Ratio, that tells you how much energy your unit will use under very hot conditions. SEER ratings try to provide an average for how you should expect the HVAC unit to perform across all seasons, not just the hottest one.
Finding the SEER involves three tests: one with humid indoor conditions, one with dry indoor conditions, and the third with dry conditions while cycling the air conditioner on for six minutes and off for 24 minutes.
All three of these tests use the conditions 30 degrees Fahrenheit inside and 82 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
How Do I Find SEER Ratings?
Look for a yellow or white EnergyGuide label on your unit. The SEER will be featured prominently on the label, along with a range comparing it to other units.The Department of Energy offers online energy efficiency calculators to help you predict how much money you’ll save on energy costs with equipment carrying different SEER ratings.
SEER is an important indicator of energy use, but not the only one.
Should I Look at SEER Ratings or EER?
The best answer depends on your climate.
If you live in a state where there are actual seasonal changes, you should look at the SEER. In a glance, it will give you an accurate idea of how much you should expect to spend in a year accounting for the possibility of seasons where your AC usage is very low.
What if you live in Florida?
If you live in Florida, you should look at the EER for the best picture of how the unit will perform for you.
Unlike most other areas of the country, Floridians have to use their air conditioning year round.
There is no significant temperature variance season to season in Florida. In fact, our state’s temperature is higher than the SEER testing limit for most of the year.
The difference is that EER is calculated for a specific environment, whereas the SEER value takes into account seasonal variations. That means that the value will depend on the temperature and humidity of where the air conditioner is located.
A seer is a maximum rating, meaning it should be understood as “This unit’s rating can be as high as 16 SEER.” That doesn’t mean that it will always function at 16 SEER.
The SEER value is constantly changing, just like the MPG on your car changes depending on driving conditions.
If you wanted to adjust the SEER to be more accurate to a hot southern climate, subtract 1 from the SEER rating for every 5 degrees above 83F.
(Remember: Never try to compare a SEER of one unit to the EER of another! You’re comparing apples to oranges. Compare the SEER of one unit to the SEER of another, or the EER of one to the EER of another for an accurate comparison.)
Why are SEER Ratings Important?
Because the Department of Energy put a new set of rules in place that established nation wide standards for SEER ratings of air conditioning systems in 2011. (Plus new rules for a variety of other types of HVAC appliances like heat pumps, split-system air conditioners, and more.)
The new rules also put regional standards in place. They defined a Southwest and Southeastern region of the country. If you’re in Florida, you fall under the southeastern region Department of Energy rules.
The minimum SEER rating you can have in Florida is a SEER of 14, because of the southeast region-specific rules.
What If I Have a SEER 12 or Lower System?
If you have a less efficient, or older system you may be concerned that you need to replace your unit as a result of these new laws.
According to Building a Safer Florida, you are not required by law to replace your HVAC equipment.
When it does come time to replace your system due to failure, you will have no option but to replace your system with a SEER 14 or higher.
If you’re running a SEER 12 or lower system, then replacing your unit is still a good idea though! Your system is highly inefficient, and you can see a year round decrease in your energy bills by updating it.
Install an Efficient SEER AC System in Orlando, Tampa, and South Florida
If you’re a homeowner in Florida, lowering your high energy bills must on your list of priorities. According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling make up 48% of your home’s energy use. The easiest way to take a bite out of your energy bills is by addressing their bottleneck, your air conditioning system.
Our friendly team of HVAC professionals can help you calculate your potential savings by switching to a highly efficient system.
Are you thinking about upgrading your home’s air conditioning unit? Contact us today or schedule an appointment online and we’ll get you on your way to a cooler home with lower power bills.