What is SEER vs. EER? Should I Care? – Part 2

More and more HVAC companies are advertising the SEER and EER ratings of the systems they install. So we’re talking about what both of those acronyms mean, and how you are affected. In a recent post we discussed exactly what SEER is, and what EER is. Now we’re going to continue the discussion to help you understand the difference between these two methods of rating central air conditioning units.

What’s the Problem with SEER Rating?

SEER is a useful measurement of the efficiency of AC units. And since it is standardized across the country for central air units, then it is a valuable tool for comparing ‘apples to apples’, when you pit one unit against another. However it can be misleading.

What many people don’t realize is that the SEER rating is calculated using a very specific set of test parameters that cover a pre-defined range of temperatures. The problem with this is that the SEER rating does not take into account in what climate region you live. For example, think of the average summer temperature around Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino compared with that of Death Valley CA, or International Falls MN.

So although SEER is a universal measurement of air conditioner efficiency, it can be misleading in the sense that it may not truly indicate the efficiency of the unit where you personally live.

How Important is the SEER Rating?

Since the SEER rating is a measurement of efficiency, then when you are shopping around for a new central air system you want to pay attention to the stated SEER for each unit. The higher the SEER, the less energy it takes to give you the advertised cooling power. And if you know the SEER of the AC unit you currently have, then you can calculate how much money you will save in electricity costs if you buy a new unit with a higher SEER.

For example, if your current system is around 15 years old, than it is probably a SEER 8. If you install a SEER 13 system, which is the minimum allowable in the northern States, you will save 38% on electricity bills. However if you decide to get a premium efficiency air conditioner with a SEER 18 rating, the savings goes up to 56%. And since your central air conditioning system accounts for up to 50% of your home’s total electrical usage, then 56% savings on that is significant chunk.

To be completely honest, the exact amount of money you save will depend, of course, on exactly what your climate is and what will be the true energy input to output ratio of your AC unit.

What are the Advantages of EER Rating?

The EER Rating is an objective, set standard that can be used to compare two air conditioning units without worrying about the different ranges of summer temperatures throughout the country. So EER is a more technical, objective means of rating an air conditioner’s efficiency. Two different brands of AC units may have the same SEER rating, but may not have the same EER rating. And don’t forget, the higher the EER, the higher the efficiency of the air conditioner.

So now let’s say you’ve been researching air conditioning systems, you’ve narrowed down the field and it is time to make a decision. Stay tuned for the last part of this discussion to know when to use SEER vs. EER, and what is more important for you, the homeowner.

Have a question that’s been nagging you? Visit our Ask an Expert page, fill out the form, and the resident expert here at GAMA Air will get back to you quickly with the answer.

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