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SEER Rating – What is it and Why is it Important?

seer rating
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Today’s topic, the SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) of an air conditioning unit is, in my opinion, the most important factor to consider when purchasing a new AC system for your home. SEER ratings can range from the lowest we are allowed to install at 14 SEER, all the way up to 25 SEER depending on the tonnage or size of the unit. The higher the SEER rating the less electricity the unit uses, or in other words, the lower the operating costs.

SEER ratings are established by an independent laboratory called AHRI (American Heating Reference Index), so no one manufacturer can inflate the performance of their equipment. An AHRI certificate is also required to pull a permit to install your new system.

Today I want to focus on a 3-ton unit, which is the typical size you will find in the average 1,500 sq. ft. home. We are going to compare a 14 SEER unit to a 21 SEER unit. According to Florida Power and Light, the average operating cost annually for a 14 SEER unit is $760. The average operating cost for a 21 SEER unit is $480, thus we have an annual operating cost difference of $280. Let’s set aside all the other benefits the 21 SEER systems can provide you such as enhanced comfort, better dehumidification and quiet operation and look at costs only. The typical price difference between the 14 SEER and the 21 SEER is right around $1,500.

The typical life of an air conditioning system here in the Sunshine State is between 12 and 15 years. Let’s say for arguments sake that the unit is going to last just twelve years. Also in this debate, we are going to assume that electrical costs are not going to change. It is a fallacy that electrical costs are not changing. According to the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Association) electrical costs have risen 28% since 2003 and there is no end in sight. You can check the report out here.

Ok, now let’s run the numbers. The 14 SEER system saves you, the consumer, $1,500 on the initial purchase while over the 12 year life of the system it is going to cost $3,360 more to operate. The 14 SEER total costs of investment end up being $1,860 more than our 21 SEER system over the life of the system. The 21 Seer is $1,500 more at the initial point of purchase, however our electrical savings offset that $1,500 in just a little over five years. What it boils down to is that you are going to pay the price one way or another. You can pay your friendly neighborhood AC contractor a little more up front and enjoy the added benefits or you can pay FPL more for the life of the system. It’s your move.

For my accounting friends out there the numbers in the article are not down to the penny and the savings from installing a high SEER rated unit will vary year to year. Things such as thermostat set point and the weather can impact how much you’ll actually save. If you want to run the numbers on your own home start with the fact that approx. 65% of your FPL bill is what you spend to cool your home, and go from there.

Until next time my friends, my buddy was trying to annoy me with bird puns until I realized that toucan play at that game.

House Whisperer out!!


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