Understanding S.E.E.R. Ratings

When purchasing a new heat pump or air conditioner, the term SEER, will pop up many times. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It rates how much energy you will use to cool your home. SEER is not to be confused with E.E.R or HSPF which rate total efficiency and heating seasonal performance factor. SEER is best compared to the miles per gallon your car will get. The higher the SEER, the better the efficiency. Some contractors will use this rating to convince you to purchase the highest SEER possible so “you will save the most money operating your system”. The minimum SEER the government allows to be sold is 13.00 SEER and that minimum will change in 2014 to become 14.00 SEER.

Some contractors in the Waldorf and Southern Maryland area will compare your old system to a new SEER rating and attempt to show you that you will “Save” a substantial percentage of your electric bill. Using the example that if your old system was a 10 SEER and you are buying a 13 SEER, you’ll save 30% on your electric bill. That is absolutely not the case.

First of all, your AC system equals approximately 50% of your electric bill in the summer. Your water heater typically accounts for 25% of your electric bill yearly. There is no way to break out “just” your Air Conditioner unit to determine savings or usage. There are many web sites that will help you calculate your yearly savings and your pay back period when replacing an air condition or heating system with a higher SEER.

Does Your Furnace Really Need a Yearly Inspection?

By: Reuben Saltzman

A recent blog post about fall maintenance mentioned having your furnace inspected/tuned up by a qualified heating contractor annually. One reader sent an email asking if this was really necessary – here’s his original question:

“I have a question about furnace tune-ups. You say get one every year – is that really necessary? What do the HVAC guys actually do to the furnace to ‘tune’ it up? There’s no spark plugs to replace like a car tune-up, and my understanding is they basically vacuum out dust and inspect it. Couldn’t the homeowner do this himself? Or do I really need to pay $80-$150 every year for a professional to do it?”

These are great questions worthy of a post all on their own.

Are annual furnace inspections really necessary?

Furnace manufacturers all recommend annual inspections and maintenance by a qualified technician. They also have language in their warranties saying that damage to the units caused by improper maintenance is not covered under the warranty. Does this mean that an annual furnace checkup is really required, or the warranty is voided? Probably not, but it’s recommended. The best analogy is going to the dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning; probably not necessary, but recommended.

Some HVAC contractors recommend getting newer furnaces checked every other year, but once they’re more than 10 years old, have them checked annually.