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.

Payback period is most important and you will find that the payback is quite substantial when considering a replacement system. The average payback for a 15 SEER system is roughly 14 years. That would indicate that the higher the SEER and the more costly the install, the longer the payback.

Energy Efficient Equipment is not truly meant for your savings. Energy efficient equipment is designed to save the power companies from having to build and maintain more substations and add to the energy grid.

While the investment in more efficient equipment makes sense for the over all economy, it can get out of control when your budget and longevity in the home are to be considered.

Aire Care Service Company, having served Waldorf, LaPlata, White Plains, Hughesville, Mechanicsville and the general Charles and St. Mary’s county for over 28 years, is committed to getting you the best efficiency for your particular situation. Typically, the highest SEER rating we recommend is 15.5 SEER affording you the opportunity to get utility rebates and in some cases federal tax credits. Although we will install higher efficiency systems, we make our recommendations based on your situation.

Older homes especially, do not realize the energy savings lost due to poor windows, doors, wall and ceiling insulation and overall construction. Why spend the extra money on the highest efficiency air conditioning and heating unit you can buy when the pay back is as long as the equipment will last and in some cases longer. Let’s assume you are quoted $9,500 for a 20 SEER system but your attic insulation has settled and is below R-38, your crawl space has insulation falling from the joist’s or your doors are leaking air like crazy. Will you get the efficiency of 20 SEER? Yes, but it will have to run longer to cool or heat the house because of the other deficiencies in the house. For every dollar you spend to cool the house, you will get the efficiency of the unit power consumption, your bill may not change as much as you would expect it to.

Now lets assume you can get a 15.00 SEER air condition system for $6,500. The same rule applies, it will run longer than expected but it will still run efficiently albeit slightly less efficient as a 30 SEER. Now you can take the extra $3,000 and fix the other deficiencies in the house that are causing the heating and air conditioning system to work harder and longer. You ultimate end up spending the same amount of money as a 20 SEER unit, but because you have fixed the problem points in the house, your average utility bill will be lower than if you just bought the 20 SEER and worked it hard to overcome the other problems.

SEER ratings are determined at the factory, in controlled situations and not in the real world. Not only that, but after 6 months of operation, any units efficiency decreases so it’s not where it started. The reason for this is because of outdoor surroundings. Dirt, grass clippings, etc. decrease the efficiency of every unit. So that brings us to maintenance. In your budget for this new system, you must figure in yearly maintenance costs. So remember when I said the average payback was 14 years for just a 15 SEER system? That is using the average of $200 per year maintenance costs. Higher SEER systems require longer maintenance time because of the complex controls involved so your payback is now even longer and if the system is designed to last 15-17 years, you may never pay yourself back with the added efficiency.

Aire Care Service Company is always available to help you with your decision and purchase of your new heat pump or AC system as well as your natural gas or LP Gas Furnace. We also have duel fuel systems available for use with your heat pump, utilizing gas as the back up instead of electric heat strips.

Here is a link for you to examine and figure for yourself, what SEER rating is best for you.