What is a
The minimum energy
efficiency level for central air
conditioning systems made
and sold in the United States is
regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The efficiency level of a
central air conditioner is determined
by its "seasonal energy efficiency ratio" (SEER). This SEER rating is
technically defined as the cooling output provided by the unit during its normal
annual usage period divided by its total energy consumption. More simply, the
SEER rating is similar to the miles-per-gallon rating for automobiles. The more
energy efficient the air
conditioning> equipment is, the higher
the SEER rating - because less electricity is needed to cool your home.
What is the
minimum SEER standard today?
Since 1992, the minimum
efficiency standard for central air
conditioners and heat pumps has been
set at 10 SEER. That's about to change. Beginning in January 2006, the minimum
efficiency level for all new central air
conditioners manufactured must be at least 13 SEER.
What does the 13 SEER standard mean for homeowners?
The 13 SEER regulation does
not affect a homeowner's current air
conditioner. But the 13 SEER transition will affect homeowners
and builders looking to purchase a new
central air conditioner this year or
next in several ways, including:
- Farewell to 10 to 12 SEER
systems: Beginning January 23, 2006, central
air> conditioners rated at 10 to 12
SEER will no longer be manufactured. However, 10
and 12 SEER systems can continue to
be sold and installed until inventory
of these products is exhausted.
- Lower operating costs: An
air conditioner rated at 13 SEER uses
30 percent less electricity than a 10 SEER system.
- More advanced technology:
New central air conditioners use more
advanced technology and have more
features to enhance efficiency, comfort, reliability
- Bigger systems:
Air conditioners usually get larger
in size as the SEER rating is increased. That's because to achieve a higher
efficiency, manufacturers need to install more coil ( copper or aluminum
tubing) to more efficiently transfer heat.
- Expect to pay more: In
general, the higher the SEER rating, the more it will cost to purchase a new
air conditioner. Higher efficiency
systems tend to be larger and use
more materials like steel, aluminum and
copper; they are also more costly to manufacture, transport
homeowners use SEER ratings?
When buying an air conditioner, it's
generally recommended to select the highest SEER system you can afford. You may
want to ask your contractor to calculate the payback period in which the new
system will "pay for itself" in terms of lower utility bills. Sometimes the
savings are enough to partially or fully offset the cost of the new system
within a few years. This is an individual calculation provided by the contractor
that factors in your home's size and
the typical energy costs for your geographic area.