SEER Rating: Your Guide to HVAC Efficiency


As summer temperatures rise, many homeowners start thinking about ways to keep their houses cool and comfortable. One important factor in determining the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of air conditioning systems is the SEER rating. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is a measure of how efficiently an air conditioner will operate over an entire cooling season. Understanding SEER ratings is key to choosing the right air conditioning system and can help homeowners save significantly on energy costs. This article will provide an in-depth look at what exactly SEER ratings are, how they are calculated, why they matter, and how SEER compares to other efficiency ratings like EER and CEER.

What is a SEER rating?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is a measure of the cooling efficiency of air conditioners over an entire season. Specifically, SEER ratings tell us how many BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat an air conditioning system can remove per watt hour of electricity used. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner.

SEER ratings are calculated by dividing the total cooling output of an air conditioner in BTUs by the total electric energy input in watt-hours during a typical cooling season. This gives a good representation of how efficiently the system operates under real-world conditions throughout the summer. Most residential air conditioners have SEER ratings between 13 and 25. The minimum allowed SEER rating today is 14.

How are SEER ratings calculated?

SEER ratings are determined using a standardized test developed by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). Air conditioners are tested in laboratory conditions that simulate a full range of temperatures and humidities across a typical cooling season.

The tests first measure the efficiency at maximum load (EER rating). Then, the units are tested at part-load conditions to determine efficiency across a range of outputs. The SEER rating is calculated by dividing the total BTUs of cooling delivered by the total watt-hours of electricity used across all these test conditions.

Since SEER represents efficiency across a whole season, it gives a much better measure of real-world performance than simply using EER alone. The SEER calculation puts more emphasis on part-load operation since that represents the majority of runtime for most air conditioning units.

Why do SEER ratings matter?

SEER ratings are important because the higher the SEER, the more energy efficient an air conditioner will be. This translates into direct energy and cost savings for homeowners.

For example, replacing an older 10 SEER unit with a new high-efficiency 16 SEER system can reduce cooling costs by up to 40%. Over the lifetime of the air conditioner, thousands of dollars can potentially be saved on energy bills.

Higher SEER also means the system will run less frequently to maintain temperature. This puts less strain on the unit, extending its lifespan. Less runtime also improves humidity control and overall home comfort.

Many utility companies and local governments now provide rebates and incentives for installing ENERGY STAR certified systems that meet strict SEER requirements. For homeowners, understanding SEER is key to choosing cost-effective, energy-efficient air conditioning.


In addition to SEER, there are two other main efficiency ratings used for air conditioners:

  • EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio
  • CEER – Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio

EER measures efficiency at maximum load conditions. It represents the BTU cooling output divided by the wattage input at a single test point. EER does not account for the effects of real-world conditions.

CEER is similar to SEER but used for central air conditioners in Canada instead of the United States. CEER uses different test procedures but ultimately represents the same thing: seasonal efficiency.

SEER gives the most accurate picture of how efficiently an air conditioner will operate across the full range of conditions it will face. SEER ratings are the best measure of real-world efficiency and operating costs for cooling equipment. Understanding SEER is critical for homeowners aiming to choose energy-efficient air conditioning systems.

Understanding the New SEER2 Standards

In 2023, new energy efficiency standards for residential air conditioning systems called SEER2 are going into effect. These new regulations will raise the minimum allowed SEER ratings and have implications for manufacturers, distributors, contractors, and consumers.

What are the new SEER2 standards?

SEER2 establishes a new minimum SEER rating of 15 for split air conditioning systems up to 65,000 BTUs. The previous minimum SEER was 14. So under SEER2, any new air conditioner installed must have a rating of at least 15 SEER to meet the new federal mandates.

Some key groups exempt from the new 15 SEER minimum include ductless mini-split systems, as well as units above 65,000 BTUs often used in commercial buildings.

How do the new standards differ from previous ones?

The shift from 14 SEER to 15 SEER may seem minor given that higher efficiency systems up to 26 SEER are already widely available. However, this small bump up will have a measurable impact on energy use, given the sheer number of air conditioners in homes across the country.

According to government estimates, the new 15 SEER standard will reduce air conditioning energy use by over 10% nationwide. That’s equivalent to saving over 7 billion kilowatt-hours annually!

Other than the higher baseline SEER rating, all other testing processes and calculation methods remain the same under the new SEER2 standard compared to the previous version.

Compliance Requirements

Under the new regulations, manufacturers must cease production of 14 SEER units by January 1, 2023. Distributors can continue selling existing 14 SEER inventory until supplies run out. However, after July 1, 2023, it will become illegal to install a new 14 SEER unit. Contractors must only install 15 SEER or higher equipment.

Impact on Inventory Management

The key dates in 2023 will require foresight and planning from HVAC distributors. Inventory of 14 SEER units should be monitored closely and phased out prior to the ban on new installations. Distributors must work closely with manufacturers to adequately stock new compliant 15 SEER equipment heading into the summer.

With some brands updating their entire product lines, keeping showroom samples updated will also be essential. Contractors rely on distributors to have stock of compliant units ready when the laws take effect. Advanced planning and coordination between manufacturers, distributors and contractors will result in the smoothest transition to the new standards.

Benefits of High SEER Ratings

Upgrading to an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating can provide homeowners with a number of benefits beyond just saving money on utility bills. Here are some of the key advantages of choosing a unit with a higher SEER:

Lower Energy Bills

The higher the SEER, the more energy efficient an air conditioner will be. This translates directly into lower electricity costs for homeowners. For example, switching from an older 10 SEER unit to a new 20 SEER system can reduce cooling costs by over 50%! Over the 15-20 year lifespan of the air conditioner, the energy savings from higher SEER can really add up.

Increased Energy Efficiency

Higher SEER units use less electricity to provide the same amount of cooling. A high SEER air conditioner may only need half the wattage of a lower SEER model to maintain your desired temperature settings. This puts less strain on utility grids and natural resources used to generate electricity.

Improved Indoor Comfort

More efficient systems run for shorter cycles to maintain temperatures. This leads to less humidity and more consistent comfort in the home. High SEER units also tend to operate at lower sound levels, keeping rooms peaceful and free of noisy cooling equipment.

Environmental Benefits

Choosing high efficiency equipment reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with electric power generation. Widespread use of higher SEER systems across homes can also help achieve community and national energy policy goals.

Cost Considerations

The main trade-off with higher SEER units is the initial purchase price. High efficiency equipment has a more complex design and higher-quality components that come at a premium cost. However, government rebates and incentives can help offset some of these upfront costs for homeowners. Over the full lifespan of the air conditioner, the energy savings will usually far outweigh any initial price differences.

Top 5 Air Conditioning Systems by SEER Rating for 2023

  1. Lennox XP25 – Up to 26 SEER rating. Two-stage scroll compressor and precise comfort control. Variable speed air handler for efficiency. Communicating system optimizes performance. 10 year limited warranty on compressor.
  2. Trane XV20i – Up to 22 SEER rating. Variable speed compressor with adaptive control. Durable spine fin coil. Humidity monitoring and control. 10 year warranty on compressor and coil.
  3. Carrier Infinity 24 – Up to 24.5 SEER rating. Two-stage compressor with variable speed fan for quiet operation. Touch screen programmable thermostat. 10 year parts limited warranty.
  4. Amana ASXC20 – Up to 20 SEER rating. Multi-speed scroll compressor for comfort and efficiency. Durable polyester spiral fin coils. LifeTime Replacement limited warranty on compressor.
  5. Bryant Evolution Variable Speed – Up to 20 SEER rating. Two-stage compressor and variable speed fan motor. Effective humidity removal and adjustable fan speeds. 10 year parts limited warranty.

Key factors to consider are the SEER rating (higher is better), compressor type and warranty coverage, coil materials and warranty, and advanced features like variable speed components, humidity control, and communicating capabilities.

BrandModelSEER RatingCompressor TypeCoil MaterialWarrantyKey Features
LennoxXP25Up to 26Two-stage scrollAluminum10 years on compressorVariable speed air handler, communicating system
TraneXV20iUp to 22Variable speedSpine fin10 years on compressor and coilAdaptive control, humidity monitoring
CarrierInfinity 24Up to 24.5Two-stageAluminum10 years on partsVariable speed fan, programmable thermostat
AmanaASXC20Up to 20Multi-speed scrollSpiral finLifetime on compressorHumidity control, quiet operation
BryantEvolution Variable SpeedUp to 20Two-stageAluminum10 years on partsVariable speed fan, humidity removal

Choosing the Right SEER Rating for Your Needs

When selecting a new air conditioner, one of the key decisions is choosing the right SEER rating. Here are some factors to consider when picking the optimal SEER for your home:

Factors to Consider

  • Climate – The hotter your climate, the more you’ll benefit from higher SEER equipment. Cooler regions can get by with lower ratings more easily.
  • Electricity Costs – Areas with high energy prices see faster payback from increased efficiency. Low rates favor lower SEER units.
  • Usage – Homes that run A/C constantly due to occupancy, work-from-home, etc. should prioritize higher SEER. Units that get limited use can have lower ratings.
  • Home Size – Larger homes often need higher capacity systems that cost more. Higher SEER can help offset larger equipment expenses.
  • Rebates & Incentives – Utility or state/local rebates can make the upgrade to high SEER more affordable. Be sure to research available programs.

Cost vs. Energy Savings

In general, higher SEER equipment has a greater upfront cost, but provides larger long-term energy savings. Crunch the numbers for your climate and rates. Find the “sweet spot” where the higher purchase price is justified by utility bill reductions. Units above ~20 SEER provide diminishing returns in most regions.

Climate Considerations

In hot climates like the Southeast and Southwest, higher SEER ratings of 16-18+ are recommended. Milder Northern climates can often get by with 14-16 SEER with only incremental efficiency gains from pricier units. Know your local climate and season length.

Rebates and Incentives

Many utilities and local governments offer rebates on high efficiency AC units, reducing purchase costs. Find out which SEER levels qualify for maximum rebates in your area. Factor available incentives into the cost-benefit analysis when selecting SEER rating. The rebates can make higher SEER units pay off sooner.

SEER Ratings and HVAC Equipment

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings are a key factor to consider when selecting any HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system. Here is an overview of typical SEER ranges for different types of cooling equipment:

SEER Ratings for Air Conditioners

TypeTypical SEER Range
Central A/C (split systems)13 – 20+
Room A/C8 – 12
Ductless Mini-Split15 – 30+
  • Central air conditioners used for whole home cooling typically range from 14 SEER (minimum allowed) up to 20+ SEER for top high-efficiency models.
  • Room A/C units have lower SEER ratings between 8 to 12 since they’re only designed to cool small spaces.
  • Ductless mini-split systems can achieve very high SEER ratings from 15 up to 30+ SEER for energy-saving inverter-driven models.

SEER Ratings for Heat Pumps

TypeTypical SEER Range
Air-Source Heat Pumps14 – 20+
Geothermal Heat Pumps19 – 30+
  • Air-source heat pumps that extract warmth from outdoor air range from 14 to 20+ SEER for residential systems.
  • Geothermal heat pumps can achieve very high SEER ratings from 19 up to 30+ by using the stable temperature of the earth.

SEER Ratings for Gas Packs

TypeTypical Range
Gas Packs14 – 18
  • Gas pack systems combine gas heating and electric air conditioning. SEER ratings typically fall between 14 to 18 since the gas furnace portion does not contribute to the efficiency rating.

HVAC Purchasing Decisions

  • When comparing HVAC equipment, systems with higher SEER ratings are preferable to lower SEER units, all else being equal.
  • Pay close attention to SEER when choosing between brands or models to maximize energy efficiency.
  • Be aware that very high SEER equipment may carry a large price premium that is hard to justify through energy savings alone.
  • Work with HVAC contractors to select the system with the optimal SEER rating based on your home’s needs and local climate conditions.

Maximizing SEER is one key to choosing cost-effective HVAC systems that deliver comfort and efficiency for years to come.

Do Your HVAC Math

Crunch the numbers on energy savings versus upfront costs. Higher SEER comes with a price tag, but often pays back over time. Find the sweet spot for your home’s needs.

Rebates Rock

Utility rebates can seriously help offset the cost of efficient AC units. Take advantage of these sweet incentive programs when available in your area. More AC for less money? Yes please!

a wide range of SEER options. Room ACs are lower since they only cool small zones.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, choosing high SEER equipment is a smart move and great investment. You’ll slash energy use while keeping your home cool and comfortable. And take it from me – few things feel better than optimizing HVAC efficiency! Make the energysaving choice and go high SEER. Your wallet and the planet will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much more does higher SEER cost upfront?

A: Typically expect to pay 10-30% more for high efficiency units compared to standard models.

Q: Is it worth upgrading from 14 to 16 SEER?

A: In warmer climates or for homes with high usage, a 14 to 16 SEER upgrade can pay back in under 5 years through energy savings.

Q: What rebates are available for high SEER AC?

A: Check with local utilities and state/federal programs. Many offer $100-$1000 for installing 15 SEER+ equipment.

Q: What is the highest SEER rating available?

A: Top models can reach SEER ratings of 20-22, but expect diminishing returns over 18 SEER for most homes.

Q: Does high SEER work well with smart thermostats?

A: Yes! Combining high efficiency equipment with smart controls maximizes energy savings and comfort.

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