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Air conditioning units are typically referenced in both their size (in cooling capacity, not physical size) and efficiency.  We know these terms as tons and a SEER rating.  If you are curious as to why tons are used, come back and check our blog next month for that discussion.  Today, we are going to uncover what is meant when we talk about SEER and what it means to you.

First off, SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.  This ratio is defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.  For those who may be interested, more in depth information can be found in AHRI Standard 210/240-2008.

How it’s Calculated

Since SEER is only a ratio, it is calculated by a fairly simple math problem.  All you have to do is take the amount of cooling put out by the A/C (in BTUs per hour) and divide it by the power the system uses (in watts).  You shouldn’t have to calculate the SEER of your air conditioner, it is just helpful to understand how it is derived.

Progression Through the Years

Just like any other industry, there are government regulations in place.  These regulations serve to push the HVAC field to create more cost-effective units.

In 1992, legislation mandated that new A/C units must be at least 10 SEER.  This may seem really low, but that was 26 years ago.  Think about how much technology has changed in that amount of time!

By 2006, the U.S. Government mandated that new units operate at a minimum of 13 SEER.  In order to be Energy Star qualified, they had to be at least 14.5 SEER.

The current regulations that have to be observed were set in place in 2015.  This time they implemented regional standards with the understanding that cost benefits differ depending on the location.  Therefore, in the Southeastern and Southwestern regions, air conditioning units have to be at least 14 SEER.  Whereas the remaining regions still fall under the 2006 minimum of 13 SEER.

Figuring out annual A/C costs

Most home owners want to know how much their A/C will cost them.  A rough estimate can be calculated using the unit’s SEER.  First the size of the unit must be converted from tons to BTU/h.  This is done by multiplying the tons by 12,000.  For example, a 3-ton unit would be 36,000 BTU/h.  Then you just follow the rest of the formula below.

Formula: (Unit Size in Tons X 12,000 BTU/h) X (A/C Operation Hours) X (Energy Cost per kWh) ÷ (Unit’s SEER Rating) ÷ (1000 W/kW)

So, let’s say we have a 3.5-ton 16 SEER A/C installed in Panama City, FL.  There are about 1,500 A/C usage hours per year in Bay County, FL.  Additionally, the average cost of electricity in Panama City is around $0.1206 per kWh.  Here is an approximation of how much the homeowner could expect to pay for electricity per year.  Keep in mind that this is only for cooling and does not include any heating costs.

(3.5 X 12,000 BTU/h) X (1,500) X (.1206) ÷ (16) ÷ (1000 W/kW) = $474.86

Thinking About Upgrading?

There are energy savings to be had at different SEER ratings.  If you are looking to upgrade and want to find out your projected savings, head over to our energy savings page.  We have a simple calculator you can use to see how much you could save by getting a more efficient HVAC system.  Or you can give Beahan’s Heat and Air a call at (850) 866-2273.

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