Industry-specific jargon can be rampant in just about any field, and the heating and cooling industry is no exception. Here at Home Comfort, we sometimes even need to catch ourselves and make sure to explain when we tell friends we work within the HVAC industry; after all, not everyone will know off the top of their heads that “HVAC” is shorthand for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. For the next few weeks we’ll be decoding some much-used but infrequently-explained terms that you may hear in a discussion about heating and cooling technology.
When it comes to central air conditioning, one of the most common industry-specific terms you might see in an advertisement will be the unit’s “SEER” rating. It comes up in radio, television, and newspaper advertisements all the time – next to a splashy photo and company logo, you may see something like: “We have 20-SEER air conditioners in stock!” In addition, a savvy friend or neighbor may have told you that it’s not worth your while to buy an air conditioner with a SEER rating of anything less than 13. But what, exactly, does SEER stand for, and what do those numbers really mean? Gaining a greater understanding of SEER ratings and their applications can help you make a more informed decision the next time you go out to shop for a central air conditioning unit.
Let’s start with what the term “SEER” stands for. SEER is an acronym which stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio.” This term was defined and developed by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, an organization that sets the standards for the heating and cooling industry in the United States. SEER is a mathematical calculation that divides the unit’s entire cooling capacity during normal periods of operation by its entire electric energy input during the same period of time. Simply put, the higher a unit’s SEER rating is, the less electricity the system is using to keep you cool. And if the system is using less electricity to keep you cool, it usually means that the unit is more energy-efficient. A system’s SEER rating is especially important to families living in warmer climates, such as Arizona or Texas, where air conditioning season typically lasts much longer than other parts of the country.
If you’re going to use your knowledge of SEER ratings to your advantage, you should also know some industry and government standards. First, keep in mind that in 2006, the United States government issued a requirement that all air conditioning models manufactured from that point forward have a minimum SEER rating of 13. If you have a unit manufactured before 2006, there is a chance that its SEER rating may not be that high. And while a SEER rating of 13 meets government standards, an air conditioner cannot be labeled an ENERGY STAR® model unless it has a SEER rating of 14 or higher.
Finally, in order to make sure your central air conditioning unit is living up to its full SEER-rating potential, it is important to have a licensed and trained mechanical contractor help you select and install your new HVAC system. A mechanical contractor like Home Comfort will make sure that your air conditioner is matched with the right HVAC components and installed properly, so that you can be sure your air conditioner is operating as efficiently as the advertisements claim it to be.