What Does SEER Mean for Sacramento Homeowners?


When you’re preparing for a new air conditioner installation in Sacramento, you may be wondering whether to bring your smartphone or a decoder ring. After all, modern heat pumps and central air conditioning units are often plastered with information meant to help the consumer, but there’s so much of it that it can be confusing. One of the most important — and least-understood — is the SEER rating. But what does SEER mean? Well, if you’ve ever wondered, “What is SEER?” you’ve come to the right place.

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What is SEER?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it is intended to show you how well an air conditioner or ductless split system in Sacramento can cool the average home. Loosely speaking, the rating is based on expected hours of operation and the amount of cooling over a specific number of days. Somewhat more precisely, it’s the relationship between energy consumption and output in British Thermal Units (BTUs).

How Is SEER Determined?

The SEER rating is calculated through extensive testing under a wide range of simulated outdoor and indoor conditions. An ideal indoor temperature is designated, and the amount of energy consumption and time required to reach that temperature is measured.

Those outdoor temperatures range between 65 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, reflecting the way temperatures change both through the seasons and over the course of the day. The resultant two-digit SEER rating measures the unit’s cooling efficiency to help you choose the right air conditioner.

How Do I Know an Air Conditioner’s SEER Rating?

SEER ratings are almost always listed on a sticker placed on the front of the unit. The same sticker will often have energy use statistics, the applicable Energy Star rating, and other vital stats. The SEER rating may also be incorporated in the unit’s model number.

Figuring out which SEER rating is right for your home and business depends on some factors.

  • Regional climate; areas with summers that are either shorter or cooler than average will require less energy to cool, all else being equal
  • Size of the structure: As you’d guess, a smaller structure will generally be more energy-efficient
  • Number of occupants: If you’ve ever been at a party, concert, or other gatherings with a fair number of people, you’ve experienced the difference that body heat can make; a family of four will have different cooling needs than a building with more, or fewer, occupants
  • Predicted use: Here, there are multiple variables in play, from the duration of the warm season to your preferred temperatures at different times of day

What is the ideal SEER rating?

The national minimum SEER rating for air conditioners is 13, while it’s 14 for the state of California, and 15 to obtain an Energy Star rating from the EPA. While you can certainly get away with the bare minimum — the initial cost will be lower — we encourage you to think longer-term. An air conditioner with a higher SEER rating (20 or 25 instead of 14) will cost more upfront but will save you more over the life of the unit thanks to its much higher efficiency, and generally has an easier time qualifying for energy efficiency tax credits.

What About the Energy Efficiency Ratio?

Good question. The Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER, is an older rating. Its shortfall is that it limits its calculations; it accounts for cooling the home to a single temperature based on a single outdoor temperature, thereby ignoring the wide range of variables in play. That, in turn, makes it a much less effective measure of efficiency than the SEER rating.

Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning Installation in Sacramento

If there’s a cautionary note to be sounded, it’s this: SEER may be helpful, but it’s not infallible. It can’t account for insolation, insulation, the age of your home, proper system sizing, or a host of other concerns. For those, get in touch with Ace Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning. From installations to air conditioner maintenance and repair in Sacramento, we’ve got you covered!