Choosing the Best SEER Rating for Your Air Conditioner

AC SEER rating in Charlotte, NC

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is an effective way for consumers to judge the energy efficiency of one piece of air conditioning equipment versus another. The SEER number you see on your air conditioning unit represents the system’s average performance over the course of one cooling season. It’s determined by taking the unit’s cooling output during the season and dividing that number by the amount of energy the unit used. Homeowners in Charlotte, NC can use this rating system to compare different units and find the ones that are best for their needs.

Understanding the Range

The first thing to know is that higher SEER ratings equate to higher energy efficiency. Today, the highest rating you’ll see on a product is a SEER rating of 26. In the southern part of the United States, the SEER range is from 14 to 25 with most homeowners choosing units in the 14 to 20 range.

If your unit is more than 10 or 15 years old, it may have a SEER rating below 10. Laws issued by the Department of Energy have changed a few times, forcing new models to be more efficient.

In 1987, the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act established efficiency minimums for air conditioning units. Since then, the Department of Energy has issued new laws about the minimum ratings a few times. Laws established in 2006, 2015, and again in 2023 changed expectations a great deal. Today, the law is different for people in the northern United States than it is in the South, where air conditioning units are run a lot more frequently. In the north, air conditioning units have a minimum SEER rating of 14. For folks in the south, we’re looking at a minimum rating of 14.5 to 15.

Advanced technology has made air conditioning units a lot more efficient. A more advanced air conditioning unit has an easier time handling the hot and humid summers we experience in Charlotte. Homeowners who choose to invest in a unit with a higher SEER rating typically see a big difference in their utility bills.

Higher-Rated SEER Air Conditioners Utilize More Advanced Technology

A unit with a higher SEER rating will usually have a two-stage speed compressor, often referred to as a variable speed compressor. An older AC unit with a lower SEER rating is likely to have a single-stage compressor. An air conditioner with a single-stage compressor will have to work harder to keep a large space cool. Often, homeowners will experience uneven temperatures throughout their spaces when they have a unit with a single-stage compressor.

Another factor that improves a unit’s efficiency and earns it a higher SEER rating is its variable speed, meaning how fast the wind blows out of the unit.

It’s important to keep in mind that air conditioners with lower SEER ratings have a much more difficult time dealing with humidity. A unit that is less efficient will be turning on and off more frequently, which allows humidity to cling to the air. Every time it turns back on, it has more humidity to deal with and a harder time running, which means it uses even more energy.

An air conditioner with a higher SEER rating will blow air more evenly throughout a home and will run at a more consistent speed. The unit deals with humidity more evenly and thus suffers less wear and tear. This leads to lower energy usage.

How Much of a Difference Do SEER Ratings Really Make?

On average, homeowners save approximately 7% on their electricity costs when they invest in a unit that has a SEER rating that is one point higher. If you use your air conditioning unit frequently, which most homeowners in North Carolina do, then you know that 7% represents a sizable amount.

Other Factors That Impact Your Energy Use

It’s important to understand that your air conditioning unit’s SEER rating is not the only factor that impacts your monthly energy costs. For example, the electric company charges you a particular amount per kilowatt hour for electricity. There are often peak and off-peak hours, especially during the summer. Those rates are going to impact your monthly bill in a big way.

Your home itself will also be a major factor. The size of your home will impact your energy bill. Additionally, a well-insulated home will cost less to cool. Proper sealing up gaps and cracks will also greatly impact how energy efficient your home is.

It’s also important to understand that regular air conditioning maintenance will improve your unit’s efficiency. Neglect will not only lead to AC failures, but it can also result in higher energy costs. That’s why our team of technicians at Integrity Heating & Cooling offers our Comfort Protection Plan. Our regular maintenance appointments keep our customers units in excellent repair, so they are optimized for efficiency.

Is It Worth Investing in a Higher SEER Rating?

As is the case with many home purchases, this decision will be unique to your needs. An air conditioning system with a higher SEER rating typically costs more. This initial investment leads to regular savings on your energy bill. Homeowners with a unit that’s 15 years old can expect to see a major improvement in their bills and in the comfort level of their homes.

You’ll want to consider how often you use your air conditioning unit, what your current energy usage looks like, and what your goals are for the new installation. At Integrity Heating & Cooling, we work with equipment from multiple brands with varying SEER ratings. We like to take the time to ask our customers about their goals, budgets, and other needs before we recommend a specific system to fit their needs.

Optimize Your AC With Help From the Pros

Learning more about SEER ratings is a great first step toward improving your home’s comfort levels. For the best results, you’ll want to work with NATE-certified technicians who prioritize your needs. Our team at Integrity Heating & Cooling has been working with homeowners and businesses in the Charlotte area for over 35 years. We take the time to learn about what our customers need so we can provide the best service possible.

Our technicians can help you install your new air conditioning system and then help you with any repairs or maintenance in the future. We can also work with you to install mini-splits. Our team can also take care of HVAC heating installation, repair, and maintenance needs. Additionally, we know how important air quality is to your home’s comfort. That’s why we provide indoor air quality services and work with dehumidifiers and air purifiers. We can also handle your ductwork and duct sealing to improve your home’s efficiency.

An air conditioning unit with a higher SEER rating will do a better job cooling your home and use less energy. One of our technicians would be happy to help you determine which unit is right for your needs. Contact Integrity Heating & Cooling today to learn more.