When it comes to cars, we evaluate efficiency based on miles per gallon. With residential air conditioning, efficiency is measured by SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. In effect, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system will be. The U.S. recently adopted minimum SEER requirements, currently 13, and any system over 16 SEER is generally considered high efficiency. A SEER rating over 20 is in the highest efficiency group.
If you’re confused about why efficiency matters, one good reason is cost. A system with a SEER rating of 13 will have to use more energy than a system with a SEER rating of 18. Those energy costs can really add up over the life of your system – up to several hundred dollars per year in savings. A higher efficiency system, because it uses less energy, is also a more environmentally friendly option.
There are a few things you can do to maximize the SEER rating of your air conditioner. These include:
- Change the air filter
A dirty filter will restrict air flow, making your system work much harder, using more energy and costing you more money. Check the filter regularly and follow the manufacturer’s recommended schedule for replacement. A good general rule is a change every three months or at the beginning of every heating and cooling season.
- Seal the ducts
Air that escapes through leaks in a duct increases the amount of time your air conditioner must run to reach your desired level of comfort. Sealing the ducts can improve your efficiency by as much as 20 percent or more. You can seal a duct using duct sealant such as mastic or a metal-backed foil tape.
- Use a programmable thermostat
setting your thermostat to only heat or cool your home during the hours when you’re there can save several hundred dollars per year in energy costs.
- Keep the outside unit clean
any debris built up on the outside coils of your condenser unit will make the system work harder to deliver air flow. Wash off the outdoor unit with a hose on light pressure.
When making any of these decisions it’s always best to consult with a reputable contractor who can explain the various options and walk you through what makes sense for your home. To help locate a reputable contractor visit an industry association site such as www.acca.org.
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