The Benefits of a Seasonal Energy Efficient Ratio (SEER) Air Conditioner

Couple trying to figure out their energy efficiency ratio

SEER 101

If you’re looking at replacing your air conditioner, high efficiency systems are worth serious consideration. Efficiency is measured by SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. When comparing air conditioners, the SEER rating will tell you how efficient one is compared to another. Higher SEER numbers indicate higher efficiency. The minimum SEER rating is 13, with a rating above 16 considered high efficiency. You should consider a high efficiency system for the following reasons:

  1. Lower Utility Bills – High efficiency systems with higher SEER ratings use less energy, which translates to less money you spend on energy bills. In fact, switching from an old 8 SEER unit to a 16 SEER one can save you 50% on your energy bill. Bottom line: higher efficiency = lower bills.
  2. Incentives and Rebates – There are many potential ways to save through government incentives or manufacturers’ rebates. By taking advantage of these offers, a high efficiency system might end up costing roughly the same as a standard unit. A good place to find what’s available to you is
  3. Environmental Impact – Because high efficiency systems use less energy they contribute to fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Less electricity means fewer fossil fuels being burned. This is good for your wallet and good for the environment.
  4. Humidity – High efficiency systems not only help keep the air at the preferred temperature, but can more effectively remove moisture from the air. Modulated systems run longer cycles at lower pressures, helping to cool the air comfortably. Air that cools too fast without proper moisture removal can lead to mold and other airborne problems.

In addition to the above, a home with a high efficiency air conditioning system can be attractive to a potential buyer if you’re looking to sell. You’ll be passing on the monthly savings to them!

Our Recommendation

While we are advocates of higher efficiency systems that use less energy, save you money, and provide better humidity control, we don’t want you to just buy the biggest, highest SEER-rated unit possible. It’s important to work with a reputable contractor who can properly size a system that’s the best fit for your home. You can find quality contractors on sites such as or

We’d love to hear from you if you’re contemplating a switch to a high efficiency system. What are the most appealing qualities in a new system that you’re looking for?

Related Articles
What Is SEER And Why Is It Important?


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26 thoughts on “The Benefits of a Seasonal Energy Efficient Ratio (SEER) Air Conditioner

    • In a side by side test for exactly the same weather conditions a 16 SEER would be about 14% more efficient than a 14 SEER (1-16/14). You might use this number to estimate the energy cost savings you would get during the cooling season and decide if you can get an adequate payback for the next cooling season in your area. However, your actual energy usage will also be affected by how much you run the system and how hot the season is, etc. One other point – a 16 SEER system will probably have a two stage system that will help with other comfort factors such as humidity control and temperature variation. Prices also vary from region to region so you might want to have quotes from a few different contractors before deciding.

  1. Generally, you can expect a new system to run within a few percentage points of its rated efficiency because of the strict regulated testing, etc., required from the manufacturer. If it was installed properly and there were no major duct leaks or other problems, it should run at the rated efficiency for most, if not all of its useful life. Because it is a sealed system, overall performance should also not degrade over time unless there are problems – refrigerant leaks, clogged indoor filters, poor outdoor airflow through the coil, etc. So, with proper regular maintenance, it should run at that rated efficiency for many years. In fact, there is some evidence which suggests that ducted central air conditioning systems with Copeland Scroll Compressors “run in” after the first few weeks of operation and they actually gain a little efficiency over time due to the way the sealing surfaces in the compressor are designed. (Just to be fair, I work for the company that makes and sells Copeland Scroll Compressors but I personally believe these claims because I have seen the test results.) This is contrasted with some smaller room air conditioners and smaller ductless systems with rotary compressors or reciprocating compressors. These have been known to experience some performance degradation due to the parts in the compressor sealing mechanism wearing out over a period of years as they approach end of life. So, in answer to your question, if you have a ducted system with a Copeland Scroll and it is well cared for it should hold its rated efficiency throughout its useful life.

  2. Is there any data or research available that shows the estimated SEER or efficiency lost due to normal age and operation of an AC system.

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