What is a SEER Rating?

South End Plumbing, Heating, & Air Expert Tips

  • What is a SEER Rating

We can measure air conditioning systems in multiple ways. Whether it’s a unit with a bunch of years on it or when looking at a unit when it’s time for a new one, different measurements give different information. Perhaps the most referenced and most important rating having to do with AC is SEER Rating. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. What is a SEER Rating? What information is this giving a consumer? Knowing a little may help you make the right decision for your home and family.

SEER Rating

A SEER Rating is a score relaying the energy efficiency of a cooling unit. The measurement is calculated by the ratio of the heat removed by the system and the amount of energy used in the process. SEER ratings are typically rounded to a whole number or sometimes to a half-number, for example, 17.5. The higher the rating score, the more energy efficient the unit or system.

Over the last few decades, SEER ratings have become higher on average for new AC units.

A SEER of 8-10 was highly efficient about 20-30 years ago. Better technology and energy usage means any new system has a SEER of at least 12. In warm states, North Carolina and South Carolina being two, 14 SEER is the minimum SEER for any new unit going into a residential building.

Knowing the SEER Rating for a New System

So, what exactly is the “right” SEER ranking? Is it actually best to buy and install a system with the highest possible SEER? This isn’t necessarily what you need to do.

Knowing the current AC’s SEER in your home, how efficient it is, how much it costs on your usual utility bill, your own personal needs and more goes into deciding what you need in the future. A failing or inefficient air conditioner may push you to decide. The health or air quality needs of your family may be a very important factor for some.

There doesn’t need to be a one size fits all answer to SEER Ratings and air conditioning. If you want or need a highly-efficient system or an environmentally friendly, or budget-friendly AC unit these decisions will guide you to the base SEER allowed, a very high SEER Rating model, or a medium that works well for plenty of homes. Your priorities are unique to your life.

What’s the Difference?

A higher SEER Rating means a higher efficiency system. On average, and depending on other factors, this should save money over the life of the system. A high SEER system typically comes at a more expensive upfront cost. How the math of higher upfront cost and energy savings actually pans out depends on how you use your AC, the regional climate, if the AC and the home size match right, other energy users in your home, and more. The answer for some is the highest SEER unit they can find for their home, but by no means is this always the right fit.

As energy prices increase, the more a high SEER Rating makes sense. An efficient and reliable AC unit should save money month to month and with less expensive and less frequent maintenance costs over the coming years. Newer systems with higher SEER scores have longer lifespans.

Is a Lower SEER Rating Right for Your Home?

If a lower SEER Rating is right for your home and usage needs, this doesn’t mean a system is inefficient. In fact, it might be the most efficient system for how you use AC, your lifestyle, your budget and other factors to consider.

In almost every situation, replacing an old, wasteful unit with a new one will be a big upgrade in SEER Rating. The old system could be a poor fit and a money pit. This may have to do with the square footage or configuration of your home. It may be due to factors like the area’s climate, or system tools such as thermostats and programmable settings. A 20-year-old system might have a SEER of 8 or lower. Installing an AC with a SEER of 14 or higher will make a great difference in comfort and energy usage. It’s likely to include easier settings to use and has other modern features.

Where to find a SEER RatingState SEER Level Mandates

In 2015, the minimum SEER was elevated to 14 for people residing in the Carolinas and many other states categorized by having the warmest average summer temperatures. The U.S. government requires AC systems in these states to have higher SEER ratings because more AC usage for more of the year needs to use energy more environmentally efficient.

Those living in other states and regions may still have SEER 13 units. Northern states were not included in the increased SEER minimum. The rating doesn’t need to be as high. Some people still use higher SEER units, where summer seasons are cooler. Residents on average use air conditioning less often, so energy regulations are not the same.


At South End Heating and Air we specialize in HVAC and furnace repair, call us for a free consult and free estimate. We’ll evaluate your system and help make recommendations for optimum value. After all, we want to keep you cool all summer long and warm in the winter. Just schedule a visit with one of our technicians to talk about how we can help with your heating needs. Would you like to learn more options our techs can help you with? Give us a call 704-684-5339.

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