Deciding to purchase a new HVAC system for your home or business is a big decision. There are many factors that come into the decision, one of which being: which system is right for my building? One question commonly asked by homeowners and those choosing to purchase new HVAC systems is: “What is the difference between 14 SEER vs. 18 SEER?”
In this article, we’re going to help you decide on whether you should choose a 14 SEER or 18 SEER HVAC system for your home, or if going to an even more efficient system would be the best option. If your home has an HVAC system more than 15 years old, chances are that the SEER rating on the unit falls between 8 & 10. Through federal and state regulations, this minimum level of efficiency has been mandated to be higher over the last few decades, and today’s modern units offer SEER ratings from 13 to 26.
What is a SEER rating?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it’s sort of like the gas mileage of your HVAC unit. In layman’s terms, SEER is calculated by dividing the total energy required to run the unit (how much electricity you’ll use) by the unit’s total cooling capacity (how cool it’ll make you). A SEER ratio is calculated over an entire cooling season using a constant indoor temperature and a variety of outdoor temperatures ranging from 60 degrees to 100 plus. This is how it simulates a typical season.
In other words, the SEER rating indicates the maximum efficiency you can achieve with your HVAC system. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient your system should be. The current minimum standard is 13 SEER, but you’ll see systems anywhere from 13 SEER to 21 SEER. Most people are trying to decide between a 14 SEER and 16 SEER. So how different are these ratings?
An 18 SEER unit is about 20% more efficient than a 14 SEER. For every $100 you spend to cool your home with a 14 SEER, you could save at least $20 on your monthly bill by upgrading to the 18 SEER unit.
But just like gas mileage, your ability to meet this maximum efficiency and savings depends on a lot of other factors.
What is SEER2?
Beginning in 2023, all new residential central air-conditioning and air-source heat pump systems sold in the United States will be required to meet new minimum energy efficiency standards. The most recent minimum energy efficiency standards for these equipment types went into effect in 2015, and for the first time, separate standards were set for cooling central air conditioners sold in the northern parts of the United States and those sold in the southern parts. The new standards continue to set different cooling efficiency levels for air conditioners in the south, and they also require an increase in the heating efficiency of all air-source heat pumps. The SEER2 protocol was developed in 2016 and will replace SEER in 2023. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has developed SEER2 to rate efficiency using roughly similar numbers.
The Department of Energy has established a new set of testing criteria & procedures (M1) to take effect January 1, 2023. One of the main differences between SEER and SEER2 is the testing conditions for each rating system. The new testing procedure (M1) will ensure that units are tested to better reflect the realistic field conditions of installed HVAC equipment. On August 24, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNOPR) to amend the test procedure for central air conditioners and heat pumps. The new appendix M1 establishes new efficiency metrics SEER2, EER2, and HSPF2 that are based on the current efficiency metrics for cooling and heating performance, but generally have different numerical values than the current metrics.
Determining the energy efficiency and cost savings HVAC system involves more than reading the SEER rating on the EnergyGuide sticker. Consider these outside factors when evaluating how much energy your HVAC uses, whether you have a 14 or 16 SEER unit.
- Quality of home insulation
- Age of current unit
- Quality of ductwork
- Window and door insulation quality
- Size of HVAC unit compared to home size
- Frequency of routine maintenance
Are 14 SEER Systems Available for My Home?
Beginning on January 1, 2023 – 14 SEER systems will not be available to install in select regions. For more information, & to see if your state qualifies for 14 SEER equipment, please view our SEER2 Overview here.
How to Choose Between 14 SEER and 18 SEER HVAC System
As you’re weighing your SEER rating options, ask yourself these questions:
How big is my home?
The size of your home affects the HVAC size you’ll need to cool your family comfortably. Smaller units use less energy and increase your savings. But if you live in a larger home, you’ll need a larger unit. The size of your home may answer your SEER question for you when comparing size, installation cost, and ultimate savings.
As you’re weighing your SEER rating options, you need to consider a few criteria, including your personal comfort and budget:
How big is your home?
The size of your home affects the HVAC size you’ll need to keep it cool. If you live in a larger home, it’s recommended you side with a higher SEER rating in order to keep your family comfortable.
Settling for a system that is too small for your home will result in uneven heating and cooling.
What are your cooling needs?
Air conditioners & heat pumps are available in single-stage, two-stage and variable stage systems. “Stages” refer to the fan speed. A single-stage model runs off the same speed every time it kicks on and off.
If you are looking to increase your comfort in your home, a two-speed system may help! A two-stage model will run at two speeds, depending on your cooling needs. These systems run more efficient and include added benefits like:
- Longer and gentler cooling
- Better temperature balance
- Improved humidity control
- Lower electric bills
Variable-stage HVAC systems run the most efficiently, because their motors are capable of running at any a wide-range of speeds depending on how cool or hot you want your air.
- Most efficient type of HVAC and will result in the lowest electric bills
- Even cooling throughout your home or business
- Improved humidity control
- Lower energy costs
Use rebates to save money
How much can I spend?
The higher the SEER rating, the higher the price tag. Comparing your purchase and installation price to your estimated savings is probably going to give you the answer you’re looking for. As Arkansas & Missouri’s HVAC pros, we can help you determine your estimated savings.
Use rebates to save money
Bottom Line: Is the higher SEER rating worth it?
If you have a really old air conditioning system, maybe rated around 8 or 9 SEER, a new, 16 SEER system will give you a significant boost in savings, efficiency, and comfort.
In general, if you are looking for a more efficient unit, and looking to save on your utility bills, then go with the highest SEER rated unit that you can.
Do I Need to Upgrade My HVAC System to SEER2 Standards?
New minimum efficiency standards will mean that older systems that do not meet 2023 SEER2 requirements will be phased out. This can mean that parts will no longer be manufactured for these units, and repairs could become more and more expensive over time. If your unit is more than 10+ years old, it could be time to consider replacement options. It is important to get a consultation with a professional HVAC company to discuss options for repairs and replacements on older heating and air equipment and systems. Paschal Air, Plumbing & Electric provides free estimates on HVAC replacements for those in our service territories.
Sometimes these decisions seem like splitting hairs. We can make sure you’re comparing apples to apples so you can feel confident you’re making the best decision for your budget and needs! As the most-trusted home service provider in Arkansas & Missouri, Paschal Air, Plumbing & Electric can help you figure out the right SEER rating for your situation. If you’re looking to replace your air conditioner or want more information, contact the professionals at Paschal at 479-202-8961 or schedule an appointment online at www.gopaschal.com.