When it comes to purchasing a new HVAC system for your home, you may be presented with an unfamiliar acronym: SEER. This combination of letters could mean the difference in cost savings of several hundreds of dollars per month. One of the most common questions we are asked here at Paschal is “What is the difference between 14 SEER vs. 16 SEER?” 14 SEER & 16 SEER are two of the most commonly purchased system types for residential use in our area.
In this article, we’re going to help you decide on whether you should choose a 14 SEER or 16 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.
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?
Let’s think in terms of dollars and cents. A 16 SEER unit is about 13% more efficient than a 14 SEER. For every $100 you spend to cool your home with a 14 SEER, you could save $13 on your monthly bill by upgrading to the 16 SEER unit.
But just like gas mileage, your ability to meet this maximum efficiency and savings depends on a lot of other factors.
All you need to keep in mind is that a higher SEER means a more efficient unit, cooling your home better and faster while saving you money on your electric bills. However, the higher efficiency comes at a cost.
The U.S. Department of Energy enforces minimum SEER requirements that differ by geographical region. The minimum in the Southwest and Southeast is 14 and it’s goes down to 13 in the North. A 13 or 14 SEER rating doesn’t necessarily mean a unit is inefficient. Most older A/C systems are rated at around 8 or 9, so even the lowest available SEER rated system you buy today will be much more energy efficient.
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.
As you’re weighing your SEER rating options, ask yourself these questions:
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.
14 SEER units are usually only available in single-stage models & run on one speed. That means they turn off and on during more mild weather, which results in:
In other words, 14 SEER units are often a compromise between cheaper price and comfort in the sweltering heat.
16 SEER units are available in both single-stage and two-stage. The single-stage models will run the same as the 14 SEER above, just with a little more efficiency. Depending on your needs, though, the two-stage 16 SEER might be a game-changer. These units have two capacities which creates:
The higher the SEER rating, the higher the price tag. If all your other factors are equal, the savings difference between a 14 SEER and 16 SEER is marginal. This means it will probably take a long time to make up the initial cost of the 16 SEER unit with your energy savings every month.
Comparing your purchase and installation price to your estimated savings is probably going to give you the answer you’re looking for. As Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith River Valley & Southwest Missouri’s HVAC pros, we can help you determine your estimated savings.
If you have a really old air conditioning system, maybe rated around 8 or 9 SEER, a new, 14 SEER system will give you a significant boost in savings, efficiency, and comfort.
But, in general, if everything else is equal—price, size, cooling needs—you’re better off with a higher SEER rating. You’ll also likely be more satisfied with the higher SEER because you get that two-stage capability. Better humidity control and temperature balance, plus more efficiency? Bingo!
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 HVAC shop in Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith River Valley & Southwest Missouri, we can help you figure out the right SEER rating for your situation. Give us a call today!