Central Air Effeciencies | Understanding SEER
With the rising temperatures of Indiana (and rising energy costs associated with these temperatures), many homeowners consider the efficiency of their residential HVAC unit. Every unit has a rating defined by the total cooling provided by the unit, or BTU, divided by the total energy used to maintain the temperature over a period of time. This rating is known as its “seasonal energy efficiency ratio” or SEER.
The efficiency of a central air conditioning unit is regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy, and minimum standards moved from 10 SEER to 13 SEER during the Clinton Administration. By 2030, it is estimated that consumers will have saved approximately $186 billion from this standard. In 2006, SEER units under a 13 SEER rating were not allowed to be manufactured or installed. It is safe to say that efficiency standards will continue to grow as old units are replaced by new technology and innovation. Replacing the standard 13 SEER residential HVAC unit with a 21 SEER efficiency unit can save thousands.
Features of 14-16 SEER Units
R-410A Refrigerant vs. R-22
Many air conditioners have a 14-16 SEER and operate on a R-410A refrigerant rather than R-22, the coolant used for years on the standard 13SEER units. The R-410A refrigerant is safer for the environment, and the EPA mandated that all new models manufactured must use R-410A refrigerant by 2010.
Many of these units also feature easy to clean coils which is important to maintain the life span of your air condition and to increase efficiency. These air conditioners usually feature higher quality materials and are better engineered, which increases the life span of residential HVAC units.
Features of 17-21 SEER Units
On one of the biggest features that makes 17-21 SEER rated units so efficient is their use of a two-stage cooling. Many single stage units provide one cold temperature. This causes more temperature extremes and demands that the units have frequent stops and starts that increases energy usage. In high efficiency units, there are either two speed compressors or actually two compressors in the unit that operate on two levels in a two-stage cooling system.
The lower speed is utilized to maintain a temperature, while the faster speed is only used for extreme spikes in temperature. This creates an even and consistent distribution of air throughout the home, keeping a steady temperature as needed.
Two-stage cooling systems also dramatically decreases the amount of humidity. This is important because a higher humidity means a better chance for pollutants and mold in the system and ductwork. Also the lowerhumidity makes the air feel so much more comfortable. Because of the even distribution of two-stage cooling, many high efficiency units are remarkably quieter than standard units.
Many homeowners see a high SEER rated system as costly, even though prices continue to drop, but the truth is that a residential HVAC system, when properly maintained, can last up to 20 years. With this in mind, the difference between a 13 SEER unit and a 21 SEER unit can be a few hundred dollars in annual savings. Not to mention that the lower humidity and lower speed of atwo-stage cooling system can mean less maintenance. All in all, this can save a homeowner thousands of dollars over years and be a smart investment.