This transition to SEER2 also includes efficiency increases for split systems in air conditioning and heat pumps. The energy efficiency of all refrigeration units, with the exception of portable and window air conditioners, is measured based on the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Index (SEER). Ductless heat pumps and minisplits have two different energy efficiency measures, as these units provide heating and cooling. The cooling efficiency of these units is still measured in SEER, while the heating efficiency is measured in the Seasonal Heating Performance Factor (HSPF).
The new laws will change both the minimum SEER and the minimum HSPF, but for now, we'll focus on SEER. This index is calculated by dividing the amount of energy used by a unit in one hour by the number of BTUs (British thermal units) of heat it has removed from the air in the same period. However, before the SEER can be calculated, all new units first undergo rigorous tests to determine the amount of energy they consume under different conditions. Specifically, the units operate at different humidity levels and temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The new SEER2 system works exactly the same way. The difference is that it increases the amount of static pressure at which the unit is tested. Static pressure refers to resistance to air flow and is important, because the higher the pressure, the harder the HVAC fan will have to work to circulate air throughout the duct system. This, in turn, means that the air conditioner or other HVAC unit will need to run longer and consume more energy to completely cool the house.
With the old SEER system, the units were tested with a static pressure of 0.1 inches, while the new SEER2 system uses 0.5 inches of static pressure. This is an important change, as few, if any, air conditioning systems have a static pressure as low as 0.1 inch. Problems such as dirty ducts, air leaks, clogged air filters, and closed or clogged vents can contribute to increased static pressure. By testing units at higher static pressure, the new SEER2 system should be able to more accurately estimate energy efficiency and better reflect real operating conditions.
With this new system, all refrigeration units in the northern part of the country must have 13.8 SEER2, which is equivalent to 14 SEER. The new requirement in the southern half of the country is 14.3 SEER2, equivalent to 15 SEER. However, in the Southeast and Southwest regions, this requirement applies only to air conditioners and split heat pumps of 45,000 BTU or more. For values lower than 45,000 BTU, the requirement is still 13.8 SEER2 or 14 TO BE.
Do you want to know what SEER means? Are you curious about why it's important? Do you need help understanding what to look for when buying a new HVAC unit? If so, you've come to the right place! The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Index) is a rating scale that measures how energy efficient an air conditioning system is. According to Energy.gov, it's calculated by dividing a system's cooling capacity by its energy consumption during peak summer months. A higher SEER rating indicates a more energy efficient system that can help reduce energy bills and environmental impact. Homeowners who purchase air conditioning units with high SEER ratings may qualify for energy efficiency discounts or tax credits at state and national levels.
The EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) is another measure of air conditioning efficiency that's usually used for smaller units. It measures instant efficiency at a specific level rather than over an entire cooling season. Like with SEER ratings, higher EER ratings indicate more efficient systems that can help save money on energy bills and reduce environmental impact. The test for calculating a unit's SEER rating takes into account factors such as size and design of the unit, type of refrigerant used, ambient temperature and humidity levels during testing.
After testing is complete, a weighted average of performance during each test condition is used to calculate its rating. Most new air conditioning units have a yellow sticker with an “EnergyGuide” label containing its SEER rating; you can also find it on top of its manufacturer's label next to its model and serial number. If you're thinking about upgrading your system, below you'll find a chart with average costs for new HVAC systems along with their respective SEER ratings:
- SEER 13: $3200 - $4500
- SEER 14: $3500 - $5000
- SEER 15: $4000 - $5500
- SEER 16: $4500 - $6000
- SEER 17: $5000 - $6500
A professional HVAC contractor can help you determine which type best suits your needs.