Understanding SEER Ratings and Why They’re Important

Understanding SEER Ratings and Why They’re Important

Replacing your old air conditioner can be an expensive undertaking. You’ll want to know everything you can about your various options to help you make a more informed decision on which unit is best for your home and your budget. The size of the air conditioner you need is determined primarily by the total square footage of your home and the climate where you live, so the main factors that you’ll want to consider are energy efficiency and price. These factors are generally tied directly to one another as the more energy-efficient the unit is, the more it typically costs. In order for you to compare the energy efficiency of different AC units, you’ll need to know a bit about SEER ratings.

What Is a SEER Rating?

SEER stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio,” and this is the measurement used to judge the energy efficiency of central air conditioners and other cooling equipment like heat pumps and ductless mini-split ACs. The SEER scale makes it easy to compare the estimated annual energy usage of different air conditioners. In this way, you can better judge whether the estimated energy savings from a higher SEER unit are enough to offset the additional up-front cost.

To make things easier for consumers, the EPA has a number of tools available online that allow you to input your location and the size of the AC unit you need so that you can estimate how much your annual cooling costs would be based on different SEER ratings. Generally speaking, your cooling costs will be reduced by an average of 7% for every 1 SEER. For example, a 15 SEER unit would use approximately 7% less energy than a 14 SEER AC unit of the same size.

How Is SEER Calculated?

SEER is an important measurement that makes it impossible to more accurately gauge approximately how much energy an air conditioner will use throughout one cooling season. Without SEER, it would be impossible to get an accurate measurement of energy use because the specific amount of energy the unit will use on any given day can fluctuate dramatically depending on the outdoor temperature and humidity level. This makes it impossible to get an accurate snapshot of the unit’s energy usage, which is why SEER looks at the entire cooling season.

On average, an air conditioner will run for a total of 1,000 hours in a cooling season. To calculate SEER, you first need to take the unit’s cooling output, which is measured in British thermal units, or BTUs, and multiply this by 1,000 to get the total cooling output over the course of the season. Next, you take how many watt-hours of electricity the unit uses and multiply this by 1,000 as well to find how much total energy the unit would use throughout the season. Finally, you take the total BTUs and divide this by the total watt-hours to find the SEER value.

This calculation can be incredibly handy if you don’t know the SEER rating of your current AC unit. By calculating the SEER, you can then estimate how much energy you could save by upgrading to a higher SEER unit.

Federal Energy Efficiency Standards

The U.S. Department of Energy has federal minimum efficiency requirements for all new HVAC equipment. For air conditioners are other cooling equipment, the minimum energy efficiency required by law is 14 SEER in California and the southern U.S. and 13 SEER in all northern states. Beginning in 2023, these minimum efficiency requirements will rise to 15 SEER in the south and 14 SEER in the north. If you’re considering replacing your air conditioner and energy efficiency is not your primary concern, it makes sense to do it now since a new unit will cost you a bit more once the new efficiency requirements take effect.

Before 2016, the minimum required for all parts of the country was 13 SEER, and it was only 10 SEER up until 2006. This means that if your current AC was installed prior to these years, even upgrading to the minimum 14 SEER could still reduce your annual cooling costs by anywhere from 7 to 28%.

Improving Energy Efficiency

Air conditioners have improved dramatically over the past few decades in terms of energy efficiency mostly because of advancements that have reduced the amount of electricity that the AC compressor needs to function properly. In the past, all AC compressors were single-stage units, which meant that they could only run at one speed.

Most lower SEER units are still single-stage, but the higher SEER units now are generally always multi-stage or variable compressors. This means that they can slow down and use less energy during times when the home doesn’t need as much cooling such as early mornings and at night. Although the system will still run occasionally during these times, the flow of refrigerant will slow down since the system won’t need to absorb as much heat from the building.

How to Choose the Best SEER Rating for Your Home

Most central air conditioners range between 14 and 20 SEER although there are models that go as high as 27 SEER. This means that you have a lot of choices in terms of energy efficiency. As a result, it is always helpful to compare potential energy savings and purchase prices.

Specifically, you’ll want to calculate approximately how much your total energy costs would be over the expected life of the unit to determine whether a higher SEER model is worth the added cost. You can do this by taking your electricity rate and multiplying it by how many kilowatt-hours the unit would be expected to use in one summer. You can then multiply this number by how the expected lifespan of the unit to determine the total expected energy costs over the life of the unit.

The average lifespan of a central air conditioner is around 10 to 15 years. In hotter climates like those in California, you will likely end up on the lower end of this range since your AC will see much more use. Heat pumps will generally last for around eight to 12 years while ductless mini-split ACs can last for anywhere from 20 to 30 years.

Although the highest SEER units can be a great choice if energy efficiency is your main concern, the fact is that most people tend to choose a model in the lower to mid-range as these tend to offer the best value for your money. Unless you’re on an extremely tight budget, you probably don’t want to choose the bare minimum since, in the long run, it will end up costing you much more in energy. On the other hand, you also probably don’t want to go too high either since the added energy savings will generally never offset the additional costs.

Ensuring your home stays cool throughout the summer is obviously important, but it can also be quite costly. This is where SEER comes in handy by enabling you to estimate your expected costs and determine what unit is best for your budget. At Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air, our expert technicians can evaluate your home and help to ensure you get the best air conditioner for your needs. We have been providing exceptional heating, cooling, and plumbing services to customers in the Sacramento area for more than 40 years, and we have the experience to help you ensure your home is comfortable all year long. If you have any questions about SEER ratings or your options for a new air conditioner, give us a call today.

Potential Fixes for Hot and Cold Spots in Your Home

Potential Fixes for Hot and Cold Spots in Your Home

When everything is functioning smoothly in your Sacramento, CA household, the temperatures should generally be pretty even from one room to the next. For example, you probably shouldn’t feel like you need to put on an extra layer of clothing any time you walk from the dining room to the bedroom. However, uneven household temperatures, which are also referred to as “hot and cold spots,” are a very common problem that homes deal with all over the country. There are many reasons why this frustrating issue might occur in your house, meaning that there’s no universal, guaranteed solution. However, there are a handful of potential fixes you can try, and there’s a good chance that one of them will get your home comfort back on track.

Check Your Vents

One of the most common causes of hot and cold spots is clogged or blocked air vents. These vents are located in various areas of your home, and whenever your heating or cooling system is running, it’s using those vents to distribute the conditioned air to each room. So, if any of the air vents are obstructed, those parts of your house won’t receive as much warm or cool air as the rest of the living space. If you’re trying to remedy hot and cold spots in your home, checking and cleaning your vents should be one of the first things you try; it won’t take long, and it has a good chance of either improving the situation or solving the problem.

Firstly, you’ll want to verify that there’s nothing physically blocking the airflow of the vents. Oftentimes, people will accidentally move furniture in front of a vent or leave a pile of clutter in an unfortunate spot. You should also take some time to clean the interior of each vent. Contaminants like dust, dirt, mold, and small debris will accumulate in your air vents over time, and you can use a vacuum cleaner with a hose extension to clean them out.

Schedule a Duct Cleaning

If you have a central air HVAC system in your home, it’s possible that your uneven temperatures are being caused by a ductwork problem. Much like the interior of your air vents, the interior of your ducts will accumulate a variety of contaminants over time. If that accumulation is allowed to go unchecked for a prolonged period, certain sections of the ductwork may start to get clogged up. When that occurs, your heating and cooling systems will begin to have trouble moving a sufficient amount of airflow through those areas. As a result, some areas of your home may remain significantly colder or warmer than others. Leaky ducts cause a similar issue; if there are gaps or cracks in your ductwork, large amounts of conditioned air will escape when your HVAC system is running.

The good news is that you can enlist the help of local duct cleaners to clear the contaminants out of your ductwork. They’ll thoroughly remove any dust, dirt, pollen, dander, mold, and debris from your air ducts. Plus, they’ll be able to inspect the ducts for any leaks or damage. This process may take care of your hot and cold spots, and it will also have a variety of other benefits for your home, including better air quality and lower energy bills.

Change Your Thermostat Setting

If your home uses a standard thermostat, it most likely has two settings for operation: auto and on. Typically, the default setting is auto due to the fact that it is typically the more energy-efficient setting. When the thermostat is set to auto, the HVAC system’s fan will only run when your heating or cooling system is cycling. In most cases, this is the setting you’ll want to go with, but switching your thermostat to on may provide a solution for your uneven household temperatures.

When your thermostat is set to on, your HVAC unit’s fan will constantly be cycling until you manually turn it off. When you’re trying to fix your hot and cold spots, try using this setting and letting the fans run for an extra 10 or 15 minutes after the heating or cooling cycle has completed. Doing so will give the conditioned air a chance to circulate around the household for a bit longer, which may be necessary to achieve consistently even temperatures. That said, it’s important that you only leave the thermostat on this setting for short amounts of time; otherwise, you’ll be spending quite a bit of extra money on your energy bills.

Inspect Your Home for Air Leaks

Sometimes, the reason for household hot and cold spots is a simple one. For example, if one or more areas of your home are harboring significant air leaks, it’s going to have a major effect on the temperatures in those parts of the house. If you’re noticing that specific rooms with windows or doorways are consistently colder or warmer than the rest of your living space, there’s a very good chance that air leaks are to blame. Fortunately, you should be able to find and seal these leaks on your own if you’re willing to put in a bit of time and effort.

Usually, air leaks in your home will be located along the edges of doors or windows, and they don’t have to be large to cause problems. In some cases, these openings will be too small to find visually, and you’ll need to feel around with your hand for moving air to locate them. When you’re dealing with hot and cold spots, you should thoroughly inspect for any air leaks and use caulking and weather stripping to seal any that you find. Even if this doesn’t fix your uneven temperatures, it will be great for the overall comfort and functionality of your home.

Schedule an HVAC Tune-Up

The hot and cold spots in your home could be a result of a struggling HVAC system. If your household unit is overdue for a maintenance visit, it may be having trouble effectively distributing air to every part of your home. Of course, there may also be something wrong with the equipment, in which case a repair will likely be needed, but scheduling a tune-up is a wise place to start. Our team at Crystal Blue Plumbing Heating & Air will be able to handle this service for you, and if there’s anything significant wrong with your HVAC unit, our technician will diagnose the problem and help you determine the best way to proceed.

In addition to potentially solving your hot and cold spots problem, scheduling an HVAC tune-up will also provide your home with some or all of these benefits:

  • More consistent comfort
  • Lower energy costs
  • Longer HVAC system life expectancy
  • Fewer HVAC repairs needed
  • Better indoor air quality

We at Crystal Blue Plumbing Heating & Air have been faithfully serving the greater Sacramento area since 1976. In addition to our exceptional plumbing, heating, and cooling services, our friendly professionals can also assist you with your duct repair and replacement, boiler services, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, indoor air quality, and much more. Give us a call today if you’d like to schedule an appointment!