In the market for a new air conditioner?
If you’ve started researching new units, you likely already know that SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures how energy efficient an AC is and is definitely something you want to consider when buying a new air conditioner.
When homeowners ask us what a good SEER rating is, this is what we tell them: Any SEER above the national requirement for Florida (14 SEER) is good.But if you’re thinking about getting a higher SEER (18+), keep in mind that:
- A higher SEER doesn’t always mean more overall savings
- But a higher SEER DOES mean higher comfort levels
We’ll explain what we mean...
Higher SEER (18+) doesn’t always mean more overall savings
Higher SEER ratings don’t always mean more savings—in the long run.
When it comes to comparing SEERs, think of it like looking at different gas mileage ratings when you’re buying a new car. A car that gets 30 MPG (miles per gallon) is obviously better than a car that only gets 20 MPG. But the better car also costs more upfront.
It’s the same with ACs: The higher the SEER, the more energy efficient it is (meaning you’ll spend less on monthly utility bills). But higher SEER units are also more expensive.
We’ll walk you through the numbers with an example comparison so you can see what we mean…
16 SEER vs. 21 SEER ACs: Which is most cost effective?
A 21 SEER AC will provide cheaper monthly energy bills. But here’s the downside: Even with the monthly savings, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever recoup the higher upfront cost of the unit.
Let’s look at the upfront cost of 2 popular Carrier ACs:
- Carrier Comfort 24ABC6 16 SEER costs $1,750 (just for the unit, not installation)
- Carrier Infinity 24ANB1 21 SEER costs $3,980 (just for the unit, not installation)
Note: the total cost to install a new AC is greater than the figures above, which don’t factor in installation costs. For more information about how much a new AC costs, read our article, “The Cost to Replace Your Central Air Conditioner in Florida.”
Now let’s compare the monthly energy savings of these two units: According to the Lennox Energy Savings Calculator, a 21 SEER unit will save you 24% in energy costs per year over a 16 SEER unit in Florida.
What does that look like in the long run?
Well, that means you’ll save approximately $1,670 after 10 years in energy costs if you go with a 21 SEER air conditioner instead of a 16 SEER unit.
But do those savings make it worth it?
We’ll, not really. Remember: the cost to install the Carrier Infinity 24ANB1 21 SEER is $3,980.
Most air conditioners in Florida last about 10 years at most. So if we subtract the long-term, 10 year savings ($1,670) from the cost of the unit ($3,980), we still have a balance of $2,310 that you’ll never recoup from your investment.
Even when you factor in energy rebates, you still don’t recoup the cost. So, between a 16 SEER and 21 SEER unit, it’s not really worth it in the long run to go with the higher SEER (if we’re just looking at cost).
However, money isn’t the only factor to consider. Most of the time, a higher SEER also means greater comfort...
But higher SEER (18+) DOES mean higher comfort levels
Higher SEER units often come with 2 components that lead to greater indoor comfort, especially here in Florida:
- 2-stage compressor
- Variable-speed blower
Lesser SEER ACs often don’t include these features. They only run on 1 speed (single-stage), which means during mild weather they’ll frequently turn on and off.
So what’s wrong with that? Well, an AC that turns on and off all the time could lead to problems like…
- Uneven cooling: If your AC turns on and off, the air won’t mix well in your home, which causes uncomfortable hot/cold spots.
- High humidity levels: Your AC needs to run for a long time to remove humidity from your home’s air. But if it turns on and off frequently, your AC won’t have a chance to remove the humidity which will make your home feel uncomfortable.
So, if we’re comparing the 2 Carrier units from the previous section, you’d want to go with the Carrier Infinity 24ANB1 21 SEER for the highest comfort.
Have more SEER questions?
Ask away! Contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any SEER or AC questions you have. We can also help you get a price estimate to install a new AC in your home.
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- Buyer's Guide