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Buying a new or replacement air conditioner requires evaluation of many factors, including cost, home cooling needs and brand name. Air conditioner efficiency is not always a prime consideration, but a high-efficiency unit will provide significant monthly savings on cooling bills while conserving energy. With most households spending about 50 percent of their monthly energy budget on home comfort, high-efficiency HVAC equipment makes sense. Air conditioners with high SEER ratings will provide excellent levels of comfort, efficiency and savings.

SEER, which stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, measures the cooling efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps over an entire cooling season. It signifies the amount of energy the unit requires to provide a specific level of cooling. It is calculated by dividing the amount of cooling provided by the unit in BTUs per hour by the watts of power the equipment consumes. SEER ratings are derived from rigorous laboratory testing under conditions similar to the types of environments in which the equipment will likely be used.

Higher SEER ratings indicate higher levels of equipment efficiency. Many older air conditioners have SEER ratings around 10, which was the minimum standard prior to 2006. These units cool well enough, but they can be wasteful and do not provide high levels of savings. In January 2006, minimum standards increased, requiring newly manufactured central air conditioners to have a SEER of at least 13.

SEER ratings can climb substantially higher than that. The highest-end air conditioners can have SEER ratings in the 20s. A mid-range high-efficiency air conditioner will have a SEER of 18. Energy Star-certified units have SEER ratings of 14 or higher.

Upgrading a low-SEER unit with a newer high-SEER model will provide substantial savings on your monthly bills. For example, replacing a SEER 10 unit with a SEER 18 model can reduce monthly cooling expenses by around 50 percent.

NisAir Air Conditioning & Heating brings more than 30 years of professional experience to HVAC customers in Martin, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Indian River counties. Contact us today for more information on interpreting SEER ratings and for help choosing a high-efficiency air conditioner that meets your needs.