Understanding A/C Efficiency Ratings

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While the sticker price tells you how much it will cost to purchase an air conditioner, A/C efficiency ratings give you a good idea of how much it will cost to actually operate it. Since the typical new central air conditioner today can be expected to last about 15 years, energy efficiency is critical information. The monthly bills you pay over that extended time span will be a direct reflection of how little — or how much — electricity the unit consumes to keep your home comfortable.

Fortunately, determining the most energy-efficient unit for the best price isn’t a guessing game. A/C efficiency ratings are required by the Department of Energy and are shown on the yellow EnergyGuide sticker on every new air conditioner. Look for the SEER rating to rank air conditioners by efficiency.

  • SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s the primary efficiency rating for central air conditioners.
  • SEER is a numeral that represents the quantity of BTUs of heat energy removed from your home per hour in ratio to the amount of electricity in kilowatt hours consumed at the same time.
  • The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner will be and the lower your operating costs will generally be.
  • Today, in northern regions like Cincinnati, the federally-mandated minimum SEER rating is 13. However, more advanced units (with a higher sticker price) are available with A/C efficiency ratings as high as the mid-20s.


Remember that A/C efficiency ratings are calculated based on tests in laboratory conditions. If you don’t live in a laboratory, other issues also impact the overall efficiency of any new air conditioner. These include the amount and quality of insulation in the house, condition of the ductwork and how airtight the structure is to prevent heat infiltration. Another factor is professional installation: A new air conditioner should always be installed by a qualified contractor in compliance with industry standards published by the Air Conditioner Contractors of America.

For more info about A/C efficiency ratings and how to select the most efficient unit for your home, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing.

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