How does a SEER rating impact your decision when buying an air conditioner in Chicago?
All central air conditioning systems have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating that is regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Currently, no air conditioning system can have a SEER rating lower than 13. In Chicago, air conditioning systems can range anywhere from 13 SEER to 20 SEER.
Let’s take the mystery out of this whole SEER thing by comparing it to something we all can understand; miles per gallon. Think of higher SEER ratings as higher MPG in your car. Some cars get 10 miles per gallon and others can get 30 miles per gallon and more. Most consumers would choose the higher MPG as it going to end up saving them more money over time even though it may cost a little more money in the beginning.
Purchasing a new air conditioning system with a higher SEER rating can also create a significant savings on your monthly electric bill particularly here in the Chicago area where our energy rates are fairly high.
Most air conditioning systems installed in the Chicago area prior to 1995 are 8 SEER or lower. The installation of a system with the minimum (currently) of 13 SEER will reduce your energy consumption by approximately 38%. That can make a huge difference on your electric bill especially in Chicago where we pay some of the highest rates in the country.
In general, Chicago air conditioning systems do not operate as much as in other parts of the country where the climate is warmer. According to ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers), Chicago air conditioners operate an average of 800 hours per year. Last summer (2010) most of the air conditioning installations we provided to our customers were fairly evenly divided between 13 and 16 SEER.
What is the difference between 13 SEER and 16 SEER? As mentioned earlier, a typical 13 SEER air conditioner installation will improve efficiency by approximately 38% and that is significant even in Chicago where our usage is not as great as other parts of the country. That said, a 16 SEER air conditioner installation can improve efficiency by up to 50% over typical older 8 SEER systems found in the Chicago area.
So if you are planning on having an air conditioning estimate remember to factor in the cost savings of a unit with a higher SEER rating. While you may spend a little more money up front for a high efficiency air conditioner, you will more than likely make up and even exceed the extra cost in just a few short years.