In the market for a new air conditioner? You’re probably wondering what SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) you should get.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to give a straight answer to “What SEER AC should I buy?”. To give an accurate SEER recommendation,a professional needs to evaluate your current system and property.
However, if you’re really just looking for a general recommendation, here’s what we tell most Boise homeowners:
- If you’re on a budget, go with a 13- to 14-SEER AC. Units in this range meet the minimum SEER requirement for Idaho (13), and will have a lower upfront cost than higher-SEER units.
- If comfort is more important than cost to you, consider a higher-SEER (16+) AC. Higher-SEER units will be more expensive, but can come with additional features that make you more comfortable in your home.
Budget-friendly choice: 13–14 SEER
If your budget is driving your AC purchase, 13–14 SEER is the best option for your Boise home.
You might have seen some sources that say a higher-SEER (16+) unit will save you money in the long run because you’ll spend less in monthly energy bills.
Unfortunately, that’s not always true.
As an example, we’ll use the Lennox Energy Savings Calculator (with an estimated energy cost of 8.67 cents/kWH) to compare a 14-SEER unit to a 16-SEER one.
In Idaho, a 16-SEER unit will save you roughly 13% in energy costs compared to a 14-SEER. Here’s what that looks like in dollars:
- Over 10 years, you’ll save about $40
- Over 15 years, you’ll save about $60
Considering a 16-SEER unit typically costs $500–$1,000 more than a 14-SEER unit—and ACs only last 10–15 years—the higher upfront cost wouldn’t be worth the $40–$60 in energy savings over the unit’s lifetime.
But keep in mind that price isn’t the only factor when it comes to making SEER decisions. In fact, many Boise homeowners still choose 16+ SEER units over lower-SEER ACs for the higher comfort levels they provide.
Let’s take a look at how high-SEER units provide higher comfort levels for your home.
Comfort matters most: 16+ SEER
If you’re willing to pay more for higher comfort, we recommend going with a 16+ SEER unit.
Higher-SEER units usually come with 2 features that help them cool your home better:
- Two-stage or variable-speed compressor
- Multi-speed or variable-speed blower motor
Note: Most lower-SEER units run on a single-stage compressor and single-speed blower motor. This means they only run on one speed (HIGH) which forces the unit to turn on and off more frequently, which makes them less efficient than two-stage and variable-speed technology.
The two-stage/multi-speed and variable-speed technology in higher-SEER units allows the unit to run at lower speeds for longer lengths of time, which allows for:
- Lower humidity. While single-stage/single-speed units run full blast when they’re on, two-stage/multi-speed and variable-speed units run longer at lower speeds, which allows them to remove more humidity from your home’s air.
- More even cooling. Because variable-speed and two-stage/multi-speed units run longer and at lower speeds, they can more evenly distribute cool air throughout your home (compared to single-stage/single-speed units that turn on and off frequently).
- More precise temperature control. Variable-speed technology adjusts its cooling capacity according to what your home needs. This means it can maintain your home’s temperature much better (within 0.10° of the set temperature) than a single-stage/single-speed unit (within 0.5° –1.5° of the set temperature).
Confirm your AC SEER rating with a pro
Before you buy a new AC, have a pro come to your home to double check that the SEER rating you’re thinking of going with will actually perform as well as you expect.
The AC tech will take into account your budget and cooling preferences, but also look at at things like:
- Whether your indoor and outdoor units “match” (i.e. have the same SEER rating). If your units don’t match, your new, efficient unit will have to work harder to make up for the older unit’s lower efficiency, which means you won’t get the efficiency advertised from your new unit.
- If your home’s ductwork has any leaks. Leaks in your ductwork mean the conditioned air is escaping into places that don’t need conditioned air (like your attic or crawlspace). This makes your AC work harder, which drives up energy costs and reduces the unit’s efficiency.
Call a pro to look at the things above, so you get the energy efficiency and performance you expect from your new unit.
Need a SEER recommendation? Ask a Boise tech.
We’ll send one of our techs out to evaluate your house and current system, so you get the best SEER recommendation for your home.
To learn more about what to expect when you hire us to install your AC, visit our AC installation page.