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Question DetailsAsked on 10/15/2015

Is it worth it to pay the extra money to get a higher rates SEER air conditioner?

I am on the market for a new central air conditioner and new furnace and I don`t know if the difference in price regarding to the SEER in the air conditioner is justified.

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2 Answers


Most electric utilities have info on typical air conditioning costs - you can also compare your average air conditioning season monthly bill with the adjacent non-air months, though of course other seasonal uses like lighting has some effect - but get an idea of how much you are paying for your air conditioning electricity now. Then, take the current unit SEER rating (on manufacturer nameplate on outdoor unit) and divide by the proposed unit SEER rating, then multiply that by the estimated current electric usage to get your estimated new cost.

So - for example, say you have a 6 months air conditioning season and your average summer electric bill is $300, and average of the adjacent couple of months is $125 (assuming you are not using electric furnace during those months), your rough annual A/C cost (not including maintenance) would be about 6 months x $175 = $1050 - a fairly typical number for relatively high air conditioning demand area. Then, lets say you have a 10 SEER unit that is about 15 years old, and are looking at a 15 SEER replacement - which would use 10/15 = 66% as much electricity. So, $1050 current electric cost for A/C x (10/15) = $700 estimated new electric cost, or about $350/year savings. A 18 SEER (high-end, extreme efficiency unit) would yield $1050 x 10/18 = $583/year cost, or about $467/yr electric savings.

A 13 SEER unit (minimum efficiency allowed today anywhere in US) would save about $242/yr by the same calculation.

Then figure the likely life of the unit - probably 10-20 years, say 15 average if lucky - so with the 13 SEER unit you might save about $3600 over your current unit (if it lived that much longer - pretty long-shot), upgrading that to 15 SEER would save about $350/yr x 15 = $5250, and 18 SEER about $583 x 15 = $8745 over the 15 years. OF course, if it only sruvives 10 years, about 2/3 that savings. Of course, you need to start with your own power bill cost and work through the same calculations to get your actual numbers.

Bear in mind this savings, which commonly works out to equalling the higher initiall unit cost over about 10-15 years, really only applies if you stay in the house that long. If you are planning on moving soon (average family moves about every 7 years), then you would only recoup 40-50% of the savings yourself - and higher efficiency A/C units do not really at significantly to resale value because basically no one goes through the savings calcs on the heating/cooling appliances.

Of course, you local electric rates and what you predict for future cost of electricity compared to inflation matters a lot - in the Columbia Basin for instance, with cheap power and relatively low air conditioning load, high efficency units can take 15-30 years to "pay for themselves". In the urban east coast or other areas with high electric costs and long period of humid hot summers, sometimes 10 years or even less, so you need to figure your own case.

Local electric utility companies and sites like GreenStar and EnergyStar and have calculators and estimators that can help you with estimating the savings for different efficiency units, which results you can then compare to the capital cost to put in a more efficient unit.

Generalization - more than 15 SEER rarely pays of for the normal person unless in a desert or very deep South area with year-around A/C use.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Everything LCD says is accurate. Another point of view as to the "worth" of a higher price airconditioner is comfort. Higher end systems often have high and low stages of cooling or even variable speed cooling.

A staged system will run at a low speed cooling with lower air flow through the home during mild heat and switch to high speed when it is hottest. This makes it more comfortable during mild heat. Also quieter.

A variable speed air conditioner will actually ramp up from a low speed to a high speed and everything in between. This delivers just the right amount under all conditions.

You have to decide how much this comfort and quiet is worth to you when comparing.

Answered 4 years ago by Guest_93399141

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