An air conditioner needs to be energy efficient and there are two rating systems to help you determine the quality of said efficiency: SEER and EnergyStar.
What Is a SEER Rating?
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, is a performance rating system designed to measure the energy efficiency—specifically the cooling performance—of air conditioners. The rating is determined by calculating the total cooling amount needed for a season, then dividing it by how much energy was used to provide said cooling. A good SEER rating is considered to be 14 or higher, and units rated above 20 are particularly energy efficient.
Federal law currently states that central ACs must have a minimum SEER rating of 14, though some states (typically in the hotter, more southern United States) have a minimum of 15 as of 2023.
What Are EnergyStar Ratings?
Energy Star is a certification that the air conditioner meets the energy efficiency guidelines issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An Energy Star unit must therefore have a SEER rating of 14.5 or higher. By using an Energy Star-certified system, consumers can be certain that they are saving money and helping to protect the environment in the long term. Energy Star’s website features a long list of air conditioner models that qualify for the rating.
An air conditioning system will last around 15 to 20 years, as long as it is regularly maintained and serviced by a professional. Such inspections should occur at least once a year or more frequently if you use it a lot—particularly at the end and beginning of summer since you do not want your AC to break on you during the hottest months of the year.
Other factors can also affect the lifespan of your AC system. Always try to keep the unit, especially any part housed outdoors, clear of debris. A build-up of dirt can cause the hardware to wear down over time. An improper installation, whether that means a poorly sized unit or incorrect service, can cause your AC unit to stop working sooner than normal. Similar things can occur if you renovate or add to your house without modifying your AC system to meet the cooling requirements of the new space.
Finally, regardless of the regularity of maintenance, if you use your AC every day it will shorten the unit’s lifespan due to wear and tear.