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Making Sense of SEER Ratings

If you’ve been looking into having your HVAC system replaced, you’ve likely come across SEER ratings and maybe have had to conduct a Google search. So, what are SEER Ratings? What do homeowners in Michigan need to know? 

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) system was developed in the late 1970s as a way to identify how efficient an HVAC system is and to regulate the manufacturing of these systems to ensure they meet minimum efficiency standards. When regulations first went into effect in 1992, the minimum allowed SEER rating was 10. Now, minimum SEER ratings are regionally based to reflect an area’s climate conditions. 

Michigan.gov advises that your White Lake, Milford, or surrounding home’s HVAC should have a rating of 14 SEER or more. The higher your SEER rating is, the more efficient your system will be.    

What Does a SEER Rating Mean?

In order to make sense of SEER ratings, it helps to make an analogy with a car’s fuel efficiency. If a car is highly fuel efficient, it will get more miles per gallon (MPG) of gas than one that isn’t as efficient. If a car’s sticker on the lot reports 45 MPG, you can expect to drive about 45 miles for every gallon of fuel that is in the tank. If you see one HVAC system with a SEER rating of 17 and another with a rating of 14, you can expect that the SEER 17 system will deliver more cool (or warm) air per unit of energy than the SEER 14 system will. So, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the HVAC system is.

Why Is a SEER Rating Important?

The SEER rating is an indicator of how well an HVAC unit can cool or heat a home. Units with a rating of 20 or higher can run at different speeds and can quickly respond to the subtle changes in the temperature of your home. This flexibility translates into a more comfortable home and lower energy bills. 

Less energy-efficient HVAC units, those with lower SEER ratings, generally run at 100% capacity rather than at varying speeds. This often results in warm or cool spots throughout the home, higher energy bills, and a system that generates a little more noise than energy-efficient HVAC systems. 

Of course, a higher SEER rating comes with a higher price tag, but the cost is often offset by reduced power bills, and some states offer incentives for more energy-efficient HVAC systems. 

What Is the Range of SEER Ratings for Michigan?

Over the years, the lowest allowed SEER rating has increased incrementally. As of January 2023, the lowest SEER rating is 14, which is considerably more efficient than systems that are 15 years old or older. The highest SEER rating to date is 25. 

What SEER Rating Is Right for Your Home?

Choosing the right HVAC system for your home depends on a number of factors, and climate is a major one. For example, people who live in the southeastern U.S. run their air conditioners for longer periods of the year and throughout the hottest days, so they need systems with higher SEER ratings. Homes in cooler areas of the country, like Michigan, don’t require systems with such high HVAC SEER ratings. 

Some websites offer SEER rating charts to help homeowners make informed decisions. If you’re interested in getting expert advice for your AC installation near Milford, Commerce, Rochester Hills, and surrounding areas of Oakland County, MI, call HVAC Comfort. Our experienced technicians can help you make the right choice for your home and budget.

Originally Published: January 6, 2023

Written By: HVAC Comfort Team