10 SEER Vs 14 SEER: Running Cost Difference (Calculated)

If you get the 1st quote for a 10 SEER air conditioner or heat pump, and the 2nd quote for a 14 SEER unit, you will have to do a bit of math. The best way to decide which unit is a better option – 10 SEER vs 14 SEER – is to pencil in the difference in initial and 20-year running costs.

Namely, the difference between 10 SEER and 14 SEER is quite big. To help you out, we will show you how to do that bit of math differentiating 10 SEER vs 14 SEER unit running costs. We have also created a 10 SEER vs 14 SEER chart for cost differences of 1-8 ton units.

10 seer vs 14 seer running cost difference
14 SEER units run, on average, 28.6% more efficiently than 10 SEER units (resulting in major savings). In 20 years, the difference in running costs can total anywhere from $1,028.60 to $8,228.60 (check the savings chart below).

Let’s cover the basics first:

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is a measure of how energy efficient an air conditioner or a heat pump is when cooling. SEER rating is a weighted average of a cooling unit running at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% output; with an average output of 58%.

Higher SEER units are more energy efficient; 14 SEER unit is 28.6% more energy efficient than 10 SEER unit. Update: In 2023, we started using this SEER2 rating. Basically, the test procedure for measuring SEER was changed a bit, and we now have to compare 10 SEER2 vs 14 SEER2 units. The energy efficiency difference is the same; 14 SEER2 unit is 28.6% more energy efficient than 10 SEER2 unit.

Further on, you will find a 10 SEER vs 14 SEER savings calculator. You just input the tonnage and electricity price, and the calculator will tell you how much you will save each year by choosing 14 SEER unit over 10 SEER unit.

To help you out, we have also included a chart comparing the difference in running costs of 10 SEER vs 14 SEER for 1 ton, 1.5 ton, 2 ton, 2.5 ton, 3 ton, 3.5 ton, 4 ton, 5 ton, 6 ton, 7 ton, and 8 ton on a:

  • Yearly basis.
  • 10-year basis.
  • 20-year basis.

First of all, however, let’s look at an example of a 3 ton 10 SEER vs 3 ton 14 SEER unit to illustrate how the 14 vs 10 SEER difference is calculated:

  • 3 ton 10 SEER unit will produce 36,000 BTU of cooling output. The average running wattage will be 3,600 watts. In 1 hour, this unit will consume 3.6 kWh of electricity. If we take $0.15/kWh electricity prices, the cost of running a 3 ton 10 SEER unit will be $0.54 per hour. If we run it for 1000 hours (average cooling season), that’s $540 in electricity cost per 1 year/season.
  • 3 ton 14 SEER unit will produce 36,000 BTU of cooling output. The average running wattage will be 2,571 watts. In 1 hour, this unit will consume 2.571 kWh of electricity. If we take $0.15/kWh electricity prices, the cost of running a 3 ton 14 SEER unit will be $0.386 per hour. If we run it for 1000 hours (average cooling season), that’s $386 in electricity cost per 1 year/season.

3 ton 10 vs 14 seer savings per year per 10 years per 20 years

As we can see, at this tonnage (3 ton), this electricity price ($0.15/kWh), and 1000 operating hours, the difference in yearly running cost between 10 SEER and 14 SEER unit will be $154,29. Such a 14 SEER unit will save you $1,540.90 per 10 years and $3,085.70 per 20 years compared to 10 SEER unit.

Now, mini split air conditioners, central air, and heat pumps last for about 20 years. That means that if the quote for the 3 ton 14 SEER unit is up to $3,085.70 higher, the 14 SEER unit is still a financially more viable option than the 10 SEER unit. If, however, the 14 SEER unit is $3,500 more expensive than the 14 SEER unit, it would make more sense to choose a 10 SEER unit.

Let’s have a look at the savings calculator and the calculated 1-year, 10-year, and 20-year savings of 14 SEER vs 10 SEER unit:

10 SEER Vs 14 SEER Savings Calculator

 

Here is a quick example of how you can use this calculator:

Let’s say we have a 5 ton 10 SEER and 5 ton 14 SEER unit and $0.15/kWh electricity cost. We need to decide for one, and for that, the first information we need is the running cost. In the calculator above, just slide the 1st slider to ‘5’ tons and the 2nd slider to ‘0.15’.

We see that the running cost difference between 5 ton 10 SEER vs 5 ton 14 SEER units is:

  • $257.14 per year.
  • $2,571.40 per 10 years.
  • $5,142.80 per 20 years.

That means that even though the 5 ton 14 SEER unit is $5,000 more expensive than 5 ton 10 SEER unit, it makes financial sense to choose 14 SEER over 10 SEER unit, since the electricity costs in the next 20 years will make up the difference.

If, however, the 5 ton 14 SEER unit is $7,000 more expensive than 5 ton 10 SEER unit, it makes financial sense to go with the cheaper 10 SEER unit.

This was an example of a 5 ton unit. Let’s look at the running cost difference for AC units and heat pumps with different tonnages:

10 SEER Vs 14 SEER Chart For 1-8 Ton Air Conditioners And Heat Pumps

In this chart, we presume that the electricity cost is $0.15/kWh and that we use an HVAC unit for 1000 hours per year. Here is how much less electricity will 14 SEER units consume compared to 10 SEER units (for 1-8 ton unit):

Unit Size (Tonnage): 1-Year Savings ($): 10-Year Savings ($): 20-Year Savings ($):
1 Ton $51.43 Savings Per Year $514.30 Per 10 Years $1,028.60 Per 20 Years
1.5 Ton $77.14 Savings Per Year $771.40 Per 10 Years $1,542.90 Per 20 Years
2 Ton $102.86 Savings Per Year $1,028.60 Per 10 Years $2,057.10 Per 20 Years
2.5 Ton $128.57 Savings Per Year $1,285.70 Per 10 Years $2,571.40 Per 20 Years
3 Ton $154.29 Savings Per Year $1,542.90 Per 10 Years $3,085.70 Per 20 Years
3.5 Ton $180.00 Savings Per Year $1,800.00 Per 10 Years $3,600.00 Per 20 Years
4 Ton $205.71 Savings Per Year $2,057.10 Per 10 Years $4,114.30 Per 20 Years
5 Ton $257.14 Savings Per Year $2,571.40 Per 10 Years $5,142.80 Per 20 Years
6 Ton $308.57 Savings Per Year $3,085.70 Per 10 Years $6,171.40 Per 20 Years
7 Ton $360.00 Savings Per Year $3,600.00 Per 10 Years $7,200.00 Per 20 Years
8 Ton $411.43 Savings Per Year $4,114.30 Per 10 Years $8,228.60 Per 20 Year

As you can see, the difference in running costs for 10 SEER vs 14 SEER units after 10 and 20 years are significant.

In 20 years, the running cost difference between 10 SEER and 14 SEER units range from $1,028.60 (for 1 ton unit) to $8,228.60 (for 8 ton unit).

If the initially quoted price difference (unit + installation + labor) between a 10 SEER vs 14 SEER unit is less than 20-year savings, go for a 14 SEER unit.

If, however, the quoted difference is bigger than the 20-year savings, go for 10 SEER unit.

We hope that with the help of this calculator and the calculated running costs, you will be able to make a smart financial decision when it comes to choosing between 10 SEER and 14 SEER units.

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