13 SEER Vs 14 SEER: Is 14 SEER Really Better? (+ Savings Chart)

What is the difference between 13 SEER and 14 SEER? In short, 7-8% or ($174 to more than $1,000 in 20 years). That is how much a 14 SEER unit will save on cooling compared to a 13 SEER unit. However, 14 SEER units are also more expensive than 13 SEER units. Let’s calculate 13 SEER vs 14 SEER savings to get a clear picture if the 13 SEER or 14 SEER unit is financially the right choice for your home.

Namely, we have only two factors that will help us determine if 13 SEER or 14 SEER is a more financially viable option:

  1. Electricity expenditure. 14 SEER unit is more energy efficient. You will save on electricity by choosing the 14 SEER over the 13 SEER unit.
    electricity cost of running a 13 seer vs 14 seer unit
    Cooling units with higher SEER rating always use less electricity than low SEER rated units.
  2. Cost of the cooling unit. 13 SEER unit will be cheaper than 14 SEER unit. You are pocketing the difference between 13 SEER and 14 SEER unit price in favor of 13 SEER unit.
  3. Optional factor: Be aware of the new 2023 mandated minimum SEER requirements (more about that later on).

Below you will find the step-by-step way of how you can calculate electricity savings. On top of that, we have prepared a 13 SEER vs 14 SEER Savings Chart for 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 5, and 6 ton units (quite useful).

Let’s first look at this example: Let’s say that we have two 3-ton units (13 SEER and 14 SEER). We run them both for 1,000 hours (average seasonal usage). What are the 13 SEER vs 14 SEER savings here?

  • 13 SEER unit will run on an average of 2,769 watts. In 1,000 hours, that’s 2,769 kWh of electricity. With the US national average electricity cost of $0.1319/kWh, that’s $365.23 per season.
  • 14 SEER unit will run on an average of 2,571 watts (lower average wattage than 13 SEER). In 1,000 hours, that’s 2,571 kWh of electricity. With the US national average electricity cost of $0.1319/kWh, that’s $339.11 per season.

If you calculate the difference in electricity cost between 13 SEER and 14 SEER unit, you get how much 14 SEER will save you compared to 13 SEER unit:

Savings (3 ton, 1000h, $0.1319/kWh) = $365.23 – $339.11 = $26.12

$26.12 savings per year seems a bit small. However, if you run such a unit for 20 years, the savings will amount to more than $500 ($522.40, to be exact). With bigger units, more than 1000h running hours, and at higher future prices of electricity, you will save even more.

Now, if a contractor quotes you a price difference of $400 between 13 SEER vs 14 SEER unit, it makes sense to go with a more energy-efficient but pricier 14 SEER unit.

However, if the 14 SEER unit comes with a $1,000 premium, the 13 SEER unit would make a smarter economic choice.

Alright, this is just an example. You are probably deciding between two 13 SEER vs 14 SEER offers for different tonnage units, have the different price of electricity in your area, and will use it more than 1000 hours per year.

Here is the step-by-step way of how you can calculate if 14 SEER unit is a better choice than 13 SEER unit yourself (you can also use the comments below, give us the metrics, and we can help you out with the calculation).

How To Calculate 13 SEER VS 14 SEER Savings

The key element here is that you can use the SEER rating to calculate the average wattage of a running air conditioner. SEER rating stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and presumes you run the AC unit at an average of 58% output cooling capacity (SEER is basically a weighted average of 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% EER rating).

That means that you can use this equation to calculate the average wattage of any air conditioner:

AC Average Wattage = Cooling Output (in BTU) / SEER Rating = (Cooling Output (in Tons) × 12,000 BTU/Ton) / SEER Rating

Example: What is the average wattage of a 14 SEER 5 ton unit? Just insert 14 SEER and 5 ton in this formula. Here’s what you get:

AC Average Wattage (5 Ton 14 SEER) = (5 Ton × 12,000 BTU/Ton) / 14 = 4286 Watts

This means that runnings such an AC unit for 1 hour will burn 4286 watts per hour. That’s 4.286 kWh. If you know how much you pay for a kilowatt-hour, you can calculate how much will you pay (on average) per hour of cooling like this:

Running Cost Per Hour = Electricity Expenditure Per Hour (in kWh) × Price Per kWh

In our case, we have these numbers (if we presume $0.1319/kWh electricity cost):

Running Cost Per Hour (5 Ton 14 SEER) = 4.286 kWh × $0.1319/kWh = $0.57/h

If you run such a unit for 1000 hours, you will pay about $570.

You can do the same calculation for a 5-ton 13 SEER unit. We did that and the result you get is $609 per 1000 hours. That’s basically a $39 difference per season or almost $800 in 20 years.

To help you out, we have prepared this 13 SEER vs 14 SEER savings chart:

13 SEER Vs 14 SEER Saving Chart

For these calculations, we presume that you use a unit for 1,000 hours per season and that the average price of electricity is $0.1319. Here is the full chart:

AC Tonnage: 13 SEER Cost Per Year: 14 SEER Cost Per Year: Savings Per 1 Year: Savings Per 10 Years: Savings Per 20 Years:
1 Ton $121.75 $113.05 $8.7 $87 $174
1.5 Ton $182.63 $169.58 $13.05 $130.50 $261
2 Ton $243.50 $226.11 $17.39 $173.90 $347.80
2.5 Ton $304.38 $282.64 $21.74 $217.40 $434.8
3 Ton $365.26 $339.17 $26.12 $261.20 $522.40
3.5 Ton $426.13 $395.70 $30.43 $304.30 $608.6
4 Ton $487.01 $452.22 $34.79 $347.90 $695.8
5 Ton $608.76 $565.28 $43.48 $434.80 $869.6
6 Ton $730.52 $678.34 $52.18 $521.80 $1,043.6

Now, the key part here is the last column (Savings Per 20 Years). You can use that column to see if it makes sense to invest in a 13 SEER or 14 SEER unit using this decision tree:

  • If 14 SEER savings in 20 years are bigger than the price difference between 13 SEER and 14 SEER unit, go for 14 SEER unit.
  • If 14 SEER savings in 20 years are lower than the price difference between 13 SEER and 14 SEER unit, go for 13 SEER unit.

Savings-wise, it’s just that simple. However, you have to be aware that you will probably have to choose 14 SEER unit regardless. This is due to the new 2023 minimum SEER standards by the US Department Of Energy that state the following:

“The new standards effective in 2023 require a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER)—a measure of a system’s cooling performance—of no less than 14 SEER for residential systems in the northern part of the United States and 15 SEER in the southern part of the United States.” (DOE on new SEER ratings)

As you can see, the new cooling systems will have to have at least a 14 SEER rating. This is another reason why to choose 14 SEER unit over 13 SEER, in addition to the electricity savings.

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