“I’ve got these 2 mini split AC quotes: 4 ton 14 SEER unit costs $6,485, and 4 ton 16 SEER unit costs $8,040. Which one should I choose? Can the energy savings justify this big $1,555 cost difference?”
To adequately answer these kinds of questions, we have to calculate the 14 SEER vs 16 SEER energy savings. We will show you exactly how to calculate the 14 SEER vs 16 SEER running cost. This involves a fair amount of math; that’s why we created these 2 simple-to-use resources to help you out:
- 14 SEER vs 16 SEER Energy Savings Calculator. Here you insert AC tonnage (Example: 4 tons) and electricity prices (Example: $0.15/kWh), and you will get 1-year, 10-year, and 20-year savings automatically.
- 14 SEER vs 16 SEER Savings Chart. We did the math and calculated the 1-year, 10-year, and 20-year savings for 1-8 ton air conditioners. All the results are summarized in a colorful chart (below the calculator).
To calculate the energy savings, we can use the SEER rating. The SEER rating is a universal rating to determine the energy efficiency of air conditioners. Namely, the key difference between 14 SEER and 16 SEER unit is that 16 SEER unit is 14.29% more energy efficient than 14 SEER unit.
SEER stands for ‘Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio‘; this is the key metric to determine how much electricity our AC unit will draw. A large number of AC units have either 14 SEER or 16 SEER. We can use the SEER rating to calculate the average wattage an AC operates at using this equation:
AC Running Wattage = Tonnage × 12,000 / SEER Rating
To illustrate how to calculate the energy savings, let’s look at the example from the initial question (2 quotes for 4-ton units).
- 4 ton 14 SEER unit runs on 3,429W (average). It uses 3.429 kWh per hour and 3,429 kWh per year (1,000 running hours). At $0.15/kWh electricity prices, it will cost $514.29 to run this unit per year. That’s $5,142.86 in 10 years, and $10,285.71 in 20 years.
- 4 ton 16 SEER unit runs on 3,000W (average). It uses 3 kWh per hour and 3,000 kWh per year (1,000 running hours). At $0.15/kWh electricity prices, it will cost $450 to run this unit per year. That’s $4,500 in 10 years, and $9,000 in 20 years.
We see that (under these conditions) opting for 16 SEER unit over 14 SEER unit will save us $64.29 per year ($514.29 – $450 = $64.29). That will result in $642.90 in savings over the next 10 years, and $1,285.80 in savings over the next 20 years.
The initial cost difference is $1,555. We can see that the 20-year savings ($1,285.80) don’t cover the initial cost difference. In this case, we should opt for a 14 SEER unit because it’s cheaper, and the energy savings don’t justify the extra cost of the 16 SEER unit.
If, on the other hand, the cost difference would be lower (say $1,000), the financially more viable choice would be the 16 SEER unit since the 20-year energy savings ($1,285.80) will pay back the initial cost difference ($1,000).
As you can see, this involves quite a lot of math. To make all this math much simpler, we have created a 14 SEER vs 16 SEER savings calculator you can freely use. Just specify the AC tonnage and electricity rates, and you will automatically get 1-year, 10-year, and 20-year energy savings.
We have also done the math for 1-8 AC unit and summarized the results in a chart further on. Let’s use the calculator first:
14 SEER vs 16 SEER Energy Savings Calculator
Here is how this 14 SEER vs 16 SEER online calculator works:
Let’s say you are deciding between 3 ton 14 SEER and 3 ton 16 SEER mini split. The electricity cost in your area is $0.18. You can calculate the energy savings by sliding the 1st tonnage slider to ‘3’, and the 2nd electricity rates slider to ‘0.18’. Here are the results:
By opting for 16 SEER over 14 SEER unit (under these conditioners), you are saving $57.86 per year. That’s $578.57 energy savings over the next 10 years, and $1,157.14 savings over the next 20 years.
Now, if the 16 SEER unit is, say, $800 more expensive than the 14 SEER unit, you should opt for the 16 SEER unit. The 20-year savings ($1,157.14) will pay back those extra $800.
On the other hand, if the 16 SEER unit is, say, $1,500 more expensive than the 14 SEER unit, it makes more financial sense to opt for the cheaper 14 SEER unit. This is because the 20-year energy savings ($1,157.14) don’t justify the whooping $1,500 difference in cost.
Here is the full 14 SEER vs 16 SEER savings chart for 1-8 AC units (at $0.15/kWh and 1,000 running hours per year):
14 SEER vs 16 SEER Mini Split AC Savings Chart
|Unit Size (Tonnage):||1-Year Savings ($):||10-Year Savings ($):||20-Year Savings ($):|
|1 Ton||$16.07 Savings Per Year||$160.71 Savings In 10 Years||$321.43 Savings In 20 Years|
|1.5 Ton||$24.11 Savings Per Year||$241.07 Savings In 10 Years||$482.14 Savings In 20 Years|
|2 Ton||$32.14 Savings Per Year||$321.43 Savings In 10 Years||$642.86 Savings In 20 Years|
|2.5 Ton||$40.18 Savings Per Year||$401.79 Savings In 10 Years||$803.57 Savings In 20 Years|
|3 Ton||$48.21 Savings Per Year||$482.14 Savings In 10 Years||$964.29 Savings In 20 Years|
|3.5 Ton||$56.25 Savings Per Year||$562.50 Savings In 10 Years||$1,125.00 Savings In 20 Years|
|4 Ton||$64.29 Savings Per Year||$642.86 Savings In 10 Years||$1,285.71 Savings In 20 Years|
|5 Ton||$80.36 Savings Per Year||$803.57 Savings In 10 Years||$1,607.14 Savings In 20 Years|
|6 Ton||$96.43 Savings Per Year||$964.29 Savings In 10 Years||$1,928.57 Savings In 20 Years|
|7 Ton||$112.50 Savings Per Year||$,1125.00 Savings In 10 Years||$2,250.00 Savings In 20 Years|
|8 Ton||$128.57 Savings Per Year||$1,285.71 Savings In 10 Years||$2,571.43 Savings In 20 Years|
As you can see, by opting for 16 SEER vs 14 SEER unit, you can save quite a lot of money. Namely, you can save:
- $16.07 to $128.57 per year.
- $160.71 to $1,285.71 in 10 years.
- $321.43 to $2,571.43 in 20 years.
Verdict: Is 16 SEER Worth The Extra Money Over 14 SEER?
You’re more than welcome to use the 16 SEER vs 14 SEER calculator above. It will give you an idea of when it makes sense to buy a 16 SEER device instead of a 14 SEER device in your specific information.
If you have a specific situation, please do use the calculator. If you have problems, you can share your situation in the comments below, and we’ll try to figure out which device would be better for you – the 14 SEER or the 16 SEER.