16 SEER vs 20 SEER Energy Savings Calculator + Chart

What happens when you get a quote for a 16 SEER and 20 SEER AC unit? You compare the initial costs, and start calculating the 16 SEER vs 20 SEER energy savings. We are going to show you how to calculate those energy savings.

To help you out, we have created a 16 SEER vs 20 SEER Energy Saving Calculator you can freely use. On top of that, we have calculated 1-year, 10-year, and 20-year energy savings and gathered them in a neat chart you will find below the calculator.

Here is the key piece of information you will need:

20 SEER units are 25% more energy efficient than 16 SEER units. Let’s illustrate how to use energy savings to determine which unit – 16 SEER or 20 SEER – you should get.

16 seer vs 20 seer running costs
Electricity-wise, $1 of electricity powering 20 SEER unit will produce the same cooling output as $1.25 of electricity powering a 16 SEER unit.

Let’s say you are looking for a 3-ton AC unit and you get these two quotes:

  • 3-ton 16 SEER unit costs $6,215 with installation and labor.
  • 3-ton 20 SEER unit costs $7,075 with installation and labor.

Now, the upfront cost difference here is $860. If the energy savings over the next 20 years are more than $860 in favor of 20 SEER unit over 16 SEER unit, we should go for 20 SEER unit. If not, the 16 SEER unit makes a financially more viable option.

To calculate the electricity costs, let’s presume (as per DOE assumptions) that we use the AC unit for 1000 hours per year. We will be using an average electricity cost of $0.15/kWh. Here are the running costs for both 3-ton 16 SEER and 3-ton 20 SEER units:

  • 3-ton 16 SEER unit will, on average, run on 2,250 watts. That means it will use 2.25 kWh per hour; in 1 year (1000 running hours) that results in 2,250 kWh usage. At a price of $0.15/kWh, your AC running cost will be $337.50/year. That is $3,375 in 10 years, and $6,750 in 20 years. Together wit the $6,215 initial cost, the 3-ton 16 SEER unit will altogether cost $12,965 in 20 years.
  • 3-ton 20 SEER unit will, on average, run on 1,800 watts. That means it will use 1.80 kWh per hour; in 1 year (1000 running hours) that results in 1,800 kWh usage. At a price of $0.15/kWh, your AC running cost will be $270.00/year. That is $2,700 in 10 years, and $5,400 in 20 years. Together with the $7,075 initial cost, the 3-ton 20 SEER unit will altogether cost $12,475 in 20 years.

From this, we can clearly see that the 20 SEER unit will produce $67,50/year energy savings compared to a same-size 16 SEER unit ($1,350 in 20 years). That means that the 20 SEER unit is – accounting for upfront cost + 20-year electricity costs – $490 cheaper than the less efficient 16 SEER unit.

Now, these calculations are a bit complex. You don’t have to do them manually. The 16 SEER vs 20 SEER energy saving calculation below will tell you what the 1-year, 10-year, and 20-year energy savings are; you only need to input AC tonnage (3-ton in our example) and electricity rates in your area ($0.15/kWh in our example).

Below the calculator, you will also find an energy savings chart where we have compared the 1-year, 10-year, and 20-year savings for 1-8 ton 16 SEER and 20 SEER units. Let’s start with the calculator:

16 SEER Vs 20 SEER Savings Calculator

 

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

Let’s say you are looking to get a 4-ton AC unit. Your HVAC guy gives you the 16 SEER vs 20 SEER unit choice. You also know that electricity rates in your area are quite high; $0.22/kWh, to be exact. Which one should you choose? Just slide the 1st tonnage slider to ‘4’ since this is a 4-ton unit and the 2nd electricity price slider to ‘0.22’, and you get the result:

By opting for 20 SEER unit instead of 16 SEER unit in your situation, you are saving $132.00 per year. That is $1,320 in 10 years, and a whopping $2,640 energy savings in 20 years.

That means that if the 20 SEER unit costs less than $2,640 more than the 16 SEER unit, you should opt for 20 SEER. If the 20 SEER unit would cost let’s say $3,000 more than the 16 SEER unit, go for 16 SEER since the 20-year energy savings cannot pay back the difference in the upfront cost.

Here is the chart for 16 SEER vs 20 SEER unit from the smallest 1-ton unit (12,000 BTU) to the biggest 8-ton unit (96,000 BTU) at the average electricity rates of $0.15/kWh:

16 SEER Vs 20 SEER Energy Saving Chart For 1-8 Ton AC Units

Unit Size (Tonnage): 1-Year Savings ($): 10-Year Savings ($): 20-Year Savings ($):
1 Ton $22.50 Savings Per Year $225.00 Per 10 Years $450.00 Per 20 Years
1.5 Ton $33.75 Savings Per Year $337.50 Per 10 Years $675.00 Per 20 Years
2 Ton $45.00 Savings Per Year $450.00 Per 10 Years $900.00 Per 20 Years
2.5 Ton $56.25 Savings Per Year $562.50 Per 10 Years $1,125.00 Per 20 Years
3 Ton $67.50 Savings Per Year $675.00 Per 10 Years $1,350.00 Per 20 Years
3.5 Ton $78.75 Savings Per Year $787.50 Per 10 Years $1,575.00 Per 20 Years
4 Ton $90.00 Savings Per Year $900.00 Per 10 Years $1,800.00 Per 20 Years
5 Ton $112.50 Savings Per Year $1,125.00 Per 10 Years $2,250.00 Per 20 Years
6 Ton $135.00 Savings Per Year $1,350.00 Per 10 Years $2,700.00 Per 20 Years
7 Ton $157.50 Savings Per Year $1,575.00 Per 10 Years $3,150.00 Per 20 Years
8 Ton $180.00 Savings Per Year $1,800.00 Per 10 Years $3,600.00 Per 20 Year

We can see that by opting for 20 SEER unit instead of 16 SEER unit, you are saving:

  • Anywhere from $22.50 to $180 per year.
  • Anywhere from $225 to $1,800 in 10 years.
  • Anywhere from $450 to $3,600 in 20 years.

With this chart and the calculator above, you are now well equipped to calculate 16 SEER vs 20 SEER energy savings and make a reasonable decision. If you need a bit of insight, you can use the comments below, give us some numbers, and we can help you out.

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