SEER Rating Chart + Calculator (How Much $ Saved With Higher SEER?)

SEER is a metric for the general energy efficiency of air conditioners.

If you don’t already know what it means, don’t worry. You’ll find out here – keep in mind that you need to understand what SEER means and what is a good SEER before you go shopping for air conditioners.

What does SEER mean? 

SEER stands for ‘Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio’. It is a standard HVAC metric that will tell you how well an air conditioner will perform during the summer season (energy-wise, obviously).

While the EER rating will tell you the efficiency of an air conditioner at perfect conditions (95°F), the SEER rating gives you performance efficiency during the whole summer season (65°F to 104°F), according to the following equation:

SEER = (1 × EER100% + 42 × EER75% + 45 × EER50% + 12 × EER250%)/100

How to find the SEER rating on the AC unit?

Every air conditioner should have a SEER rating in the list of specifications:

seer rating of 18 on a mini split air conditioner
Example of a mini-split air conditioner with SEER 17.6. That’s a great SEER for an AC unit.

First, we’ll look at what SEER rating means in the air conditioners, how much a better SEER rating AC unit can save you during the summer season, and look at the SEER rating chart.

SEER Calculator For AC Units (What Is A Good SEER Rating?)

When looking at different air conditioners, it’s useful to know the electricity costs associated with the unit. Obviously, SEER ratings in the most important metric when choosing an energy-efficient AC unit. Knowing what a good SEER rating of an air conditioner is essential.

You can use this calculator below to calculate the yearly electricity cost for every air conditioner. We predispose the 1,000h/year operation use and 13,19 cent per kWh to calculate the electricity bill based on BTU and SEER rating:

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Electricity cost per year (1000 hours)

 

A good exercise is to input the BTU of an air conditioner (let’s say 20,000 BTU) and change the SEER rating. Here are the yearly electricity costs for this example for different SEER ratings:

  • 12 SEER = $219,83
  • 14 SEER = $188,43
  • 16 SEER = $164,88
  • 18 SEER = $146,56
  • 20 SEER = $131,90

You can see that picking the 20 SEER air conditioner instead of the 14 SEER one would save you $50+ per year. In 10 years, that’s $500. Even if the 20 SEER costs $200 more, it’s worth the price. Here are, for example, ductless mini-split ACs with SEER ratings above 20. If an air conditioner has a 20+ SEER rating, that is considered an excellent energy-efficient unit. For example, Mr COOL DIY 12k unit has a 22 SEER rating.

You can put in the BTU of your air conditioner, and it’s SEER rating; the SEER calculator will calculate the yearly electricity cost.

You can calculate yourself how much let’s say 18 SEER air conditioner would save you compared to 16 SEER unit.

18 SEER Example: Cost of running 18 SEER 24,000 BTU AC unit for 1,000 hours (kWh = $0.1319).

calculation of electricity bill based on 18 seer rating

16 SEER Example: Cost of running 16 SEER 24,000 BTU AC unit for 1,000 hours (kWh = $0.1319).

calculation of electricity bill based on 16 seer rating

As we can see from the examples, the AC unit with these specifications will cost us:

  • $175.87 per year if the SEER rating is 18.
  • $197.85 per year if the SEER rating is 16.

Based on these numbers, we can calculate that 18 SEER vs 16 SEER difference is $197.85 – $175.87 = $21,98/year. In 10 years, that would be almost $220 difference. Hence, if an 18 SEER air conditioner costs $200 more than a 16 SEER unit, it’s a smart choice to pick the 18 SEER unit.

In the end, you will find a full list of 2 different SEER rating air conditioners compared. Here’s the quick look, more at the end of the article:

difference between one seer rating and another seer rating

What Does SEER Rating Mean In Air Conditioners?

In air conditioners, the SEER rating is a metric that basically gives you an idea of how much cooling effect your AC unit will give you if you power it with a certain amount of electricity (power).

Example: You have a 10,000 BTU portable air conditioner. You’re going to use it for 150 days during the long hot summer; you run it 16h per day.

Let’s calculate how much energy this uses:

This particular AC unit generates 10,000 BTU every hour. How many hours are you running it? Let’s multiply 150 days with 16h per day; that’s 2,400 hours of use per year. In short, we use:

2,400h× 10,000 BTU/h = 24,000,000 BTU/year

We have to divide this number (24,000,000 BTU/year) with the SEER rating to get kWh.

For example, if we have an air conditioner with a SEER rating of 10, we’re looking at 2,400,000 kWh. If, on the other hand, we have an air conditioner with a SEER rating of 20, we’re looking at 1,200,000 kWh (half as much).

How much does that difference in SEER rating save us? Well, let’s calculate. An average price of a kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the US is 13,19 cents.

  • SEER 10 electricity cost: (2,400,000 kWh x 13,19 cents)/1000 = $316,56/year
  • SEER 20 electricity cost: (1,200,000 kWh x 13,19 cents)/1000 = $158,28/year

In short, you can save about $150 per year even with a medium-sized 10,000 BTU portable air conditioner. That is $1,500 in 10 years.

The price of a portable air conditioner is usually below $500. However, as we’ve seen based on SEER rating, an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating can pay off quickly just by how much less electricity it costs.

SEER Rating Chart

Let’s illustrate the difference in yearly electricity costs of using SEER 12, SEER 14, SEER 16 air conditioner. Below is a SEER rating chair with yearly electricity costs. It takes into account:

  • 36,000 BTU air conditioner (3 ton AC unit).
  • 1,000 operating hours per year.
  • Average electricity price of 13.19 cents per kWh.

seer rating chart for comparing seer values of air conditioners

You can see that an air conditioner with SEER 10 will cost 475$/year in electricity cost from the chart. The SEER 20 air conditioner will give you the same cooling effect for 237$/year because it’s more efficient.

The difference between SEER 16 and SEER 14 is, as you can read from the graph, 42$/year. In essence, SEER 16 air conditioner is 13% more efficient than SEER 14.

What Is A Good SEER Rating?

SEER 16 is a good SEER rating for an air conditioner. Anything above that – SEER 18, SEER 20 – is great.

Only old devices made in the 80s and 90s will have a SEER 10 rating. From 2015 onward, most states have regulation in place that guarantees that all new air conditioners should have a SEER rating of at least 13 or 14 (depends on the type of air conditioner and state).

Honestly, if you’re buying an air conditioner that will last for 10 years or more, it is highly recommended to buy one with a higher SEER rating. It might cost $100 more, but you will spend less energy running it, which is good for your pocket and the environment.

What is the difference between 14 SEER and 16 SEER rating?

We can calculate how much more energy-energy efficiency a 16 SEER unit is than a 14 SEER unit. We can calculate 16/14 = 1.143; 16 SEER is 14.3% more efficient than 14 SEER unit.

Let’s say we have a 12,000 BTU device. By using the SEER cost calculator above, we can see that:

  • 14 SEER unit spends $113.05 per year.
  • 16 SEER unit spends $98.93 per year.

That means the difference in the electricity bill would be about $15 every year. You can use the 16 SEER vs. 14 SEER calculator here to give you an idea of which one is better for your specific situation.

To answer ‘what SEER rating should air conditioner should you buy’ is straightforward: Buy the one with the higher SEER rating. In 10 years, a high SEER unit’s higher price will pay for itself in saved electricity costs. 

Example: Let’s look at 3 zone mini-split systems with 20+ SEER rating. The difference between the #1 Senville mini-split (SEER = 22.5) and the #2 Mitsubishi (SEER = 19.2) is rather large. Such a difference can create a $200+ difference in a yearly electricity bill.

I hope this SEER calculator is helpful. If you have any problems using it, you can write to us in the comments below, and we’ll look at how we might help.

X SEER vs Y SEER Savings (Full Table)

Based on 1,000h per season run time, air conditioner capacity of 24,000 BTU, and $0.1319 kWh cost, we have prepared a full comparison table of different SEER rating pairings.

Running a low SEER rating AC unit costs more (in electricity dollars) than running a high SEER rating air conditioner. Here is the full SEER savings estimation table:

Pairing 1st SEER Cost 2nd SEER Cost Cost Difference
10 SEER vs 13 SEER $316.56 $243.51 +$73.05
10 SEER vs 14 SEER $316.56 $226.11 +$89.45
10 SEER vs 15 SEER $316.56 $211.04 +$105.42
10 SEER vs 16 SEER $316.56 $197.85 +$118.71
12 SEER vs 14 SEER $263.80 $226.11 +$37.69
12 SEER vs 16 SEER $263.80 $197.85 +$65.95
12 SEER vs 19 SEER $263.80 $166.61 +$97.19
13 SEER vs 14 SEER $243.51 $226.11 +$17.40
13 SEER vs 16 SEER $243.51 $197.85 +$45.66
13 SEER vs 20 SEER $243.51 $158.28 +$85.23
14 SEER vs 16 SEER $226.11 $197.85 +$28.26
14 SEER vs 18 SEER $226.11 $175.87 +$50,24
14 SEER vs 20 SEER $226.11 $158.28 +$67.83
15 SEER vs 16 SEER $211.04 $197.85 +$13.19
16 SEER vs 17 SEER $197.85 $186.21 +$11.64
16 SEER vs 18 SEER $197.85 $175.87 +$21.98
16 SEER vs 20 SEER $197.85 $158.28 +$39.57
17 SEER vs 18 SEER $186.21 $175.87 +$10.34
17 SEER vs 19 SEER $186.21 $166.61 +$19.60
17 SEER vs 20 SEER $186.21 $158.28 +$27.93
18 SEER vs 14 SEER $175.87 $226.11 -$50.24
18 SEER vs 16 SEER $175.87 $197.85 -$21.98
18 SEER vs 20 SEER $175.87 $158.28 +$17.59
19 SEER vs 16 SEER $166.61 $197.85 -$31.24
19 SEER vs 20 SEER $166.61 $158.28 +$8.33
19 SEER vs 22 SEER $166.61 $143.89 +$22.72
20 SEER vs 14 SEER $158.28 $226.11 -$67.91
20 SEER vs 16 SEER $158.28 $197.85 -$39.57
20 SEER vs 22 SEER $158.28 $143.89 +$14.39

If you haven’t found the pairing you were looking for, or if you have any questions regarding the SEER rating, you can pose them in the comments below.

28 thoughts on “SEER Rating Chart + Calculator (How Much $ Saved With Higher SEER?)”

  1. I’m seeing estimates to go up additional 2 in SEER it costs an extra $1000, not just $200 more, from 13 to 16 or 16 o 18. It will take more years payback. Guess I’ll choose a 16 SEER.

    Reply
    • Hello Rick, the $1000 for 2 SEER increase is too much, you’re correct. Usually, such a steep price increase has to do with other upgrades that might justify the price. If it’s exactly the same unit and the only difference is 2 SEER increase, it’s not worth an extra $1,000.

      Reply
    • Hello Ann, let’s do a bit of calculation, shall we? Let’s presume you run an 36,000 BTU AC unit for 1,000 hours. The cost of electricity is 0.1319 kWh. In this case, you save $48/ year on the electricity bill. In 10 years, that saves you $480. In 20 years, that saves you $960. For a good air conditioning unit, $500 would make sense. Still, $500 is a bit steep. If you give us the BTU and cost of electricity, we can calculate the electricity costs more accurately.

      Reply
  2. what is ICP and arco aire? I got a quote from a guy on American standard equipment, and this one ? I dont see much information on this brand… can you help me out?
    He offers 13 seer 3 ton, new line set, pad, quick disconnect and coil for 3450 and same stuff with 16 seer for $3850.. all labor and 10 yr guarantee on parts.
    thanks

    Reply
    • Hello Dianne, you’re right, Arco Aire is not a well-known brand with an established tradition such as Mitsubishi, for example. As far as the specifications and estimates are concerned, it would be best if you talk with HVAC experts with hands-on knowledge in Arco Aire units. You can check our your local HVAC expert here.

      Reply
  3. I have a 2-story house approx 25 yrs old with original RUUD a/c. I assume the SEER is 10 or less on each unit. For the 2nd story I received quotes of $10K for a Carrier Infinity series with a SEER of 23.5 or a Carrier 2-stage with a SEER of 16 for $6.2K. For the 1st story the Carrier quotes were $5.5-$4.6K and were all for 16 SEER. Any advice or insight?

    Reply
    • Hello there, that below 10 SEER unit is really inefficient. For the 2nd story, you’re looking at the 7.5 SEER difference between the Carrier units. The 23.5 SEER unit is 32% more energy-efficient than the 16 unit. Does that justify the $3,800 difference? Depends on how much electricity the devices will use in the next 20 years or so. But, just at the first glance, the 23.5 SEER quote is quite high. Maybe it would be best to get some other quotes from your local HVAC guys to get a more realistic quote. You can fill this form and get some free quotes.

      Reply
  4. I live in CA and would only use ac maybe 5 to 10 days a year. What should I be looking at to learn about the heating efficiency of the mini splits?

    Reply
  5. Having a hard time deciding on SEER for a new unit. Two story house in hottest part of California. Lots of 100 degree days. Quoted $10,900 for 16 SEER, $12,500 for 17 SEER. Both are RUUD units. I’m not sure what monthly cost comparisons would be for electric bills so I’m going back and forth.

    Reply
    • Hello Melissa, what is the tonnage or BTU of the unit? A difference of 1 SEER will yield about a 5% difference in electricity usage. If you would pay $500 per season for 16 SEER, you would pay about $25 less for 17 SEER. That’s $500 in 20-years, and, based on this, 16 SEER would be financially a more viable option. It’s recommended to install 20+ SEER units if possible, you can get some free quotes for those in California here.

      A general rule is that higher SEER ACs are a better long-term investment. But here you’re facing a $1,600 difference for only 1 SEER upgrade; 16 SEER wins in this case but it would be good if you get some additional quotes or try to negotiate lower prices.

      Reply
  6. Planning a large project swapping out swamp coolers for mini ductless systems. We are looking at a 16 seer system & a 22 seer system. The installation difference would be $4k. Would it be worth the extra 4k?

    Reply
    • Hello Chris, how many tons/BTU? If we’re talking 2 tons or 24,000 BTU, for example, the estimated yearly cost for AC only would be:
      $261 per year for 16 SEER, and $190 per year for 22 SEER. That’s about a $70 per year difference; $1400 in 20 years. That $4000 installation difference is huge; usually, it costs the same to install a 16 or 22 SEER. In general, higher SEER mini-splits always pay off after 10 years.

      Reply
  7. I am building a 3400 sq ft house one story house. I will mainly be using 2700 sq ft on a daily basis. I will not be regularly using a side of my house ( around 770 sq ft) with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. I want have 2 separate AC units installed. My builder wants to install one AC unit an American Standard 5 ton 18 seer platinum series with variable speeds. Can the house be divided to efficiently use 2 AC units vs 1 unit? What is the best monthly electricity cost option to go with 1 AC unit or 2 AC Units.

    Reply
    • Hello Troy, 2 separate ACs or at least a 2-zone mini-split is a better option than 1 unit. It’s all about airflow; with a single unit, it’s incredibly hard to evenly distribute the generate cold air through the 2000+ sq ft house. You may experience the so-called ‘hot pockets’ or ‘hot room’ problem in the case of 1 unit. The electricity costs are invariably connected only to the SEER rating; if you use 1 or 2 AC units, they will have to generate the same amount of cooling output (Tons or BTUs). You can check the best central AC units here if that’s useful. Many of the biggest producers offer 4.5 or 5-ton units with a 20+ SEER rating.

      Reply
  8. I just got a quote for a replacement 15 seer heat pump at $11400 or a 14 seer for $7400. That’s a huge difference, but is 1 seer more worth it? This is a 2 story colonial, the first floor is an a/c unit an propane furnace ,but second floor is heat pump due to code.

    Reply
    • Hello Jim, that a $4,000 price for 1 SEER rating. That’s quite a lot for a 7% more energy-efficient unit. In this case, the 15 SEER is not worth it. But it’s got less to do with SEER but more with these surprising quotes. It would be advisable to get some additional quotes; we have a group of vetted HVAC installers that can help you out with that. Basically, you just fill in this form and get 4 free quotes from HVAC guys in your area.

      Reply
  9. How about a 14 Seer single stage vs 65 20 Seer for $7k difference.

    Was told the 14 Seer is on or off.
    The 20 Seer has multiple speeds and vary throughout the day, summer or winter.

    16 Seer was 2 stage but unavailable and back ordered. Either way 14 Seer was by far the lowest price

    Reply
    • Hello Michael, the $7,000 difference is huge. Electricity-wise 20 SEER unit spends about 43% less electricity. Now, you have to calculate a bit how much per season you spend on cooling. Let’s say you spend $1,000 per season on cooling with 14 SEER unit; 20 SEER unit will spend $570. That’s $430/year in electricity savings.

      Mini splits usually last for 20 years or so. In 20 years, you spend $8,600 less on electricity; a clear 1,600€ gain for 20 SEER unit.

      Usually the reason why 14 SEER units have by far the lowest price is because they are old models, and nobody really likes a less efficient unit. If you can, try to negotiate the lower price for 20 SEER unit, and go with that. Financially it does make better sense. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  10. Thanks for this article but are these really yearly costs? I have two 12 SEER units running my house and my monthly electricity bill can be as low as $300 in the spring to as high as $800 in the winter. I have a power monitor and the heat pumps use the most power by far. I’ll use 4,500-5,000 kWh in the coldest months. Looking to replace the older unit with something in the 14-20 range.

    Reply
    • Hello John, the electricity bill numbers are calculated on a presumption that you use the AC 1000 hours per year with an average electricity cost of $0.1319. Now, the deviations here can be big, as you have yourself notice. If you run the AC for more than 1000 hours, or if your electricity cost is $0.09 or $0.25 per kWh, the total electricity bill will differ quite a lot.

      With different SEER ratings, you can roughly estimate your costs. For example, 14 SEER unit is about 15% more efficient and 20 SEER unit is about 40% more efficient than 12 SEER unit, as far as cooling is concerned. Heating uses another rating; HSPF rating (you can read more about it here). Hope this helps.

      Reply
  11. Hello, my question is I received a quote for a Bryant 3 ton 15 seer legacy series.
    A/H Model # FV4CNB006
    C/U Model # 214DNA036
    When I called Carrier I was told m # Boo6 was a 14 seer. The contractor assured me it was a 15 seer. Then the contractor changed the model # to FV4CNF003. Model # 21DNA036 is a variable speed will that make a big difference in energy cost when I’m running the A/C unit. Thanks I look forward to your response.

    Reply
    • Hello David, the difference in energy efficiency between a 15 SEER and a 14 SEER unit is about 6-7%. That is a bit of a difference in electricity costs. For every $100 you spend using 14 SEER unit, you will spend $94 running the 15 SEER unit. That’s the math. Variable speed is a way to increase SEER rating and efficiency. Hope all of this helps. In general, it’s always smarter to go for higher SEER due to long-term electricity savings.

      Reply
  12. Pricing a Bryant 16 seer 3.5 ton vs Bryant 24 seer 4 ton variable speed. 6892$vs11,200$ 4 ton comes with whole house air purifier. What is best value?

    Reply
    • Hello Tommy, the 24 SEER is the clear winner here. Compared to the 16 SEER unit, you’re saving more than 30% on electricity. Over the next 20 years, these 30% electricity savings will more than make up for the 6892$vs11,200$ price difference.

      Reply
  13. I am in Florida, I paid $6900 for a 3.5ton, 17 seer unit with a variable speed air handler. 4 weeks later I check the condenser unit outside and find the 14.5seer label on the unit outside!?! I called the rep and he claims that the combination of the variable air handler and the 14.5 seer condenser make it a 17seer unit? I do it know who to believe but I wonder? Is his statement anywhere near the common believe?

    Reply
    • Hello there, the outside unit with the condenser is the main unit that determines energy efficiency (SEER rating). The indoor unit can have an impact on SEER rating but here you’re dealing with a 2.5 SEER difference; the indoor unit can hardly increase the SEER rating by as much. It’s hard to believe that the variable speed air handler would have such a positive effect on SEER rating.

      Reply

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