Understanding CEER Rating: AC Energy-Efficiency (+ CEER Chart)

In the Energy Star certification program for room air conditioners, there is Section 3: Core Qualification Criteria that states:

“CEER shall be greater than or equal to the Minimum CEER (CEERmin) as calculated per Equation 2.”

If you open a window AC unit’s specification sheet, you will likely see the CEER rating between 8-15. Here is the yellow EnergyGuide label of LG LW1517IVSM 14,000 BTU window air conditioner that specifies the CEER ratio:

ceer rating label
EnergyGuide label by US Department Of Energy with the specified CEER rating for a window air conditioner. 14.7 CEER rating is one of the highest for an A/C unit.

Here we will explain exactly what CEER rating is and why it is such an important metric in regard to window air conditioners.

We will also explain what is a good CEER rating for an air conditioner. At the end, you can find a CEER chart that plainly shows you what is a good CEER rating and, even more importantly, what is the minimal requirement for CEER rating for that particular AC to be awarded Energy Star certification.

What Does CEER Rating Actually Mean?

CEER rating stands for Combined Energy-Efficiency Ratio’ rating. It is one of the key energy-efficiency metrics we use to adequately evaluate how much electricity an air conditioner will spend. Other similar ratings are the older and more commonly used are EER and SEER for mini-splits.

CEER is defined as ‘The ratio of measured cooling output (in BTU per hour) to measured average electrical energy input (in Watts) and measured standby/off-mode power consumption (in Watts.).’

CEER rating is most commonly used to adequately estimate the energy-efficiency of window air conditioners.

In short, the CEER rating measures how many BTU/hr our AC generates given how much power we provide it during normal operation AND during the standby/off-mode. The key here is that CEER takes into account the standby/off-mode electricity usage as well as the normal operation power usage.

Let’s clearly illustrate (in simplified terms) the difference between EER, SEER, and CEER in air conditioners. These energy-efficiency specifications measure BTU/hr output at different AC settings (Standy Mode, Speed 1, Speed 2, Speed 3, etc.):

  • EER Rating: 100% BTU output.
  • SEER Rating: 100% BTU + 75% BTU + 50% BTU + 25% BTU output.
  • CEER Rating: 100% BTU + Standby/Off-Mode BTU output.

CEER is Combined EER because of the addition of energy usage in the standby/off-mode.

Department of Energy has introduced the CEER rating in June 2014 to better estimate the overall realistic energy-efficiency of room air conditioners.

How DOE Actually Calculates CEER Rating

The point of the CEER rating is that it includes the standby/off-mode energy consumption according to the DOE room AC test procedure in 10 CFR 430, Subpart B, Appendix F.

To derive the CEER rating formula, DOE has conducted a statistical analysis of how much power room air conditioner use while in standby and off mode. Here are the numbers that seem from this analysis:

  • Average standby power input is 1.4 Watts.
  • CEER presume 750 operational hours (100% BTU output).
  • CEER presumes 5115 hours of standby mode.

The key element that EER doesn’t account for and the CEER rating does is the 5115 hours of standby mode, using 1.4 W of energy. Most of this 1.4 Watts energy comes from the transformer. In fact, according to the DOE, “transformer power consumption accounts for about 75 percent of the power draw”.

Compared to EER, the combined energy-efficiency ratio rating takes into account a broader range of AC operations and thus more fully describes how much electricity an AC unit will require to generate a certain cooling output (measured in BTU/hr).

Why It’s Useful To Even Check The CEER Rating?

When buying an air conditioner, it’s always useful to have in mind the old HVAC saying:

“The most expensive air conditioner is a cheap one with low energy-efficiency.”

The true cost of every air conditioner is not the unit itself; it’s the electricity usage. If you use a window air conditioner for 10 years, the cost of electricity you use can be several times higher than the initial cost of the unit.

CEER rating tells you (quite accurately) which air conditioner is the most energy-efficient. The higher the CEER rating, the less electricity you’ll have to pay for the same amount of cooling output.

If in doubt, it’s recommended to always pick an AC unit with a higher CEER rating, even if it costs several $100 more. To illustrate, we have done some cost-effectiveness calculation using the CEER rating:

What Is A Good CEER Rating For Air Conditioner?

An air conditioner with a high CEER rating can generate quite a lot of electricity savings. To illustrate this, let’s compare the energy-usage of two 14,000 BTU window air conditioners with different SEER ratings:

Case of a high CEER rated unit: LG LW1517IVSM 14,000 BTU has an extremely high 14.7 CEER rating. Rated yearly electricity expenditure is thus $68.

Case of a low CEER rated unit: A cheaper 14,000 BTU has a low 9 CEER rating. Rated yearly electricity expenditure is thus $111.

As we can see, the difference in electricity usage between the high CEER and low CEER air conditioner is $43/year, and that’s for the absolute minimum air conditioner usage. Practically, the difference in cost would be more than $100/year.

Now, window air conditioners easily last for 10 years or more. In 10 years, the higher CEER unit will use 10 years x $43/year = $430 less electricity compared to the low CEER rated air conditioner.

That’s quite a lot, and this is the minimal difference. If a high CEER unit would cost $500 and a low CEER unit would cost $200, choose the more expensive high CEER unit still makes much more sense financially.

To look exactly at what CEER rating is good for a given air conditioner, let’s look at the CEER rating chart:

CEER Rating Chart

Energy Star certified air conditioners are among the top 10% of the most energy-efficient AC units in their respective category. Any AC unit that is to be awarded the Energy Star certificate has to achieve a certain minimal CEER rating to qualify for the certification.

Based on this CEER rating table, we can clearly draw a line between high CEER rated and lower CEER rated air conditioners. Here is the CEER rating chart for air conditioners with certain capacity (expressed in BTU):

Cooling Capacity (BTU) Min. CEER Rating
Below 8,000 BTU 11.0
8,000-14,000 BTU 11.2
14,000-20,000 BTU 11.1
20,000-28,000 BTU 9.8
28,000 BTU and above 9.8

Based on CEER, EER, and SEER we can look at 100s of different air conditioners and rank them from the most efficient to the least efficient.

We have done just that for 2 types of the air conditioner; you can check out the most energy-efficient portable air conditioners here and the most energy-efficient mini-split AC units here.

The bottom line is this:

CEER rating is the newest energy-efficiency metrics for air conditioners that include the energy-expenditure in the standby/off-mode. That’s why it’s more accurate than the EER rating.

If you have any questions regarding the CEER rating, you’re welcome to pose them in the comments below.

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