SEER and Cooling Efficiency


Residential electricity rates continue to fluctuate and climb over time. In 2006, the average retail price for electricity was 10.40¢ per Kilowatt hour. In 2016, that price increased to 12.55¢ per Kilowatt hour.1 With rates rising, how can you stay cool and comfortable in your home and spend less on utility costs?

Your answer to mounting utility rates may rest with energy-efficient equipment and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER. Air conditioners and heat pumps are assigned a SEER rating related to the unit’s energy efficiency and performance for cooling.  But what exactly is SEER, and why should it matter to you?

What is SEER?

SEER measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use. The higher the SEER rating, the less energy your air conditioner or heat pump will use.

The good news for homeowners in the market for a new air conditioner or heat pump is that current high-efficiency residential equipment can boast SEER ratings of 20 or higher. Higher SEER units typically cost less to run, which can save homeowners money on utility costs.

Before the SEER rating was adopted, cooling equipment was rated based on how much energy was used while running at full capacity in a controlled environment.  The method was similar to calculating the average fuel efficiency of driving a vehicle 100 mph on rollers in a climate-controlled lab. The test results would not be an accurate measurement of the vehicle’s typical efficiency.

As a result, the SEER rating was developed in order to provide consumers with a more accurate representation of the typical energy use of an air conditioning unit or heat pump in cooling mode. The SEER rating takes into account a number of important factors:

  • Climate zones
  • Part-load efficiency
  • Energy consumption in standby mode
  • Varying load requirements

Cooling Efficiency Standards

Residential cooling systems installed prior to 2005, when electricity averaged 9.45¢ per Kilowatt hour1, may have significantly lower SEER ratings than the current standard. As heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technologies improve, cooling systems are becoming more energy-efficient.

As efficiency improves, it uses less energy to operate which may reduce your energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sets energy efficiency requirements for air conditioners, heat pumps, and other HVAC equipment.

In a nationwide effort to promote energy savings that benefit the consumer, in 2006 the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement from 10 SEER to 13 SEER. If your air conditioner or heat pump was installed in 2005, there is a good chance that it’s a 10 SEER unit.

In 2015, the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement again for central air conditioners and heat pumps installed in certain regions of the U.S.2   The minimum SEER rating for central air conditioners is currently 14 in the South and Southwest regions of the U.S., and 13 in the North. Heat pumps have a national standard, with a minimum of 14 SEER.

What’s Right for You?

Your home’s cooling costs are impacted by your local electricity rate, SEER and typical usage. While some cooling systems are only used in warmer months, others may run nearly year-round. 

If you live in a high-use location, you may want to consider an air conditioning or heat pump with a higher SEER rating to save even more on energy costs. However, if you live in a more temperate area where you go much of the year without the need for indoor cooling, a minimum SEER rating may make the most financial sense. 

To learn how to reduce your energy costs and which Amana® brand’s high SEER products is right for you, speak with an independent Amana dealer in your area.

Cost Saving Legacy of Amana brand

1 U.S. EIA. (2017, May). Monthly Energy Review, Average Retail Prices of Electricity. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration:
2 Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. (n.d.). Retrieved from Appliance Standards Awareness Project: