With energy prices surging across the country, energy efficiency is very much the in-demand feature for heating and cooling equipment. When you’re looking to save money on your utility bills, making changes to your biggest energy consumers can have the biggest impact on your overall expenditures every month. And when you consider that California’s climate often requires the use of our air conditioner for as much as eight to nine months out of the year, making the investment in an energy-efficient air conditioner can have a huge impact on how much you spend each year.

Understanding AC Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is measured through what is known as the “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio”, or SEER rating. SEER ratings compare the amount of cooling output a particular system is capable of producing over the course of a typical operating season to the amount of energy it consumes in order to do so. The result is usually given as a number, with higher numbers meaning better energy efficiency. Today, the minimum SEER rating for a system on the market is 13, however southern markets including California actually require a minimum of 14 SEER because we rely on our air conditioning so much more.

Is your current system compliant with this requirement? If it’s more than 15 to 20 years old, probably not. As recently as 2006, the average rating for a newly installed system was either 9 or 10 SEER. That means in less than two decades we’ve seen a huge jump in energy efficiency and great reductions in the cost of ownership and operation.

How Much Does a More Efficient Air Conditioner Save Me?

Did you know that approximately half of the energy the average home consumes goes toward heating and cooling costs each year? Climate control takes a ton of electricity, and as such it’s perhaps your greatest expenditure every year in regard to utilities. However, with scorching hot summers and extended warm seasons, going without air conditioning simply isn’t really an option here in the Inland Empire. This is why upgrading to an energy-efficient air conditioning system is so incredibly beneficial.

Let’s look at an example. Say you have one of those older 10-SEER systems that’s approaching approximately 15 years in age. Assuming an average price of around 19 cents per kilowatt-hour (roughly a statewide average) and around 1,350 hours of cooling operation each year, your system is going to consume approximately $908 worth of energy over the course of the year.

Now let’s assume you upgrade to a brand new 14 SEER system (the minimum allowed by law). Assuming the same energy cost and usage statistics, your new system will consume around $648 in electricity per year. That’s an average savings of about $260 per year, or around 29%.

The savings really add up when you expand those numbers out over time as well. Over the next five years, this kind of an upgrade would save you just under $1,300, just under $2,600 over the next ten years, and nearly $3,900 over the next 15 years! And that’s assuming that electricity prices remain constant—California’s rates have been surging at one of the fastest paces in the nation, and that means the savings will only compound and grow even further over the span of your new air conditioner’s life.

Is a Greater SEER Better?

When most people see these numbers, they automatically think that a greater SEER rating will save them even more, and that they should shoot for the most energy-efficient system they can. It’s true that a greater SEER rating will mean more savings. For perspective, an 18 SEER system using the same numbers as before would save you 44% per year on energy, and more than $6,000 over the life of your new system as compared to your old one.

However, a higher SEER rating isn’t always the solution, and that’s because the cost of an energy-efficient system is so much greater. A more energy-efficient system is going to have a higher initial investment cost, and that’s something that simply isn’t feasible or practical for a lot of people, especially those who are already on a tighter budget.

There’s a common myth that floats around where people think that a 14 SEER system is a “bottom of the barrel” or “bare minimum” option. The truth is, while it might be the minimum legal for installation now, it’s still a huge improvement over your older system, as we’ve seen already! These systems aren’t bad, and you’ll probably be thrilled with the results you see from it all the same! If you do feel a more efficient system is the right choice for you, then by all means our experienced installers would be happy to outfit your home with one. However, we always advise choosing the right system for your home, and the right one may not always be the most energy-efficient one either.

To learn more about replacing your air conditioner, pick up the phone and call the experts at All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical at (909) 500-8193 today.