How Much Energy Do Air Conditioners Use?Published on: February 28, 2013
As energy costs rise and more people become concerned about the use of energy in their homes, many homeowners are asking “How much energy do air conditioners use?” Air conditioning likely accounts for more than 50 percent of energy costs during the summertime. Determining the actual amount of energy that is used by the air conditioner takes several factors into account.
Ratings of Energy Efficiency
Years ago, the energy efficiency of air conditioning systems was estimated with only an Energy Efficiency Rating, or “EER.” The EER is a simple rating that measures how much energy an air conditioner requires to produce each British Thermal Unit, or “BTU” of cooling power. The EER does not account for seasonal changes and the energy requirements that accompany these changes. Experts and researchers argued that, because some systems reach their peak cooling power at a slower rate, these systems actually consume more energy than a similarly rated system. Therefore, the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating was compiled. The SEER accounts for seasonal differences in the energy consumption of air conditioning systems. The EER is still provided as an energy estimate. However, the SEER system rating is now also used. The SEER rating has evolved into the industry standard for measuring the energy efficiency of cooling systems.
A unit with a higher SEER rating will use less energy to cool a home over a season than a unit with a lower SEER. When homeowners ask, “How much energy do air conditioners use?” the response from an HVAC technician will be “What is the SEER for the unit?” Though the SEER score is evaluated in a laboratory setting, and other factors influence the amount of energy required by central air systems, the SEER score provides a basis for comparison between AC units. When you purchase a new AC system, you should purchase the unit with the highest SEER that your budget will allow.
Background on the SEER Score
The SEER score was invented a few decades ago, but has recently gained momentum in the HVAC industry. Within the last 20 years, the U.S. Department of Energy began to impose standards and regulations on the energy efficiency of HVAC units. The U.S. Department of Energy adopted the SEER score as the benchmark for estimating air conditioning system efficiency. In the 1990s and early 2000‘s, the required minimum SEER score for an air conditioning system was 10. All central air conditioning units sold in the U.S. had to have a SEER score of 10 or higher. In 2006, this standard was raised to a SEER of 13. This means that every air conditioning unit sold in the U.S. since January, 2006 was required to have a minimum SEER of 13. As time passes and older units are replaced, fewer homes are using low efficiency systems.
Federal regulations are not the only reason higher SEER scores are desired. The higher the SEER score, the more energy is conserved when using the air conditioning system during the summer when compared to a unit with a lower score. The more energy that is conserved when cooling the home, the more cost savings the homeowner realizes on their electric bill.
High Efficiency Systems
HVAC equipment manufacturers produce standard efficiency units in addition to high energy efficient units in order to accommodate consumer budgets. The high efficiency air conditioners are priced higher than standard units. However, the homeowner saves money over the lifespan of the unit and recovers a good deal of the initial investment in energy savings. Consumers are increasingly seeking to reduce their carbon footprint, as well. High efficiency units are much more eco-friendly than older units, or even standard efficiency units. Installing a high efficiency air conditioner also increases the overall value of the home. High efficiency AC systems are a top selling point for many home buyers.
Energy experts estimate that installing a system with a SEER score that is three points above that of the previous system will save the homeowner about $30 per month in electrical costs, depending on the region and the cost of electricity. If you have an older air conditioner, particularly one with a low SEER rating, consider replacing the unit with a more energy efficient system.
Saving Money on Air Conditioning
Individual savings depend on the temperature setting you normally use in your home, as well as the region in which you live. Another factor that contributes to savings is keeping your central air unit well maintained. AC companies provide annual maintenance services that keep your system running at peak performance, saving energy and money for consumers. Maintaining your system on a regular basis reduces the need for ongoing repairs or for emergency services.
To further discuss how to save energy and cut expenses for running your air conditioner, call your local HVAC professional. They will provide you with great advice about how to reduce your energy costs.
Last Updated by Robert Koch