As a Nashville, TN resident, you’ll likely see an increase in your electric bill this October 2023. This aligns with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) approved base rate hike of 4.5%. While the TVA says it will go toward improving the grid, it still means you’ll pay more starting this fall.
That’s all the more reason to ensure that you have an energy-efficient HVAC system. After all, its use alone can already account for about 40% to 60% of your monthly electric bill.
One way to determine your system’s energy efficiency is by knowing its SEER HVAC ratings.
This guide will teach you the basics to help you understand what SEER is and why you should care, so please read on.
Breaking Down SEER
SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) is one of two ratings used in central AC units. The other is EER, which means energy efficiency ratio. For reference, window units only use EER ratings.
SEER measures a unit’s energy usage during the cooling season (the warm part of the year). It uses this formula:
- The system’s cooling output ÷ its overall power consumption during the cooling season
Generally, the higher a system’s SEER rating, the more energy-efficient it is. For example, a unit with a SEER of 15 uses less energy than one with a SEER of 10.
Where Can You Find Your System’s SEER?
You should find this on your system’s black and yellow “Energy Guide” sticker. You may also see it listed close to the manufacturer’s label on top of the unit.
You can check your owner’s manual if the sticker is no longer intact or if you can’t find it. If you don’t have the manual, write down your system’s make, model, and serial number. Then, call its manufacturer to ask them about its SEER rating.
Changes to the SEER Requirements This 2023
At the start of 2015, the minimum SEER requirement for AC units sold in TN was 14. This has since increased to 15 at the beginning of 2023.
There’s also the SEER2, an updated version of SEER, for split system AC units and heat pumps. It involves more rigorous testing than the standard SEER.
In the Southeast region, systems with a capacity of under 45,000 BTU should have a SEER2 rating of 14.3 or higher. Selling or installing products that don’t meet this requirement is not allowed.
Why Should You Care About SEER?
Most HVAC systems and major components can last over a decade with proper care. For example, a well-maintained AC compressor in Nashville, TN, can last at least ten years. So, even if you bought and installed it in 2013, it may still have a few good years left.
However, its installation date may also mean your HVAC system has a much lower SEER.
You’re not legally required to upgrade your existing system. However, you may still want to do so if you want to lower your energy usage, bills, and carbon footprint.
Higher SEER Translates to Energy Savings
The wider the gap between your current HVAC system’s SEER and the new one you get, the more you can save.
For example, according to the U.S. DOE, upgrading from SEER 9 to 14 can reduce energy usage by 35%. Since the lowest SEER you can now get in Tennessee is 15, the reduction may be even more significant.
But for now, let’s use the DOE’s estimate to see how much savings you can get. If your direct cooling costs amount to $150 a month, a 35% decrease in your AC’s energy usage can save you up to $52.50 monthly!
Lower Energy Usage Equates to Reduced Emissions
Most of the Volunteer State’s electricity comes from coal. Of all fossil fuels, this is the most carbon-intensive.
Burning coal for electricity also emits sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These are air pollutants; SO2 contributes to acid rain, and NOx to smog. Both are also risk factors for respiratory illnesses.
That’s another excellent reason to reduce your electricity consumption at home. Every bit of coal (or other fossil fuels) that doesn’t have to get burned means fewer emissions.
Remember that HVAC systems are the number one energy-consuming appliances at home. However, those with a higher SEER rating use much less than those with lower ratings. This means they also have reduced emissions and are more environmentally friendly.
Tax Incentives Are Available
If you want a new residential HVAC system, opt for an Energy Star-certified model with a SEER2 of 16 or higher. This way, you can qualify for a tax credit of up to 30% of your project cost (maximum of $600).
To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade
If your system is relatively new (for example, you only got it less than five years ago), its SEER is likely 14. In this case, it’s okay to put off upgrading it. After all, you spent thousands of dollars on something meant to last over a decade.
But what if your system is at least ten years old and has racked up quite a hefty repair bill over the last few years? Then, it may be time to bid it goodbye and replace it with one that has a higher SEER and is quieter. Plus, you’ll get a new (and longer) warranty of ten years or so!
But if you’re still on the fence, you can always call a reputable HVAC service provider. They can assess your current system, its efficiency, and if it’s enough for your comfort needs. You can rely on them to be honest and straightforward and not insist that you buy something you don’t need yet.
Ready for a More Energy-Efficient HVAC System?
Remember: Older HVAC systems often have lower SEER ratings and consume more energy. They increase energy bills and carbon footprints. So, if yours is old, consider getting a new, more energy-efficient HVAC system with a SEER of at least 15.
Lanham Mechanical Contractors can help you make the right choice. You can rely on the expertise we’ve honed throughout the 30+ years we’ve been in business.
Ring us up today, and we’ll help you decide if it’s a good time to invest in a new HVAC system for your Nashville home.