14 SEER vs 16 SEER: Which Is Best for My Phoenix Home?
July 24, 2018
If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, you may be wondering what SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) you should get.
First off, all new Phoenix air conditioners need to be at least 14 SEER, per national regional standards set by the Department of Energy.
Now you may be wondering, “Should I go with the minimum requirement (14 SEER), or should I go with a higher-SEER AC, like a 16-SEER unit?”
Here’s our answer: It depends.And to get an accurate SEER recommendation, you’ll need an AC professional needs to look at your home’s makeup and existing system. That’s because SEER depends on many factors, which we’ll cover later in this article.
But one of the most important factors to consider is your budget. So let’s look at the cost of a 14 SEER AC costs compared to a 16 SEER AC...
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14 SEER vs 16 SEER: A cost comparison
For the sake of comparison, let’s look at a 14-SEER AC and a 16-SEER AC.
According to the Lennox Energy Savings Calculator, a 16-SEER air conditioner will save you approximately 12% per year on energy costs compared to a 14-SEER unit. This is how that breaks down into dollars:
- Over 5 years, you’ll save roughly $290
- Over 10 years, you’ll save roughly $580
- Over 15 years—the maximum lifespan of an AC in Phoenix—you’ll save roughly $870
Note: These energy savings are just rough estimates. Whether or not you actually will save these amounts with a higher-SEER AC depends on the size of your AC, how well you maintain your AC, how you program your thermostat, electricity rates and much more.
Now, a 16-SEER unit typically costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000 more than a 14-SEER AC to install.
So, a big part of your choice comes down to your budget for the installation cost. (But don’t forget to have a professional provide a recommendation—price isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to choosing SEER.)
On a strict budget? A 14-SEER AC might be the better choice
If you’re on a strict budget, go with a 14-SEER AC. It’s still an energy-efficient choice and it meets the federal minimum SEER requirement.
And compared to an old 10-SEER AC, a 14-SEER unit can save you up to $2,790 over a 15-year period (calculated using the Lennox Energy Savings Calculator).
Can you afford the higher upfront price? Consider a 16-SEER unit
On the other hand, if you can afford the higher upfront price, then you may consider a 16-SEER unit because they provide more comfort and higher monthly savings.
How does a 16-SEER AC provide better energy savings?
Well, the 16 SEER AC has either two-stage or variable-speed technology (depending on the model and manufacturer). Two-stage and variable-speed technology are compressor motor upgrades that are better than the standard, single-stage technology found in most 14 SEER systems.
If the 16-SEER unit you’re considering has variable-speed technology, then it can provide benefits like:
- Precise temperature control (within 0.10° of the set temperature, compared to a 0.5° –1.5° difference in single-stage systems)
- Longer lifespan because of less wear and tear on the compressor during startup
If those 2 things are important to you, you may consider going with a two-stage or variable-speed 16 SEER AC even if it’s more expensive than a 14 SEER unit upfront.
But don’t forget: These recommendations are just a starting point. You still should have a professional provide a SEER recommendation for your new AC...
Why a professional needs to give you a SEER recommendation for your new AC
So here’s the thing: Without an AC professional visiting your home, it’s impossible to say which specific SEER is right for your home.
That’s because a professional will need to verify:
- Your budget
- If your system is matched or not (the indoor blower technology matches the outdoor compressor technology)
- The quality of your home’s ductwork and insulation
- And much more
If a professional doesn’t check for these things, you may not get the efficiency you think you’d get with a high-SEER air conditioner.
For example, if your home has leaky ducts and poor insulation, your AC will have to work harder to cool your home, which eliminates a lot of the energy savings a high-SEER AC would otherwise provide.
Need SEER advice from a Phoenix tech?
We’ll send one of our experienced techs to help you choose the right SEER AC for your home.
We can also install your new air conditioning system. Visit our AC installation page for more information.
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Ty Lindsay is the Director of Field Operations at Patrick Riley | Isley’s and a 15-year veteran of the plumbing and HVAC trades. In 2010, Ty earned his Journeyman’s plumbing license. He became a Master Plumber five years later and earned his Journeyman HVAC technician’s license that same year. Ty’s breadth of knowledge in plumbing and HVAC includes both residential and commercial work. He’s been a loyal member of the Patrick Riley | Isley’s team since 2016.