What Do Air Conditioner Ratings Mean?
During the search for a commercial air conditioner, you are likely to encounter several different air conditioner efficiency ratings. These numerical ratings provide important information about air conditioner function that can be understood at a glance — if you know what they mean. The following information will briefly explain some of the more common air conditioner efficiency ratings that building owners and managers may encounter. They will help you choose the best, most efficient air conditioning system that will give you the performance you need at a cost you can afford.
SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is one of the most common air conditioner efficiency ratings you will see. It is an indicator of cooling efficiency that applies to air conditioners and to the cooling functions of heat pumps. SEER numbers are obtained through strict laboratory testing that simulates the actual operating conditions that an air conditioner will face.
The basic meaning of SEER is the amount of cooling provided per unit of electricity used. In more practical terms, SEER can tell you how efficient the air conditioner will be, how much energy it will use, and how much it will cost to operate.
Older air conditioning systems often had very low SEER ratings. As of January 1, 2015, federal regulations require that air conditioners in the southern part of the country must have a SEER rating of at least 14 for both packaged and split systems. In some northern states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the requirement is for SEER ratings of at least 13.
Higher SEER ratings mean better efficiency and lower cost of operation. Some of the most efficient air conditioners will have SEER ratings in the 20s. Higher-efficiency air conditioners can often pay for themselves in monthly savings alone by about the halfway point of the system’s expected lifespan.
Energy Star certification provide further indication of a air conditioner’s efficiency. The Energy Star program is a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. The basic role of the Energy Star program is to test and certify common energy-using appliances and equipment, including HVAC systems.
An air conditioner that carries an Energy Star label has been thoroughly tested and evaluated for efficiency. The Energy Star certification means that the equipment is as energy efficient as possible. The label will contain important information that you can use to make a better purchasing decision. Data provided includes estimated annual operating costs, cost and power use ranges of comparable models, and important features that boost performance and efficiency.
MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, applies to the efficiency of the air filters used in both heating and cooling systems. Since HVAC system air filters make a vital contribution to indoor air quality, MERV is an air conditioner efficiency rating that should be given careful attention.
Air conditioner filters remove particulates such as dust, pollen, fibers, and mold spores from the air circulating through the system. Filters with higher MERV ratings are more effective at trapping and holding these tiny contaminants. Standard MERV numbers range from 1 to 16, with higher numbers meaning better performance. Filters with MERV ratings of 9 to 12 are commonly used in both residential and commercial settings.
If even better levels of air filtration are needed, there are air filters and filter systems available that provide air cleaning at MERV levels between 17 and 20. These include HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters and related equipment. Some commercial settings, including medical and technical environments, require extremely high levels of air cleaning. High-MERV filters provide the air filtration needed in these situations.
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