What Do Commercial Air Conditioner Ratings Mean?
Modern commercial air conditioners are efficient, effective pieces of sophisticated equipment. Air conditioner ratings indicate, usually in a single number, important performance characteristics of the equipment. The following information will help you understand the type of air conditioner ratings you’re likely to see when buying new or replacement equipment. By understanding these ratings, you’ll be able to make better decisions about the type of system you buy.
Probably the most common air conditioner rating you will see is SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio. This rating applies to air conditioners and to the cooling functions of heat pumps. An air conditioner’s SEER number tells you how much energy will be required to run the system and, as a result, approximately how much it will cost each month to operate the air conditioner.
An air conditioner’s SEER number is derived by dividing the cooling capacity of an A/C in continuous operation by the amount of electrical power it consumes. This number gives a good indication of how efficiently the air conditioner is using the electricity it uses to function. SEER numbers are typically calculated using the amount of electricity used and the cooling output produced over any entire cooling season. This gives a better indication of actual performance and accounts for variations that can occur during a summer’s worth of cooling.
Higher SEER ratings indicate higher levels of efficiency. SEER numbers start at 14, which federal regulations established as the minimum required SEER level as of January 1, 2015. Air conditioners are available with SEER numbers in the mid-20s, which are extremely efficient systems. Mid-range, high-efficiency air conditioners will have a SEER of around 18.
Older air conditioners often have relatively low SEER ratings, meaning these systems are not very efficient. They use more energy and are more costly to operate, generating relatively high monthly bills. The federal requirements for better air conditioner ratings and higher efficiency assure commercial and residential customers that the cooling systems they buy will have a baseline efficiency that provides good performance and lower costs.
For example, upgrading an older air conditioner with a SEER of 10 to a newer model with a SEER of 18 can be expected to reduce cooling costs by about half. Costs will be reduced even more significantly with higher SEER units. In many cases, it’s possible for the costs of a high-efficiency air conditioning system to be recovered through monthly savings alone by about the halfway point of the equipment’s expected lifespan.
It’s becoming more common for HVAC systems to be assigned sound ratings that indicate how quietly a particular piece of equipment will run. Older systems sometimes produce significant amounts of noise during normal operations. If equipment is located on a roof or a remote location, the noise is less of a problem, but anyone working near the system could still be annoyed or distracted by the noise.
The noise produced by air conditioners and other HVAC equipment is measured in decibels (db), which indicates the relative loudness of a sound. Cooling equipment usually operates at a low of 70 decibels to a high of around 90 decibels.
The Sound Rating Number (SRN) of an air conditioner indicates the amount of noise a particular air conditioning unit is expected to produce. SRN is determined by tests developed by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), a leading nonprofit organization in the HVAC industry.
Typical SRN ratings span a range from 74 to 80 decibels. Lower SRN numbers indicate quieter operation.
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