SEER Rating: How much will I save with a higher SEER Rating?


Most people know that higher SEER ratings for an air conditioner will save them money on their electric bills. But how much can you really expect to save with a higher SEER Rating? Let’s put some actual numbers behind this thought. So, stay tuned to find out how much savings you could see!

What is a SEER rating, and how does it work?

There are plenty of articles about what SEER ratings are for air conditioners and heat pumps, so I’m not going to dive into that topic. But, briefly, says, “The SEER measures air conditioning cooling efficiency, which is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame. A SEER rating is a maximum efficiency rating, like the miles per gallon for your car.”

What are the current SEER ratings seen today?

14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. Some of the heat pump systems that have come out since 2020 offer up to 25 SEER as well.

As of 2022, most states in America were mandated to install systems with a SEER rating of 14. Some northern states are still able to squeak by with 13 SEER systems because the summers aren’t as long and intense as they are in southern states.

How much money can I save by upgrading to a higher SEER rating air conditioner or heat pump system in my home?

The average cost of electricity in the summer here in Sacramento, CA, is around $0.247 per kWh. So, between 14 SEER and 20 SEER, you’ll save about 6-7% when you go from 14 to 15 to 16 all they way to 20 SEER. Take a look at these charts I made for you, considering a 3-ton system (36,000 btu’s) and you have a house around 1500 sq ft that is fairly well insulated in the attic and exterior walls:

SEER Rating How much will I save with a higher SEER Rating

I created a calculator with some formulas that customers can use to play around with these numbers too. You can find it here on and I’ll leave a link to it in the description area of this video. Just give me a few weeks to get it posted on my website, since I just created it in July 2022.

Compared to your older 10 SEER system

Compared to your older 10 SEER system

A lot of systems that have been running since let’s say, 1995 to 2005 are probably running around 10 SEER. They may have started around 12 SEER, but systems lose efficiency through wear and tear over the years. So, most people agree their system is running around 10 SEER now as they are looking to buy a new system. Since 2010, the lowest SEER system we can install is 14 SEER. In 2023, it’s going up to 15 and 16 SEER-2, so we’ll update this blog when we get there. And yes, I meant to say SEER-2. Just the industry leaders and EPA mandating we get rid of the 14 SEER systems in order to make the 15 and 16 SEER systems the lowest SEER systems that we can install for customers.

Compared to your older 10 SEER system

So, with 14 SEER being the lowest, customers will also be offered options for higher-rated systems, like 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 – and yes, some systems are even higher. Let’s look at how much you might save by upgrading from your 10 SEER system to a modern 14, 16, 18, or 20 SEER system:

Compared to your older 10 SEER system (2)

So, you can see how upgrading your older 10 SEER system to pretty much anything today will save you money. Even $250 in savings each summer just by switching from an older system to a standard single-stage 14 SEER system sounds great! Upgrading to the 18 and 20 systems can save you double that each summer.  

Comparing the modern systems to each other

Now let’s compare 14 to 16, 16 to 18, and 18 to 20 SEER systems. Once again, these are numbers based on fairly well-insulated homes where the system is installed correctly, and the size of the system is right.

Comparing the modern systems to each other
Comparing the modern systems to each other

If you were given some options from your HVAC salesman – something like a 14 SEER, 16 SEER, an 18 SEER, and a 20 SEER system you might be thinking, “Well, what kind of savings would I get if I buy a 16 SEER over a 14 SEER system if the 16 SEER costs $1500.00 more?”

From the chart, you’d save about $79 a summer with a 16 over a 14 (At 24¢ per kWh)—a 13% savings. Over ten years, that’s $793, and assuming your system lasts a full 20 years, which is a good long life, you’d be looking at about $1587 in savings.

You can mess around with the SEER Comparison Calculator to get a good idea of what you’ll save here in California based of the average rate of 24¢ per kWh at summer rates.

What are the testing requirements to calculate SEER?

Real quick, the industry’s standard for testing includes a high-speed test at 95°F outdoor temp and another at 82°F. Two-stage and variable speed systems add a low-speed test at 82°F. Each of these tests is done for 30 minutes and is performed three times to get an average. I always thought they just calculated these numbers at high-speed, including the variable speed units that typically run at their lower speeds for longer periods of time.

There are way more considerations when calculating these SEER ratings. Some of the terms and testing they use are:

  • Voltage tolerance
  • Low temperature
  • Insulation efficiency
  • Condensate disposal
  • Maximum operation (115°F)
  • Extra high maximum operation (125°F)
  • Wet bulb
  • Dry bulb
  • Piping length
  • A proper refrigerant charge
  • Proper installation

Even just looking at some of the equations these guys use to determine the SEER ratings is crazy. Look at these!

the SEER ratings

And that’s just one calculation and the considerations for determining it. As I scroll down the page on the AHRI document, I have to use the roller to scroll 5 or 6 more times down the page to get to the end of this section!

In conclusion… how much will I save with a higher SEER Rating?

I thought this was a pretty interesting topic. So often, when people ask Google what SEER rating is, they’re just told – it’s a measurement of how much cooling effect they can get for the electricity used to cool the house. Like miles per gallon on a car. And it’s correct. But today, I wanted to put some numbers behind how much you can actually save when choosing between today’s modern air conditioners.

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How Does Comfort-R Work?

How Does Comfort-R Work?

Comfort-R is the HVAC manufacturer Trane and American Standard’s dehumidification mode on variable speed air handlers.  So, if you live in an area affected by high humidity levels, Comfort-R mode is a great way to automatically adjust how that humidity translates inside your home. It’s an added feature that separates Trane’s premium models from their standard models. The premium units with variable speed motors (…not ECM motors) are the S9V2 and XC95 gas furnaces, the XL16c packaged units, and the TAM9, TEM6, and TEM 8 air handlers. 

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A quick refresher:

The two main functions of an air conditioner are to (1.) remove heat and (2.) remove humidity.  When the AC is turned on, the moisture (or humidity) in your home is brought to the evaporator coil (the cold coil.)  The warm air from the house comes into contact with the cold evaporator coil and condenses to make water on the coil. That condensate then drains out to the side of the house and onto the ground.

Check out my video  and blog  regarding condensation drainage if you’d like to know more about that side of the air conditioning system. It’s an important part of your system.

Now, evaporator coils only have so much room for air to pass through when the AC is on.  They have very thin blades for air to pass through. If the coil gets too wet, the blower is getting a lot of resistance when it’s trying to push the air, so the dehumidification process becomes more difficult, cooling the house takes longer, which increases the electric bill for your home!  Whew! 

How does Comfort-R work?

In the most basic sense, Comfort-R Mode regulates airspeed at start-up to carefully control humidity levels.  Lower humidity can lead to savings by reducing moisture levels in the air so you can keep the thermostat at a higher setting and still feel comfortable.  Comfort-R mode also offers a warmer start-up with an all-electric heat pump during the heating season, so you don’t feel that blast of cool air when you turn on the heater when you’re looking for warm and cozy air.

Now I’m going to get a little technical here, but I’ll try and keep most of you with me.  I always try to talk in basic terms, so everyone understands. Let’s learn about this with a simple single-stage system.

  • On a call for cooling, a single-stage air conditioner and its indoor blower motor both turn on and begin cooling immediately at 100% speed or capacity.  (And yes, people do buy upgraded variable speed furnaces like the S9V2 furnace to match their standard single-stage outdoor condenser.)
    • So when the AC starts, the outdoor unit comes on at normal speed.  100%.  But, the indoor blower with Comfort-R enhancement will slowly ramp up to 50% speed over the first minute. This will allow the indoor evaporator coil to get cold quicker – because you don’t have as much room temperature air going across the coil to compete with the coil, allowing it to get colder, faster.
      If you have a heat pump match-up, this 50% ramp-up during the first minute will let your indoor coil get hot, quicker.
    • Over the next minute or two and up to about 8 minutes, the fan will run at 80% capacity to help further dehumidify in cooling mode or enhance warm air heating for heat pumps.
    • If necessary, after 8 or 9 minutes of the AC being on (or heat pump), the fan will increase to 100% capacity boosting its function until the thermostat is satisfied.
    • Now, normally when the temperature is satisfied, the outdoor compressor shuts off, AND the indoor blower turns off. There’s no delay.  In Comfort-R mode, the outdoor compressor shuts off, but the indoor fan will ramp down to 50% capacity.
      For 3 minutes.  This is for efficiency because the indoor coil will still be cold for a bit, so why not utilize the cold coil and run some air across it and have it sent into the house’s rooms?
  • In a general sense, everything works the same. Two-stage systems operate at a 70% speed and 100% speed or capacity. It’s a slow ramp-up to 50% of whatever stage it’s in (1st or 2nd stage.) Up to 80% for a few more minutes, even if it’s in the same stage, and then up to 100% fan speed for that stage if needed until the setpoint is reached.  Back down to 50% blower speed after the compressor shuts off and the temperature in the room is reached. That last three minutes for efficiency; and then shuts down entirely.
  • Fully-modulating systems can fluctuate widely – usually 25% to 100% in very small increments.  And these will always come with a variable-speed blower to match the outdoor condenser.  The ramping up and down happens accordingly.
ECM Fan Control
Enhanced Mode

Two things to know:

  1. Your HVAC company has to set this up for you at the time of installation.
  2. You have to use the 824, 850, or 1050 thermostats for the system to interpret the humidity levels (and that’s in 2021 at the time of this video.)

It’s something your installers have to set up for you at the time of installation. They have to cut the BK jumper on the integrated control board for Comfort-R Enhancement to work.  Air handlers also may have dip switches to dial in for the indoor variable speed motor to match the airflow required for the outdoor unit size.
Field Wiring Diagramn For Two Stage Headting Thermostat,Two Stage Heat PumpYou also have to have a Trane (or American Standard) 824 thermostat. The Comfort-R function doesn’t work with any thermostat except its 824 on the non-communicating systems and the 850 or 1050 thermostats on communicating systems. That’s because the thermostat senses the humidity in the house, not a sensor that one might think is located in the air handler itself. So, you can’t use Nest, Ecobee, Sensi, or other popular smart thermostats with Comfort-R technology.


Who needs Comfort-R Technology the most?

Alaska and Hawaii have some of the highest humidity levels every summer! Other than that, it’s the states in the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast that have to deal with high relative humidity, like:

  • Florida
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine

You don’t have a lot of people west of the Rockies complaining about heavy, humid air in the summertime. The atmosphere is so dry in California that wildfires spark up and blaze on for weeks at a time because there’s very little moisture in the air to keep them at bay. 

Dehumidification is rarely discussed here in the Sacramento Valley. That’s why Comfort-R dehumidification may not necessarily be needed quite as much in the western states as in the eastern ones. But you’ll still find homeowners discussing it with their installer to try and keep precise tabs on the humidity level in their home. And, some people like to invest in the latest technology for their homes. So, let’s talk about it!

What Energy Star says about humidity:

Energy Star says anything above 50% indoor humidity in your house is considered high. It can not only cause added stress to your air conditioner but the human body as well. High humidity in a home can make people struggle to get a good breath because of all the moisture that comes into the lungs with the air they’re trying to breathe in. Energy Star says 30% to 50% humidity in a home is just about right. 

Modern thermostats have humidity levels readily available for you to view on your smartphone or the face of the thermostat itself. See how the thermostat below shows outdoor temperature and humidity as well as indoor temperature and humidity? That’s great information to have for someone trying to monitor humidity levels in their home.


The benefit of having a furnace, packaged unit, or heat pump air handler with a variable speed motor is that Comfort-R technology can be utilized. This allows for:

  1. Easier dehumidification of the home.
  2. The home to cool down faster.
  3. Keep your electric bills lower.
  4. Keep money in your pockets.
  5. 5(On heat pumps) Remove that cold blast of air that comes out when starting heating mode.

Hopefully, this gives a better idea of how Trane and American Standard Comfort-R mode works and what is needed to make it happen. We also discussed if Comfort-R mode is something that your home even needs depending on where in the country you live.

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