When shopping for a new air conditioner, you’re going to see a lot of different numbers and acronyms – we love our abbreviations in the HVAC industry! All of these funny ratings and numbers can start to feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what they represent. Homeowners often ask us what SEER and BTU ratings mean. In our most recent blog, Sanborn’s Air Conditioning & Heating explains it all to take the mystery out of your air conditioner buying experience.

What Do BTU Ratings Mean?

British thermal unit, or BTU, isn’t a measure many are familiar with here in San Bernardino, but it’s the unit of measure used across the HVAC industry to express thermal energy. You’ll see BTUs for furnaces and air conditioners alike. BTU ratings measure the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. When it comes to air conditioners, the BTU rating measures how many BTUs of heat the unit is able to remove from the air in an hour’s time. This shows how effective a unit is at cooling a space.

An air conditioner’s BTU rating is important to your purchase decision because it tells you the unit’s cooling capacity – how much cooling it is capable of providing for the home. Residential air conditioners usually have BTU ratings between 18,000 to 60,000. Now, you don’t want to go out and buy the highest BTU air conditioner you can find – the key is finding the correct fit for your home.

You may have heard talk from an HVAC pro about sizing new heating and cooling units, and this is where BTU ratings are important. What we mean by that is not just matching equipment for the size of your home square footage-wise, but rather for the cooling load of your home. The cooling load is how much heat needs to be removed from the home to keep temperatures in an ideal range. To determine a home’s cooling load, technicians consider square footage, ceiling height, number of windows and doors, construction materials and techniques, home orientation, and a number of other factors that add heat to your home. 

It’s important to know what BTU ratings mean when shopping for an air conditioner because a good fit matters here! You don’t want a new air conditioning system with a BTU rating that is too high or too low for your needs. These units will consume more electricity, struggle to keep homes comfortable, and experience more breakdowns because they aren’t performing well. This typically means they need to be replaced sooner, too.

What Do SEER Ratings Mean?

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which is the unit of measure that expresses an air conditioner’s energy efficiency over a standard summer season. To find a unit’s SEER, the total cooling output over the season is divided by the amount of electric energy it consumes over the same period.

In California, the current minimum SEER rating allowed for new air conditioners is 14 SEER. However, this minimum will increase to 15 SEER in 2023. The Department of Energy has raised the national minimums over the years to further energy conservation efforts.

Currently, 14 SEER is as low as you can go for air conditioner efficiency, but the SEER ratings of available models extend to the mid to high 20s. Now a 14 SEER air conditioner isn’t a bad choice per se, but it is going to require more energy to do the same job that a 20 SEER unit would.

As you evaluate the SEER ratings of any new air conditioning units on your short list, you’ll likely notice as the SEER rating increases, so does the price. A higher energy-efficient cooling system is made with advanced technology and features to increase energy savings. They’ll cost you more to buy, but will save you more on energy costs. It can be difficult to decide where the balance point is between maintaining your budget and maximizing efficiency, so we usually recommend choosing the highest-efficiency unit that is within your price range.

Air Conditioner Installation from Sanborn’s

When it’s time to buy a new air conditioner for your San Bernardino area house, don’t fret – Sanborn’s is here to guide you through the equipment selection process by answering any questions you may have and provide you with everything you need to know. Trust our team for precision installation services so your new air conditioner will perform at the full capacity of its SEER and BTU ratings. Call us, or contact us online today to get started!