Understanding the Difference between 13 and 16 SEER Air Conditioning

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Understanding the Difference between 13 and 16 SEER Air Conditioning

JUNE 29, 2023

13 vs. 16 SEER – What’s the Difference? When choosing an air conditioner, understanding the SEER rating can make a big difference. Let’s explore.

What is a SEER rating?

The SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (Rating), measures the energy efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient the unit is. It’s a crucial metric to consider when purchasing an air conditioning unit, ensuring you get the most cooling for your energy dollar.

Defining 13 SEER Air Conditioning

A 13 SEER air conditioner is a base model. It meets the previous federal minimum standard for energy efficiency. Typically, these models are single-stage and are cheaper than higher SEER models. They can be an affordable and efficient choice for budget-conscious consumers but do not qualify for a tax rebate in your region.

The new minimum for 2023-2024 will be 14 SEER. Than 15 SEER, until 16 SEER is the required minimum.

Understanding 16 SEER Air Conditioning

In contrast, a 16 SEER air conditioner is a higher-efficiency model. It often includes a 1 or 2-stage system option, where the system will run on a slower speed as long as possible to meet the required temperature set at the thermostat until a time it needs to switch to a second faster speed to keep up with more extreme temperatures. The 2-stage or variable-speed models are far more energy-efficient than other models because they will run at a much lower RPM to reach the desired comfort temperature.

(All ComEd rebates for “Air Conditioners” expires June 30. However, rebates for “Heat Pumps” will continue.)

Understanding 16 SEER Air Conditioning

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Comparing 13 SEER vs. 16 SEER Air Conditioners

Cost Differences

The initial cost of a 16 SEER air conditioner is higher than a 13 SEER model. However, the 16 SEER unit provides long-term savings by reducing energy costs.

The SEER is better calculated by using an “estimated approximate” savings of $7 per SEER per month on energy. So if you’re moving from a 13 SEER to a 16 SEER, you can expect an estimated approximate savings of $21 per month in energy. However, if someone is moving from 13 SEER to 24 SEER, you do the math. It can make a big difference in monthly energy expenses. Then move to an even more efficient 2-stage or variable-stage heat pump, and you’re really saving some cash!

Efficiency Differences

A 16 SEER model is more efficient than a 13 SEER unit. This means that it can cool your home using less energy, leading to lower energy bills. Therefore, if you’re concerned about ongoing costs, a 16 SEER model could be a smart choice.

Impact on the Environment

Given their energy efficiency, 16 SEER air conditioners are better for the environment too. They help reduce your carbon footprint by using less energy. Thus, choosing a 16 SEER unit is not just good for your wallet but also for our planet.

How to Calculate Energy Consumption

The Importance of BTUs

To calculate the cost of running your air conditioner, you must know the number of BTUs or British Thermal Units it produces. (A way of measuring the VOLUME of space/air being heated or cooled in your home.) You then divide this by the SEER rating to get the watts used per hour. This process helps you compare different models accurately and understand their operational costs. Again, estimate an approximate $7 per SEER, so if you’re going from an old 13 SEER to 16 SEER, you should see an estimated $21 p/month on your energy bill.

Regional Considerations for AC Usage

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The cost-effectiveness of a 13 vs.16 SEER model can depend on where you live. In hotter climates, where the AC runs more, a higher SEER model could bring more savings. It’s important to factor in local weather conditions when selecting an AC unit. In warmer climates, it is FAR more valuable to move to a higher-efficient Air Conditioner.

Don’t forget about DE-humidifiers

Most of the heat is held by the humidity. Ever wonder why it feels SO HOT in your bathroom after taking a hot shower? Or why it feels SO HOT in the Atlanta climate, even when its only 80 degrees? Its because of the humidity. Now, what do they say about the heat in Arizona? Its a dry heat! What does that mean? What that means is that it may FEEL like it’s 100 degrees in Atlanta because the humidity is very high, vs it BEING 100 degrees in Arizona with NO humidity.

If you remove 10* humidity from your home with a dehumidifier, it could FEEL 10* cooler. This also means that you can set your comfort temperature higher on your smart thermostat, but it will FEEL cooler because you’re removing the humidity. So it will be a dryer heat. Some clients that understand how to use a dehumidifier have very low air conditioning costs because they are just removing the humidity, and allowing for more of the ambient air temperature to circulate through the space.


No matter if your preference leans towards a 13 SEER, a 16 SEER, or even a 30+ SEER air conditioner, Harmonic HVAC in Crystal Lake is equipped to guide you in making a knowledgeable choice and locating the most suitable air conditioner or heat pump tailored to your needs. Making the right choice can ensure not only optimal comfort but also considerable energy savings.

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