If you’re in the market for a high efficiency air conditioner, you need to know a little bit about the rating scale for energy efficiency to help you discern a good investment from a disastrous one. The efficiency rating for air conditioners is known as the SEER rating. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and it’s the ratio of cooling produced to energy used. A high SEER score means a highly efficient AC unit.

A new AC unit can have SEER ratings anywhere from 13 to 23, while older models generally have a SEER rating of 10 or under. If you invest in a new air conditioning system, you can save anywhere from 10 to 70% on your utility bill. So, should you splurge on a top of the line AC unit or settle for a cheaper model?

Climate, home size and seasonal duration all have a major impact on the air conditioner that’s right for you. If you live in Hawaii, where the weather is perfect year round and trade winds keep homes from getting stuffy, investing in a top of the line SEER rated unit might not get the return on investment you’re hoping for. On the other hand, if you live in the south, where much of the year the weather is hot and humid, paying a higher price up front for your AC unit will be well worth it.

Obviously, when you’re choosing an air conditioner, the higher the SEER rating, the higher the price tag will be. The SEER rating is usually shown on an EnergyGuide sticker attached to the unit. If you’re struggling with whether or not you should splurge initially or save money up front on a unit with a lower SEER rating, consider this. A high efficiency air conditioner will pay for itself several times over in utility savings during its lifetime.

Just how much money can you save by upgrading your air conditioner? Let’s say you owned a 1970’s era air conditioning system with a SEER rating of 8. If you upgrade to a new, efficient model with a SEER rating of 16, you’ll cut your energy bill in half each month. Even if you live in an area with short and mild summers, upgrading your old air conditioner can pay for itself.

If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, or you’re sick of setting aside a chunk of each paycheck to the utility company, consider investing in an energy efficient AC unit. You’ll end up saving money each month by cooling your home more efficiently, keeping you and your wallet comfortable this summer.

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