Help, I Don't Understand Air Conditioner Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) Ratings!
What is an energy efficiency rating?
Each air conditioner has an energy efficiency rating that lists how many BTU's per hour are used for each watt of power it draws. For room air conditioners, this rating is the Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER . For central air conditioners, it is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER . These ratings are posted on an Energy Guide Label, which must be attached on a visible place on all new air conditioners. Many portable air conditioner manufacturers are voluntary participants in the EnergyStar labeling program. EnergyStar-labeled appliances mean that they have high EER and SEER ratings.
How is EER calculated?
The EER of an air conditioner is its British Thermal Units (BTU) rating over its wattage. For instance, if a 10,000-BTU air conditioner consumes 900 watts, its EER is 11 (10,000 BTU/900 watts). A higher EER means that the air conditioner is more efficient. However, normally an air conditioner with a higher EER is accompanied by a higher price tag. Click here to see our portable air conditioners.
Is an air conditioner's higher EER rating worth the extra cost?
Let's say that you are given a choice between two 10,000-BTU air conditioners. One has an EER of 8.3 and consumes 1,200 watts, and the other air conditioner has an EER of 10 and consumes 1,000 watts. Let's also say that the price difference is $100. To calculate what the payback period is on the more expensive unit, you need to know:
About how many hours per year the air conditioner will be operating
What the rate of a kilowatt-hour (kWh) is in your area
Let's say that you plan to use the air conditioner in the summer (approximately four months a year, depending on where you live) and it will be operating about 7 hours a day. Let's also say that the cost of a kilowatt-hour in your area is approximately $0.10. The difference in energy consumption between the two units is 200 watts, which means that every five hours the less expensive air conditioner will consume 1 additional kWh (and therefore $0.10 more) than the more expensive unit.
Assuming that there are 30 days in a month, you find that during the summer you are operating the air conditioner:
4 mo. x 30 days/mo. x 7 hr/day = 840 hours
[(840 hrs x 200 watts) / (1000 watts/kW)] x $0.10/kWh = $16.80
Since the more expensive unit costs approximately $100 more, this means that it will take about six years for the more expensive air conditioner to break even.
Are these ratings trustworthy?
Just because the BTU's are stated as high for a specific air conditioner, it is not necessarily true. Some air conditioning manufacturers will exaggerate the BTU's on units to raise the possibility of selling them and others will be more conservative in regards to BTU, which will cause the portable air conditioner EER rating to be lower - so a lower EER may be misleading . It is best not to allow the air conditioner EER rating to be your only criteria for choosing an air conditioning unit. Do the research on whatever unit you are considering for your home, and you will be happier with your purchase.
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