How Much More Efficient Is A 16 SEER Vs 14 SEER?

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

Finding a new air conditioning system can be a difficult choice and a major financial investment. It’s important to choose one that has high efficiency as this will end up saving you energy and money in the long run. Many homeowners find themselves asking the question: “How much more efficient is a 16 SEER vs. a 14 SEER?”

A 16 SEER unit uses 13% less energy than a 14 SEER unit to produce equal amounts of cooling, making it much more efficient. Using a 16 SEER, your energy savings can total $13 for every $100 you would’ve spent on a 14 SEER. 16 SEER units typically have a two-stage compressor to adapt to changes in your home. But a 14 SEER usually only has one, meaning it needs to run at full speed to cool.

Let’s dive in further to the question of energy efficiency when it comes to how much more efficient is a 16 SEER vs a 14 SEER unit. We’ll also outline all of the differences to help you better understand the differences. Then, you can make an informed decision on what unit is right for your home.

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What Does SEER Mean?

Before we explore and compare the differences between 16 SEER and 14 SEER units, what is SEER? It’s important that you understand what exactly SEER means before you go any further. SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.

More specifically, SEER measures the heat pump cooling and air conditioning efficiency of the unit. To calculate the SEER rating of an HVAC system you need to know the overall amount of cooling it yields in a given season. Then, divide this number by the total amount of electricity required to produce that cooling.

In general, the higher the SEER rating, the greater the energy efficiency of the unit. 16 SEER and 14 SEER are among the most affordable and popular options out there.

16 SEER vs 14 SEER: Energy Efficiency In 14 SEER Units

Nowadays, the federal government requires that all newly constructed air conditioning units must be at least 14 SEER. They’ve established this as the current standard in regards to energy efficiency.

This fact may make you wonder how energy efficient 14 SEER units can be if they’re just considered the baseline. The 14 SEER units of today are actually about 20-30% more energy efficient than the average HVAC units that were sold only fifteen years ago. Older units of the past only had about a 8 or 9 SEER rating, making the minimum of 14 SEER extremely efficient.

If you’re looking to replace an outdated system, installing a 14 SEER unit can be a great option. You would still see a substantial dip in your energy bills.

With plenty of energy saved and their affordable price, 14 SEER units are an ideal replacement for your older HVAC system. However, it is possible to save even more energy and money by purchasing a unit that is even more energy efficient.

16 SEER vs 14 SEER: Energy Savings With 16 SEER Units

While more pricey than their 14 SEER equivalents, installing a 16 SEER unit will provide a major increase in energy efficiency for your home. These types of units are excellent when used in larger homes, as the energy efficiency rate will be greater with use.

16 SEER systems are 13% more efficient than 14 SEER, saving you hundreds of dollars in energy bills over the course of several years. To put things into perspective, by upgrading to a 16 SEER unit, you will save around $13 for every $100 you would have spent to run a 14 SEER system. You can save at least $39.52 per year if you choose a 16 SEER unit instead of 14 SEER.

Exactly how much savings you can expect with a 16 SEER unit will depend on a few factors.

  • The size unit needed for your particular home. For example, an HVAC unit that is 3 tons will use less energy than a larger 5-ton system. With a larger unit, you can expect to spend more money on your energy bills as they are less efficient and cost more money to run. Additionally, oversized units are not recommended as they do not cool down your home gradually and can result in short cycling. Short cycling is a condition that causes rapid start up and shut down and can potentially wreak havoc on your entire system.
  • The amount of cooling you use throughout the year. Homes that are situated in hotter climates and keep their thermostats at a lower temperature will use more cooling. In general, the more cooling that you use in your home, the more money you will spend. However, by upgrading to a 16 SEER unit, you can decrease your energy bills and still adequately cool your home.

How Much More Efficient Is A 16 SEER vs A 14 SEER? Calculating Your Energy Savings

In order to determine how much money you can save with a 14 SEER vs. a 16 SEER AC unit where you reside, you’ll need to know a few things:

  • Your cost of electricity.
  • The size of your air conditioner, or the size that you need.
  • The average number of hours that an AC unit runs where you live.

Let’s break these down even further.

Step One: Find Your Cost Of Electricity

You can find your cost of electricity on the statement for your electricity bill. Or, this information is also available on the website of your particular electricity supplier. On your bill, it may not be displayed as a dollar amount.

Instead, it’ll be shown as part of an equation – the number of kilowatt hours multiplied by the cost of electricity. In other words, 670 kWh (kilowatt hours) at roughly 9.7 cents each equates to $64.92.

Step Two: Determine The Size Of Your Air Conditioner

To find the size of your air conditioner, you need to calculate the amount of cooling it provides. In most cases, you’ll be able to find the size of your AC on a label attached to the back or side, or on the metal tag.

Locate the M/N or Model Number. Depending on the brand, will be a series of numbers and letters with dashes at the top of the label.

It’ll look something like this: 13HPX -036-230-17. The 036 indicates the number of BTUs of heat that the unit removes from your home every hour, under average conditions.

In short, it stands for 36,000 BTUs. Keep in mind that, for central ACs, the code may not have a zero in the front.

You can also typically find this information in the owner’s manual. If you don’t have central AC, you’ll need to have a professional come out and do a load test on your home.

This will determine the size air conditioner that you need. If you only know the size in tons, simply multiply this number by 12,000 to convert to BTUs.

Step Three: Determine The Average Number Of Hours An AC Runs In Your Area

The average number of hours an AC runs will vary widely depending on where you live. For example, air conditioners in Phoenix, AZ run an average of 2,100 hours a year. Whereas, the number is only 200 per year in Kalispell, MT.

For the purposes of this example, we’ll choose a number that sits more in the middle to serve as an “average.” The average number of hours an AC runs in Lynchburg, VA is about 1,050 hours per year. Furthermore, the cost of electricity here averages 11,71 cents per kilowatt hour.

With that said, let’s put it all together to determine the differences in cost between a 14 SEER and 16 SEER unit if you lived in Lynchburg, VA.

Step Four: Calculate How Much More Efficient 16 Seer vs a 14 SEER

The equation for determining the cost difference between a 14 SEER and 16 SEER unit is as follows:

BTUs ÷ SEER x Hours ÷ 1,000 x Electricity Cost = Annual Cost

By dividing by 1,000 at the end, you will obtain the number of kilowatt hours (kWh), as opposed to just hours. This is what we want, as electricity is billed by the kilowatt hour, and 1 kWh hour is equal to 1,000 watt hours.

Using Lynchburg, VA as our example, let’s compare a 14 SEER unit and 16 SEER unit that are each 36,000 BTUs or 3 tons.

14 SEER equation:

  • First:  36,000 BTUs ÷ 14 (SEER) = 2,571
  • Second: 2,571 x 1,050 (hours an AC runs on average per year in Lynchburg, VA) = 2,700,000 watt hours
  • Third: 2,700,000 ÷ 1,000 = 2,700 kWh or kilowatt hours
  • Fourth: 2,700 x 11.71 (cents per kWh) = $316.17 annual cost

Based on the above calculations, it’ll cost you $316.17 annually to run a 14 SEER AC in Lynchburg, VA.

16 SEER equation:

  • First: 36,000 BTUs ÷ 16 (SEER) = 2,571
  • Second: 2,571 x 1,050 (hours an AC runs on average per year in Lynchburg, VA) = 2,700,000 watt hours
  • Third: 2,700,000 ÷ 1,000 = 2,700 kWh or kilowatt hours
  • Fourth: 2,700 x 11.71 (cents per kWh) = $276.65 annual cost

The only difference here is that you are initially dividing the BTUs by 16, instead of 14. Based on these numbers, it’ll cost you $276.65 annually to run a 16 SEER AC in Lynchburg, VA.

Step Five: Compare 14 SEER vs 16 SEER

At this point, all that’s left to do is compare the two calculations to determine which unit saves you more energy. To do this, simply subtract the annual cost for the 16 SEER from the 14 SEER.

Therefore, you’ll save $39.52 per year by opting for a 16 SEER unit over a 14 SEER AC. With that said, is it worth it? That entirely depends on how much extra you will pay for the 16 SEER model and how long you intend to live in your home.

Additional Differences Between 14 SEER vs 16 SEER Systems

Aside from the possible energy savings, there are a number of other feature differences between 16 SEER and 14 SEER units. Keep in mind that these features may vary slightly depending on your particular model. We always recommend verifying the details of the units you’re deciding on before making your final decision.

In most cases, 14 SEER units have a single-stage compressor, instead of a two-stage compressor with 16 SEER units. A two-stage compressor will allow the 16 SEER unit to easily adapt to your home’s conditions. A single-stage compressor will, instead, have to shut off entirely or run at full speed.

In general, a two-stage compressor contributes to the more energy efficiency of the 16 SEER unit. It increases run times, and keeps the temperature in your home more consistent.

The existence of longer run times can help to reduce moisture and humidity in your home. In the summer months, this will increase comfortability and reduce damage caused by mildew or mold.

Lower humidity levels in the home will also allow you to increase the thermostat temperatures by 1 to 2 degrees. This, in turn, will reduce the operating time for your system by 10-20%, further contributing to your energy savings.

In addition to a two-stage compressor, the majority of 16 SEER systems contain two-speed blower motors and condensing fans. Having fans that are two-speed further contributes to the advantages associated with a two-stage compressor. These units typically do not create as much noise as their single-stage compressor, single-speed fans, 14 SEER counterparts.

16 SEER vs 14 SEER: Which Unit Is Best For You and Your Home?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a new HVAC unit for your home. The purchase price is most typically the first consideration and largest concern among homeowners. A 16 SEER unit will likely cost you more to install. However, it can save you a significant amount of money on energy bills down the line and may even end up paying for itself.

Deciding between a 16 SEER and 14 SEER unit will largely depend on your particular heating and cooling needs. For a larger home, you will find great energy savings when siding with a 16 SEER unit.

On the other hand, a 14 SEER unit is typically sufficient enough to service small to medium-sized homes. They are also still an excellent choice for upgrading your older, outdated HVAC system without breaking the bank.

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Wrapping It Up

If efficiency is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong with installing either a 14 SEER or 16 SEER unit. While you can expect about a 13% energy savings with 16 SEER units, either choice will offer plenty of savings on your energy bills when compared to outdated systems of the past.

For more HVAC system tips and tricks, check out “ SpacePak vs. Unico: Which High Velocity HVAC System Is Best?” and “ How Many Return Air Vents Do I Need?

Related Questions

How do newer AC units compare to older models when it comes to efficiency?

Back in the 1970s, air conditioning units were given new standards for efficiency by the United States government. However, the best AC units found on the market today use up to 50 percent less energy than the units that were built decades ago.Because of this, air conditioning systems that are only ten years old are potentially 20 to 40 percent less efficient than the newest models. To ensure that you’re making a good investment and selecting an air conditioning unit that will pay off.

How much does the SEER rating affect the cost of an AC unit?

As mentioned, a 16 SEER unit will cost you more initially than a 14 SEER unit, but exactly how much of a difference is there? On average, to install a 14 SEER AC, you can expect to pay between $3,000 and $,6000. Other things that will determine the cost within this range are the tons, brand, and local labor rates.However, a 16 SEER AC, where all other qualities are comparable, will cost you between $3,700 and $9,000 to install. However, the energy savings, in the long run, would make up for this higher cost in time.Brands that fall toward the higher end of the range are Trane, Lennox, Frigidaire, and American Standard. On the lower end of the price spectrum, you’ll find Coleman, Aire-Flo, Comfortmaker, and Tempstar. Averaging out in the middle are brands like Amana, Bryant, Rheem, and Goodman.

What is the EER rating?

The EER (energy-efficiency ratio) rating is very similar to the SEER rating in that it shows the ratio of the cooling output in relation to the electricity used. The primary difference is the SEER rating calculates the rating over the course of an entire summer season (hence the “S” for seasonal).

Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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