14-SEER vs. 18-SEER: Is the More Efficient AC Worth the Price?
March 09, 2017
Looking at installing a new air conditioner and stuck wondering if the higher-priced, 18-SEER option is worth the higher price?
Yes, we believe it’s worth it. But not because of the energy savings alone. In fact, you’ll be lucky to break even with energy savings from the 18-SEER (more on that later).
But energy savings is not the real reason we’d recommend the 18-SEER air conditioner anyway. We recommend them because...
More efficient air conditioners = better comfort
An 18 SEER has a couple of features that a 14-SEER AC doesn’t:
These features improve the energy efficiency of the air conditioner and help it reach 18-SEER. But they also improve your home’s comfort.
You see, old air conditioners (and lower-efficiency units like a 14-SEER) only have one speed: on. When they’re not on, they’re off. But that means they turn on and off a lot when the weather is mild.
And that leads to some common problems like:
Uneven cooling. Since the air conditioner doesn’t run long and quickly shuts off, it doesn’t mix the air in your home very well. This leads to uncomfortable hot and cold spots in your house.
Uncomfortable humidity. To remove humidity, your AC needs to run for long periods of time. Shorter cycles with a 14-SEER won’t remove much humidity, leaving your home feeling sticky and uncomfortable.
The 2-stage compressor and variable-speed blower in an 18-SEER system fix these problems. They let the air conditioner work at lower, more efficient speeds up to 80% of the time.
Find out more in our article, Two-Stage vs. Single-Stage Air Conditioners for Florida.
So now that you know the real reason we’d recommend an 18-SEER AC over a 14-SEER, let’s look at what you can expect in terms of energy savings...
Energy savings of 18-SEER vs. 14-SEER
FPL estimates that the energy savings between 14-SEER and 18-SEER is $160/year (assuming both are 3-ton units).
In Southwest Florida, the purchase price difference between 18-SEER air conditioner and the minimum 14-SEER AC is about $2,500 (again, both are 3-ton units).
Assuming you qualify for the $300 federal tax credit with the purchase of the 18-SEER unit, the overall difference is reduced to $2,200.
So a 3-ton, 18-SEER air conditioner would pay for itself around the 14-year mark ($2,200 difference divided by $160/year savings =13.75 years).
But, in our experience, air conditioners in Florida last only 8-12 years. So you’ll get close to breaking even, but won’t save any money over the lifetime of the 18-SEER.
Disclaimer: These are averages for illustration purposes. The actual cost of an air conditioner depends on many factors.
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