Furnace Efficiencies & AC SEER ratings explained for Overland Park in Kansas City Area

Gas furnaces are given a percentage efficiency rating, this makes them straightforward to understand and calculate savings on.

  • All 80% furnaces are non-condensing, and have a metal flue pipe (chimney). Condensing furnaces are typically rated from 92% -97%, and have a pvc flue pipe and condensate drain line.
  • On an 80 % furnace when you pay $1 worth of gas, 80 cents goes into heating the house, and 20 cents goes out the chimney. If you currently have an 80 % furnace and would like to upgrade to a 96% furnace, we typically charge around $800 more (higher furnace cost +installing new flue pipe).
  • Assuming your gas bill is roughly $100 from November till March, you will save $80 per year, and your additional investment will pay for itself in 10 years.

Understanding SEER ratings and savings

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. SEER can best be understood by comparing it to miles per gallon on a car, except SEER expresses the amount of cooling (BTU’s) per amount of (kilowatt hours). Just like mpg, SEER performance fluctuates.

  • Driving habits, and the kind of road you drive on can have a big impact on fuel economy.
  • Your unique weather, and house, and thermostat habits will affect the efficiency performance your AC actually runs at. Something as simple as the sun shining or a dirty filter can significantly impact the efficiency of your air conditioner.
  • My point because of this fluctuation it is normal for air conditioners to perform at a level that is sometimes well below what they are rated for.

Some salesmen use SEER/savings calculators. There are also SEER/savings calculators available online. The problem with a SEER/savings calculator is that it assumes perfect conditions and perfect equipment performance. In order to determine what SEER rating is best for you, we will calculate some “real life “numbers, and analyze them. When people upgrade to 21 seer systems they typically report a savings of 50-75$ a month on their utility bills. We want to give this ultra high efficiency system a chance to pay for itself, so we will optimistically project $75 a month savings for the 7 months a year the air conditioner is running.75 x 7 =$525 air conditioner savings per year. This AC will not run correctly without its 97% variable speed furnace, so there is another $85 per year that is being saved in the winter, for a total yearly savings of $610. This system has a price tag of about $8000, (equipment +labor), so it will pay for itself in just over 13 years.

  • That is 3 years after the parts warranty on everything except the heat exchanger and compressor have expired. Because of the variable speed compressor and Furnace, ultra high efficiency equipment is more effective at dehumidification, and will also keep a more even consistent temperature throughout your house.
  • Aside from the upfront cost, the other drawback of ultra high efficiency equipment Is the cost of repairs. (no matter how diligent your maintenance program is, eventually all things mechanical will break down). Parts for high efficiency equipment cost more than standard equipment (a lot more).The same $450 repair on standard efficiency equipment will cost $1150 on the high efficiency equipment.
  • If you are upgrading from 8 SEER equipment to 13 SEER equipment your energy savings will be about half of what you would save on a 21 SEER system, but the 13 SEER also costs about half as much: so these 2 systems would actually pay for themselves in about the same amount of time. Of course if you are replacing equipment that is already 13 SEER then this scenario doesn’t hold true.

16 SEER Equipment

Where it gets interesting is 16 SEER equipment. If you consider that an upgrade from 8 SEER to 21 SEER is a 13 point jump. This 13 point jump yields $525 a year in AC savings, then that tells us we can save $40.38 per year for each point we upgrade our air conditioner. Our price to install a 16 SEER system is only about $600 more than a 13 SEER system. This additional $600 investment pays for itself in 5 years. This is the “sweet spot “ in cost vs. efficiency for air conditioners.

Conclusions :

  • If you want to help the environment as much as possible, you should choose the most efficient equipment you can afford.
  • If you are short term budget minded you should choose 13 SEER equipment
  • If you are long term budget minded you should choose 16 SEER equipment

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