We’ll cut straight to the point: No, the energy savings alone most likely won’t make purchasing the 17-SEER air conditioner over a 14-SEER worth it.
All other things being equal, a 3-ton, 17-SEER air conditioner will likely save you just $66/year in cooling costs over the same size 14-SEER air conditioner (see our calculations below).
So even with the $300 federal tax credit, the 17-SEER air conditioner is unlikely to pay for the price difference over its lifespan.
So why do we think you should you still consider the more expensive 17-SEER unit? Well, because...
A higher efficiency 17-SEER air conditioner usually comes with 2-stage cooling and a variable-speed fan. These features not only improve the energy efficiency of the unit, but provide better cooling than the 14-SEER AC can provide.
You see, a standard air conditioner has only 2 modes: on and off. But a 2-stage air conditioner with a variable-speed fan can meet your cooling needs about 80% of the time with its lower setting, meaning it will run more often, but at a lower setting and without as many starts and stops.
This has 2 benefits:
Good question, but no. Like a car, an air conditioner costs less to operate when it stops and starts less often. Each time the AC starts up, it costs more because of the greater energy needed to start up.
Plus, when it does run, it’s using only a fraction of the energy a standard AC would.
Read more in our article: Single vs. Two-Stage Air Conditioners
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Now, here’s how we calculated the energy savings of the 17-SEER air conditioner vs. the 14-SEER...
1. Calculate the estimated amount of energy each air conditioner will use annually using this equation:
[(Size of AC system x 12,000) / SEER] x 1500 = amount of Watt-hours used annually
So with 14-SEER and 17-SEER options, we get:
2. Subtract the 17-SEER AC’s annual energy use from the 14-SEER’s.
That’s: 3,857,000-3,176,000=699,000 Watts/hour
3. Convert step 2’s number to kWh by dividing by 1000.
4. Multiply step 3’s number by your electricity rate. In Atlanta, the average electricity rate is around 9.4 cents/kWh.
699 x $.094= $65.71
So, for a 3-ton air conditioner in Atlanta, a 17-SEER unit can save you around $66/year when compared to a 14-SEER unit.
Every energy-saving estimation has some built-in assumptions. Here are ours:
Need a quote or second opinion on a new air conditioner in the Atlanta area, schedule an appointment for a free estimate online now.