Not all air-conditioning systems are the same. Some systems are cheaper to purchase but require more electricity, resulting in higher utility bills each month. Then, there are high-efficiency units that save on electricity costs, but have a higher initial price. Saving energy is a good idea, but is it worth the higher cost of the unit?

SEER Ratings make the difference if you are looking for a high-efficiency unit. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system will be.

A detailed calculation can be found by downloading the Energy Star cost calculator. (This is really cool, try it)  Plug in your electric rate, which you can find on your bill from SRP or APS, along with the SEER rating and size of the air conditioner units you are considering purchasing.  The spreadsheet automatically calculates the price for each system, the annual utility costs, and how long it will take for the energy savings to pay for your high-efficiency system.

For example, an average home in Phoenix, AZ with a 3-ton A/C unit and an electric rate of $0.12 per Kilowatt-hour would save an estimated $503 annually by purchasing a higher-efficiency 14.5 SEER system, compared to a 13 SEER system. The energy savings more than make up for the difference in purchase price.

The benefits go beyond dollars and cents. The spreadsheet also lists environmental benefits. For example, the typical Phoenix, AZ home which uses a high efficiency system will reduce carbon dioxide pollution by more than 31,000 pounds, or the equivalent of saving three acres of forest.

Considering both the cost savings and the green impact, the high-efficiency air conditioner is a great purchase.

And between us and the fence post, low efficiency systems are being discontinued and sold less and less.  High efficiency and environmentally responsible solutions are quickly becoming the industry standard among the best HVAC contractors.