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14 vs 16 vs 18 SEER: Which AC Rating Is Best for Your Tucson Home?

We recommend that Arizona homeowners install an AC with a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating of at least 14 or higher.

However, whether you choose a 14-SEER AC or a higher-SEER AC depends on a variety of factors including:

  • Your budget
  • The level of efficiency you’re looking for
  • Your home’s energy efficiency
  • And more …

Because every home and budget is different, the best way to accurately determine which SEER-rating is best for you is to consult with an HVAC professional.

However, before you consult with a tech, you should get an idea of which SEER rating would be best for your home. So, below, we’ll dive into the details of three different SEER ratings (14, 16 and 19) to help you get a better idea of which rating might be best for your home. First, let’s look at what SEER means and why it matters.


Rather have an HVAC professional tell you what SEER rating is best for your new AC installation ASAP?

Contact Advantage Air Mechanical. We have a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a 10-year warranty.

What does SEER mean?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and it measures the energy efficiency of an AC system. It’s calculated by dividing the amount of energy the AC produces by the amount of energy it consumes. Residential ACs can have a SEER rating anywhere from 13 to 22+.

The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient the AC is, which usually means lower monthly energy bills. However, the higher the SEER rating, the more expensive the installation will be upfront.

As a side note, no matter what SEER you go with, it’s a good idea to use some budget to fix any major energy leaks in your home to help get the best performance out of your AC. Even higher-SEER ACs can’t compensate for energy problems like:

  • Leaky ducts
  • Terrible duct design
  • Insulation problems

Luckily, utility companies sometimes offer rebates around fixing leaky ducts and insulation problems, which will help offset the budget usage. We would recommend checking your local utility company’s website for any rebates or discounts.

Now that you know what SEER means, let’s look at which rating you should choose.

Go for a 14-SEER AC if ...

… You have a more flexible budget.

While 16-SEER ACs have a higher upfront cost, they can save you up to 37% per year in energy costs.

16-SEER AC systems are more efficient than 14-SEER systems because they have two-stage technology. Two-stage ACs have two levels of operation: low and high, unlike 14-SEER ACs which are single-stage and can only use one setting. Since two-stage ACs can primarily rely on the low setting to fulfill your cooling needs, they can conserve more energy, reducing your utility bills.

If you can afford the upfront cost and value long-term energy savings, speak to an HVAC professional to see if a 16-SEER AC is the best option for you.

Go for an 18-SEER AC if ...

18-SEER ACs use precise variable-speed technology, allowing the AC to operate at multiple speeds, which can save you approximately 44% a year on energy costs.

If you’re considering an 18-SEER AC system but are concerned about the price, here are a few ways to offset the initial cost:

  • Making sure you’ll be living in your home for 10+ years to benefit from the long-term cost savings.
  • Checking with your local utility companies to see if they offer rebates if you upgrade your AC to an 18-SEER rating.
  • Having your AC maintained at least once a year by an HVAC professional to prolong its lifespan.

Outside of additional cost-savings on monthly energy bills, 18-SEER AC systems are usually equipped with luxury features to improve comfort, like programmable smart thermostats and noise reduction technology.

If you’re interested in getting an 18-SEER AC unit, you should consult with an HVAC professional. The technician can help you decide if the comfort features are worth the higher upfront cost for you.

2023 Update: The New SEER2 Standard

On January 1, 2023, all new air conditioner units must meet the new SEER2 standard. SEER2 provides a more accurate representation of air conditioning equipment performance in real-life scenarios. Unlike SEER testing, which considers relatively low static pressure and neglects duct performance in energy efficiency calculations, SEER2 incorporates higher static pressure to simulate external factors and better reflect real-world conditions during testing. This comprehensive approach ensures a more complete understanding of unit performance.

There are regional variations for your home's AC SEER2 rating. In Tucson, the minimum requirement for an installed air conditioner is 14.3 SEER2.

This regional disparity exists due to the extreme heat experienced in Tucson during summers, leading to higher cooling energy consumption. As a result, homes in the Southwest are subject to stricter efficiency standards compared to those in the Northern states. In some areas with milder summers, minimum ratings might be as low as 13.4 SEER2.

For more information, read our updated blog post on the new SEER2 ratings.

Want SEER advice specific to your home? Contact Advantage Air Mechanical

During our visit, we can help you choose the right SEER rating by reviewing multiple factors, including:

  • Your budget
  • The quality of your home’s ductwork and insulation
  • Your old AC’s SEER rating

Schedule service today or call us at (520) 792-9400.