High efficiency is a phrase tossed around plenty in the world of home services. People are often laser-focused on getting appliances labeled as “high-efficiency.” Thankfully, there are government regulations about efficiency that make it easier to identify when a product meets the criteria for improved energy consumption. For electrical products, this is the ENERGY STAR label, which is determined by the US Department of Energy.
But when we talk about high-efficiency air conditioners, we’re referring to appliances that go beyond the ENERGY STAR requirement. For a central AC to receive the ENERGY STAR label, it must have SEER (the standard efficiency rating for air conditioners and heat pumps) of 15 or more. But there are central ACs with SEER up to 25. In general, if an air conditioner has SEER greater than 18, it’s considered “high efficiency.” A standard for many high-efficiency systems is 20–22 SEER.