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How Is Energy Efficiency Calculated in AC Units?

Outdoor air conditioner in Cayman Islands home.

If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, you can’t ignore the importance of energy efficiency. 

Energy efficiency plays a huge role in your home comfort and energy bills. Do you struggle to keep comfortable without spending an arm and a leg on electricity? Then, picking the right AC unit will be crucial to your happiness!

Below, we break down everything you need to know about energy efficiency, starting with how it affects your home life and how to calculate it.

What Is Energy Efficiency?

Before we jump into the math, it’s important to start with the basics — and that’s by understanding exactly what energy efficiency is

Simply put, energy efficiency means using less energy to perform the same amount of work and produce the same output. For example, a highly efficient air conditioner will use less electricity to provide the same amount of cool air as an old, outdated air conditioner that works nonstop. As a result, there is no wasted energy!

Using energy-saving products is an easy way to combat climate change and protect our environment. Most electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, like natural gas and coal, which release harmful carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Reducing energy consumption — by way of eliminating energy waste — can help cut down on pollution and improve the air we breathe.

For homeowners, being energy efficient also means cutting down on energy bills! And since air conditioning systems can contribute up to 80% of energy consumption, investing in an energy-efficient air conditioner is a great place to start. Let’s take a look at how energy efficiency is calculated, so you have a better idea of what to look for when you’re ready to purchase a new unit.

How Is Energy Efficiency Calculated?

There are two measurements used to determine an air conditioner’s energy efficiency: EER and SEER. You’ve probably come across both if you’ve been learning how a new air conditioner can help reduce energy costs. What’s the difference between EER and SEER? What does each rating tell you? 

What Is EER?

EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is calculated by dividing the air conditioner’s cooling capacity (measured in British Thermal Units) by the wattage. Here’s another way of looking at it:

EER Rating = Cooling Capacity (in BTU)Power (in Watts)

Example: A 12,000 BTU AC unit that uses 1,000 watts of power has an EER rating of 12. What this tells us is that we get 12 BTU of cooling for every 1W of energy provided.


EER is how energy efficiency is calculated for air conditioners at a single operating temperature, 95°F, meaning it’s a standardized unit of measurement. However, as we all know, temperature tends to fluctuate throughout the season. 

To account for this change in temperature, we use the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) to determine how efficiently an air conditioner will operate in real-world situations. Calculating SEER is more difficult, so you’ll have to trust the number on the Energy Star® label.

The bottom line is this: the higher the EER or SEER rating, the more efficient your air conditioning unit is. 

Looking to Increase Your Energy Savings? Turn to Polar Bear!

There have been great energy-efficiency improvements for air conditioners over the years. Today, the best models have a 22 SEER rating or higher! 

Not every household needs the most efficient AC unit to keep cool — we get it. That’s why Polar Bear carries a wide range of air conditioner makes and models. Whether you’re looking for long-term comfort or cost-effective AC installation, our comfort consultants are available to help you pick the best option for your home!


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