13 SEER vs 16 SEER AC: Which Is Better for Your Portland Home?

In the market for a new air conditioner?

If so, you may have read about SEER ratings, and you’re wondering if you should go with the minimum federal requirement (13 SEER) or buy an AC with a little higher energy efficiency (16 SEER).

Here’s what we recommend to Portland homeowners: In terms of energy savings, there’s not much difference between a 13-SEER and 16-SEER AC in our area. However, if you can afford the slightly higher upfront cost, we recommend choosing a 16-SEER AC because it provides better comfort.

In this blog, we’ll explain:

  • The energy savings of a 13-SEER vs 16-SEER AC

  • One reason to choose a 16-SEER AC over a 13-SEER unit

  • Why you should consult with a professional before you choose your new AC


Want a professional to help you choose an SEER rating for your new AC? Call us at 503-538-1950 or schedule an appointment online to meet with one of our comfort advisors.

Schedule appointment

The energy savings of a 13-SEER vs 16-SEER AC

On paper, you already know a 16-SEER AC is more energy efficient than a 13-SEER unit. But how much will a 16-SEER save you over time?

The truth is, in our area, not much. According to one SEER savings calculator, a 16-SEER AC will only save around $250 over a 15-year period compared to a similarly-sized, 13-SEER unit. The reason the energy savings are relatively low is because we only need to use our air conditioners for around 485 hours (20 days) per year here in Portland.

If you’re interested in more energy savings, you can always consider a higher-SEER air conditioner. For example, according to the same SEER savings calculator, a 22-SEER AC will save around $750 compared to a similarly-sized, 13-SEER unit.

That said, energy savings isn’t the only thing to consider if you’re choosing between a 13-SEER and 16-SEER air conditioner...

One reason to choose a 16-SEER AC over a 13-SEER unit

Many 16-SEER air conditioners come with more advanced technology than 13-SEER units, which allows for better indoor comfort.

For example, most 16-SEER ACs come with a two-stage compressor. The compressor is a major component that circulates refrigerant, the liquid substance that cools your home’s air, throughout the system. The main benefit of a two-stage compressor is that it can run at two speeds: HIGH and LOW. The LOW setting allows the AC to run longer at a slower speed during mild summer days. Longer run-times ultimately lead to more even temperatures and reduced indoor humidity.

On the other hand, many 13-SEER ACs have standard, single-stage compressors, which only have one speed. Because the compressor only runs at one, fixed speed (full blast), a standard 13-SEER AC offers slightly reduced indoor comfort compared to a 16-SEER unit.

That’s not to say that a 13-SEER AC won’t keep you comfortable on a hot day—it just means you may notice some hot/cold spots and slightly higher humidity than you would with a 16-SEER air conditioner.

The bottom line: If better indoor comfort is important to you, you may consider choosing a 16-SEER air conditioner over a 13-SEER unit.

Why you should consult with a professional before you choose your new AC

Before making a final decision on which AC to get, you’ll want to consult with a professional.

A professional can help you accurately estimate the energy savings provided by a particular air conditioner, taking into account factors such as the condition of your ductwork and the insulation levels of your home. This way, you’ll have a realistic idea of how much money you can save with a 16-SEER (or higher) air conditioner.

Additionally, a professional can help you correctly size your new air conditioner, choose a heating system and recommend air quality solutions for your home.

Want a Portland HVAC pro to help you choose an AC?

Schedule appointment

Our comfort advisors can visit your home and help you choose a new air conditioner based on your family’s comfort preferences and budget.

Learn more about what to expect when you hire us by visiting our AC installation service page.


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