The SEER rating is currently one of the most important metrics when shopping for an air conditioner.
Good SEER ratings guarantee an improved AC performance and are the ultimate sign of energy efficiency. Indeed, the SEER rating alone has a substantial impact on the price of an AC.
So, what does SEER mean in the first place, and why should you care? Also, what’s a “good” SEER rating, and at what point does a SEER rating become bad?
We answer these and many other air conditioner SEER-related questions shortly.
What’s a Mini-Split System?
A mini-split system is a compact heating and air conditioning alternative to conventional ducted systems. This explains why mini splits are often also referred to as ductless heating and cooling systems.
The standard mini-split comprises three main parts, i.e., an outdoor unit known as the condenser or compressor, an indoor unit known as the air handler, and refrigerant lines.
During air conditioning, handlers draw hot air from inside the house, pass it over condenser coils in the compressor unit where heat from the air is transferred to refrigerant/coolant material, then the now-cool air cycles back out of the air handlers back into the house.
Mini Splits are Designed for Convenience and Energy Efficiency
Convenience is achieved through the split design, with the indoor and outdoor units sitting inside and outside the house, respectively. This allows for quieter indoor operation.
It also allows manufacturers to design more aesthetically pleasing indoor components (also known as air handlers) to complement modern décors.
More importantly, it allows for multi-split design systems where one outdoor unit can handle two or more air handlers located in different rooms or zones. It’s a level of convenience most heating and air conditioning systems can’t match.
The high energy-efficiency levels are because the mini-split AC doesn’t burn any fuels (including electricity) to generate cold or warm air. It merely transfers heat. When working as an air conditioner, it transfers heat from inside the house outside.
As a heat pump, it works in reverse, transferring heat from the outside air into the house. This process uses very little electricity compared to other heating and air conditioning methods.
The absence of ductwork further increases energy efficiency. According to the Energy Department, ductwork is responsible for up to 40% of home heating and cooling energy losses. The mini-split system virtually eliminates the air duct system.
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) is one of the most important standards in measuring mini split energy efficiency.
Mini Split’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER)
First defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), the SEER rating of an appliance is a measure of the appliance’s cooling output during the typical cooling season (in BTU), divided by the total electric energy consumed in that period (in watt-hours).
Nearly all air conditioner manufacturers indicate the SEER rating on the energy guide label (the mandatory yellow label on HVAC appliances).
Why It Matters
This is the big question for most people. Does it even matter whether you get a 20 SEER air conditioner or a 13 SEER model? The answer is a big YES.
Let’s assume that you have two air conditioner options – one rated 13 SEER and the other 20 SEER. Both are two-tone (24,000 BTU) air mini-split systems.
We can easily determine the watts consumed per hour by each product. For the 13 SEER AC, total watts/hour = 24,000 BTU per hour/13 = 1,846 watts per hour. For the 20 SEER mini-split, watts/hour = 24,000 BTU per hour/20 = 1,200 watts per hour.
Electricity currently costs about $0.134 per kilowatt-hour in the US, on average. Therefore, for the 13 SEER AC, you’d pay 1,846/1000 x $0.134 = $0.2473/hour while for the 20 SEER model, you’d pay 1,200/1000 x $0.134 = $0.1608/hour.
The average cooling season lasts 125 days every year in the US. Assuming that you expect to run your air conditioner for four hours daily throughout this period, you’d spend 4 x $0.2473 x 125 = $123.65 using the 13 SEER air conditioner and 4 x 125 x $0.1608 = $80.4 using the 20 SEER air conditioner. That’s $123.65 – $80.4 = $43.25 in energy savings every year.
It might seem small until you consider that most mini splits are also used as heat pumps during the heating season. Moreover, saving about $43 yearly for 20 years translates to $860 in energy savings. Not looking little anymore, right?
Mini-split SEER ratings range from 13 in the Northern US and 14 in the Southern US to over 20 SEER for some of the most capable units. Some units are rated as highly as 24 SEER.
Other Factors to Consider When Buying a High SEER Mini Split
Remember that the SEER rating isn’t the only important factor when shopping for a mini-split system. Three other critical factors to consider include;
- Size in BTU: A higher BTU means the AC can serve a larger area. Sizes typically range from 8,000 BTU to over 40,000 BTU.
- Single or multi-zone? Single zone units have a single air handler, thus can only serve one room at a time. Multi-zone mini splits have two or more zones, thus can serve two or more zones at a go.
- Presence of heat pump: Does it have a heat pump for supplementary heating? Although most mini splits do, a few don’t. Also, consider the HSPF rating of the heat pump.
Most Efficient Mini Splits with Highest SEER Ratings
First, though, the following are some of the best high-SEER air conditioners to consider. Although we prioritized the SEER value when picking these products, we’ve also considered other important factors such as performance, features, ease of use, warranty, and above all, price.
1. GREE 9,000 BTU 38-SEER Sapphire Wall Mount Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump
The model SAP09HP230V1A ultra-high efficiency Sapphire smart ductless split system from GREE is one of the most efficient mini-split systems worldwide.
At 38 SEER, it outperforms most household names in the market, offering unparalleled energy efficiency and incredible energy savings. It’s also rated 15 HSPF in heating to keep you warm even when temperatures drop below -22˚F.
It implements GREE’s G-10 inverter technology to reach the desired room temperatures faster and more consistently and relies on the heavy gauge steel construction (for the outdoor unit) for long life or reliable use. The sapphire also features a built-in computer that continuously scans for errors and malfunctions for effortless maintenance and repair.
You’ll also appreciate the built-in Wi-Fi capability as it makes control a breeze. Simply download the GREE+ app on your app store (iOS or Android) and control the temperature levels from the comfort of your sofa. It has up to seven speeds and features polymeric filters for improved air quality. The subtle appearance of the indoor unit allows it to blend into most decors.
The remote control device and wall mount are included. However, you’ll need to purchase the required line set separately. This 9000 BTU mini split is AHRI certified and comes with a 5-year warranty
- Industry-leading 38-SEER rating
- Heating, cooling, dry, and fan modes
- It has Sleep Mode, Privacy Lock, and I-Feel Mode
- Low-voltage startup and intelligent defrost
- Backed by a 5-year warranty
- Line set sold separately
2. PIONEER Air Conditioner WYS018GMFI22RL Wall-Mount Ductless Inverter + Mini Split
The all-in-one model WYS018GMFI22RL PIONEER is another split system with a very high SEER rating. Built with the latest technologies for superior performance, the 18,000 BTU air conditioner, heater, dehumidifier, and ventilator is a 20.8 SEER unit rated 10.0 HSPF.
It uses a variable-speed DC motor for consistent air conditioning and arrives with a customizable length copper line set with flare connections.
A convenient remote controller conveys your command to the indoor unit while automatic air-sweeping louvers, automatically varying airflow, and capacity adjustments keep the room at the optimal comfort level.
It also features a temperature compensation function that eliminates temperature differences between the floor and ceiling and an anti-cold feature that automatically regulates the indoor fan speed from the lowest grade to the setting grade to prevent discomfort.
Other key features of the mini-split include a 1-watt standby mode enabled by the intelligent on-off technology and two-way draining via the air conditioner’s left and right sides. A chassis heating belt fitted on the base plate of the outdoor unit prevents defrosting.
Wireless control via your smartphone, high-density filters, and low noise levels (34.5-45.5dB) round off the list of features. Each purchase is backed by 2-year parts and a 5-year compressor warranty.
- Very efficient at 20.8 SEER, 10 HSPF
- Ideal for up to 650 square feet
- Complete 16-inch installation kit included
- Reliable 2/5-year parts/compressor warranty
- No remote control (on the way)
3. SEVILLE SENL-12CD/220V Mini Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump, 12,000 BTU, 19 SEER
SEVILLE is a well-known name in the air conditioner market, and the model SENL 12CD/220V remains one of their most efficient products to date.
Part of the LETO series, the split unit offers a versatile and affordable solution to cooling and heating and can be used at home or for commercial applications. The built-in heat pump works in conditions as cold as -15˚C/5˚F, making it suitable for most climates.
It’s a 4-in-1 mini split that also functions as a fan and dehumidifier. The DC inverter technology ensures minimal energy consumption, up to 20% lower than standard mini-splits. The high-efficiency ratings, i.e., 19 SEER and 10.5 SEER, should tell you everything you need to know. The heat pump is rated 9.5 HSPF. It moves air at up to 294 CFM (high setting).
At 28 decibels, you’ll agree that it’s one of the quietest mini-split systems. The outdoor unit, meanwhile, is rated 55 decibels. This makes it great for study areas and even bedrooms. The required 16-foot installation kit and communication cables are included. The package also includes copper lines (pre-flared) and a remote control device.
Buyers get a 2-year limited warranty on parts and a 5-year limited warranty on the compressor. However, professional installation is a must for the warranty to remain valid. Free technical and installation support is available.
- Efficient 19 SEER and 9.5 HSPF
- Ideal for up to 750 square feet
- ETL and AHRI certified
- Comprehensive 2-year warranty
- No smart/app control
- Requires 230V wiring
4. BOSCH Climate 50000 High-Efficiency Ultra-Quiet Mini Split Air Conditioner, 12K BTU
The BOSCH Climate 5000 ductless mini split series is an energy-efficient, easy-to-install mini split that’s powerful and easy to maintain. The attractive design is the first thing you’ll notice.
Compact and modern, the indoor component mounts sleekly on the wall and functions silently (at up to 28 dB) for the ultimate convenience. The larger outdoor unit can be easily concealed.
It’s a 12,000 BTU mini-split, ideal for rooms up to 400 square feet. The air conditioner unit continues cooling up to 122˚F while the built-in heat pump performs reliably up to -13˚F. Most heat pumps stop at 5˚F. More impressively, both functions (heating and cooling) consume very little energy, this the high 20.9 SEER and 10.0 HSPF ratings.
A wireless backlit remote allows you to control the speeds and other settings. You’ll be incredibly excited with the Silent mode, timer, follow-me, and turbo speed functions.
Remember not to confuse it with the model 12k BTU-230Volt model. This model runs on standard 115Volt, thus can be plugged directly into the regular power outlet – no wiring is needed.
The 200-306 CFM mini-split arrives with all the necessary components, except the connection line (sold separately). It is Energy Star certified for greater efficiency and comes with 5-year parts and a 7-year compressor warranty.
- The heat pump works up to -13˚F
- Very efficient at 20.9 SEER, 10.0 HSPF
- Remote control with timer included
- Reliable 5/7-year parts/compressor warranty
- Connection line kit sold separately
- Requires professional installation
5. MRCOOL DIY 3rd Gen 23,000 BTU 20-SEER Energy Star Ductless Mini Split AC
Finally, the DIY 3rd Generation 23,000 BTU ductless mini-split heat pump is a Do-It-Yourself mini-split system designed explicitly for people who want to install their mini-split without the help of a professional.
All the installation materials are included as well as a detailed manual that includes step-by-step installation instructions. The manufacturer also offers great customer support in case of any challenges. Doing it yourself has never been easier.
It’s not just the DIY capabilities that stand out about the mini-split, though. This unit is also only one of a few high-SEER split systems with Wi-Fi capability, allowing you to control the device from your smartphone. The app is downloadable (for free) from the Android and iOS app stores. It also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant smart voice control.
You’ll need to call a professional electrician to set up wiring for a 220V circuit. But that’s the only tricky part. The connect lines come pre-charged with R-410A refrigerant up to 25 feet for stress-free installation.
Once up and running, the variable speed DC inverter runs silently (33.5-45 dB) while using very little energy, as evidenced by the 20 SEER and 10 HSPF ratings. It cools down to -5˚F (low ambient temperature).
A reliable 7-year warranty covers the compressor, while the rest of the parts are covered by a separate 5-year warranty. This split system is ideal for spaces up to 1,000 square feet.
- Powerful 23k BTU split system with 4 speeds
- Wi-Fi control on iOS or Android app
- Voice control with Alexa and Google Assistant
- Includes Quiet and Sleep modes
- 5/7-year parts/compressor warranty
- No timer function
- It’s a little loud
Mini Split SEER FAQs
- What’s a Good SEER Rating for Mini-Splits? What’s considered good will depend on your geographical location and cooling needs. For hotter climates in the south, ratings between 16 SEER and 21 SEER are good, while for the cooler north, a 16 SEER to 18 SEER rating is good.
- What is the highest SEER Rating? Unfortunately, it’s not easy to keep track of the highest SEER ratings as new products keep entering the market. However, some of the highest SEER air conditioners currently are rated 33-40 SEER.
- Does a higher SEER cool better? Yes, if other conditions remain constant. A 13 SEER air conditioner, for instance, costs about $43 more to run over a cooling season compared to a 20 SEER model.
- Is there a difference between 14 SEER and 16 SEER? Yes. While they tend to be more expensive than their 14 SEER counterparts, 16 SEER air conditioners are also more energy-efficient, typically using 13% less electricity.
- Is a higher SEER worth it? Although you’re likely to spend more upfront, you’re guaranteed up to $100 in electricity savings each month.
A ductless mini-split system would be a thoughtful acquisition as you think about adding to your home heating and cooling arsenal. These units are powerful, convenient, and exceptionally energy-efficient. Make sure it’s a high SEER model, though. A difference of just 4 SEER guarantees up to $40 in air conditioning savings every year.