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Office of Energy Efficiency Links


Personal: Residential


Cooling and Ventilation Equipment – Central Air Conditioners

Energy Efficiency Considerations

Recent improvements in the efficiency of central air conditioners include:

  • more efficient compressors,
  • larger and more effective heat exchanger surfaces,
  • improved refrigerant flow and
  • other features

The energy efficiency of these products is measured by a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and an energy efficiency ratio (EER). The annual cooling efficiency of a central air conditioner is affected by the manufacturer's choice of features and components.

Typical residential air conditioning systems are "split," with a separate indoor evaporator unit in the furnace ducting and an outdoor condenser unit. There are also "single package" systems that have the evaporator and condenser in one unit.

One way to identify the efficiency level of a central air conditioner is to look at the EnerGuide rating found on the back page of manufacturers' brochures. This information on the EnerGuide label is excellent for comparison shopping since the scale shows you at a glance whether the air conditioner is a good energy performer or only average. Select a central air conditioner with as high a SEER as is practical within your budget.

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EnerGuide Rating for Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps


Air conditioner and heat pump (cooling mode) energy efficiency is measured by SEERs (seasonal energy efficiency ratio). The higher the number, the more energy-efficieny the model.

There is an EnerGuide rating for every model, not just the energy efficient ones.

The number on the bottom right shows the highest SEERs available in Canada for this type and category of model

The number on the left under the grey bar indicates the lowest energy efficiency level permitted for sale in Canada for central air conditioners and heat pumps ( cooling mode) in accordance with provincial and federal regulations.

The indicator in the middle tells you the energy efficiency of the model featured in the brochure, compared with the SEER rating of all units available for sale in Canada. In some cases, there may be a range of numbers shown in this box with tow arrows pointing to the rating line. This indicates that there is more than one model or size referenced in the brochure. The range represents the lowest and the highest SEERs rating fr the models featured in the brochure.

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Energy-efficient Products

If you're seeking the most energy-efficient models available you can look for the ENERGY STAR® symbol near the EnerGuide rating on qualified products. The ENERGY STAR symbol means that the product meets the highest energy efficiency levels. ENERGY STAR qualified central air conditioning systems are about 20 percent more efficient than standard models.

To qualify for ENERGY STAR the product must meet or exceed following SEERs and EER levels.

SEER and EER levels for ENERGY STAR

Split system units ≥ 14.5 ≥ 12.0
Single package units ≥ 14.0 ≥ 11.0

Note: Single package units with electric air-conditioning and gas heating cannot qualify for ENERGY STAR in Canada.

Advanced reciprocating, scroll and variable-speed or two-speed compressors, when combined with the current best heat exchangers and controls, permit SEERs as high as 17.0. Central air conditioners with the highest SEERs always use variable-speed or two-speed high-efficiency compressors.

List of manufacturers of ENERGY STAR qualified cooling products

Sizing and installation of central air conditioners

Back to the list of cooling and ventilating equipment

The ENERGY STAR name and the ENERGY STAR symbol are registered trademarks of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and are used with permission.