SEER is useful for comparing one model to another much in the same way that a car's calculate MPG is useful. It's not an accurate prediction of exactly how efficient the system is, but it can tell you which one is more efficient. Also, since SEER is based on a "cooling season", what region you live in will determine how long or short your cooling season is.
Tip – Be careful with change-outs. Ductwork deteriorates and sometimes has to be replaced.  It is only if the ductwork is in fantastic condition that you should get a change-out without ductwork (Remember – the ductwork has already been there for 15-20 years, and now it will be there another 15-20…it has to be in good shape). However, many HVAC installation companies like to push change-outs because the ductwork is the most time consuming part of the job, and a change-out is quick, easy money. Realize that it’s only about 15-20% of the jobs that qualify for a change-out, so be careful.
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