In the United States, the efficiency of air conditioners is often rated by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) which is defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a trade association, in its 2008 standard AHRI 210/240, Performance Rating of Unitary Air-Conditioning and Air-Source Heat Pump Equipment. A similar standard is the European seasonal energy efficiency ratio (ESEER).
The SEER rating of a unit is the cooling output during a typical cooling-season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. The higher the unit's SEER rating the more energy efficient it is. In the U.S., the SEER is the ratio of cooling in British thermal units (BTUs) to the energy consumed in watt-hours. The coefficient of performance (COP), a more universal unit-less measure of efficiency, is discussed in the following section.
For example, consider a 5000 BTU/h (1465-watt cooling capacity) air-conditioning unit, with a SEER of 10 BTU/(W·h), operating for a total of 1000 hours during an annual cooling season (e.g., 8 hours per day for 125 days).