What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly enacts rules aimed at reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the most recent 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you might wonder how these changes impact new air conditioners, energy efficiency and whether they’ll mean you need to replace your home’s AC system. Here are the answers to many of the frequently asked questions on these new standards.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new guidelines, which took effect on January1, 2023, cover new air conditioning systems and heat pumps. These changes aim to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, create more environmentally friendly options and develop new standards for refrigerants and testing methods.

How Is Heating and Cooling Efficiency Measured?

All air conditioners and heat pumps receive a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) signifying the level of cooling output over a normal cooling season (in British thermal units or BTUs) divided by the electricity consumed (in watt-hours). The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the system is, as it can remove the same level of heat using less energy. This rating process has been an industry standard since the 1970s, empowering consumers to easily compare different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency needs.

Many air conditioners also have an energy efficiency ratio (EER) calculated by dividing the cooling output (BTUs per hour) by the electrical power input (in watts) at a single point in time. Unlike SEER, EER does not factor in seasonal changes and instead evaluates the unit’s efficiency during peak operation. EER is used for identifying an air conditioning system’s operation during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested utilizing the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). This ratio finds the total heating required during the heating season (in BTUs) divided by the total watt-hours of power consumed. Like SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating shows greater energy efficiency. HSPF has been a traditional heating efficiency metric since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the latest ways to determine air conditioning and heat pump efficiency. These brand-new standards give homeowners a more reliable understanding of their energy use when they install a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant designs also use updated refrigerants with less global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP) compared to refrigerants used in the past. Outdated R-22 (Freon) and R-410A (Puron) will be recovered and sold for fixing older units, but they won’t be allowed in new HVAC systems.

What Are the New 2023 Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency?

The changes in HVAC system evaluation specifications mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more precise. They include testing equipment under more practical field conditions, accounting for ductwork and static pressure, which SEER, EER and HSPF ratings don’t factor into calculations.

The new AC and heat pump energy efficiency requirements for 2023:

    • Air conditioners installed in the North: 13.4 SEER2 (14 SEER)
    • Air conditioners installed in the South: 14.3 SEER2 (15 SEER)
    • Air conditioners installed in the Southwest: 14.3 SEER2 (15 SEER) & 11.7 EER2 (12.2 EER)
    • Heat pumps installed nationwide: 14.3 SEER2 (15 SEER) & 7.5 HSPF2 (8.8 HSPF)

How Do I Find My Current HVAC Efficiency Rating?

The first place to look is the yellow EnergyGuide label attached to the side of your air conditioning unit or heat pump. You can also look for your air conditioner or heat pump’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Units installed earlier than 2023 will have a SEER rating. Those made in 2022 or earlier but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All units made and installed in 2023 or later will have a SEER2 rating.

Note that air conditioners manufactured before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant units are required from January 1 onward. If an HVAC company violates these regulations and the DOE punishes them, they must replace the non-compliant AC unit without billing the homeowner.

Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?

No, the change to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only affects newly made and installed HVAC units. There isn’t any legal requirement to replace your current cooling system. However, if you’re looking to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on energy bills and comes with more advanced features, including smart thermostats and zoning.

Partner with Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing For HVAC Service in the U.S.

Whether you determine now is the time to replace your existing AC system, or you want to keep your current air conditioner in top shape and going strong, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. We’re on top of the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you select and install a compliant AC or heat pump. We also perform reputable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not prepared to replace your system.

When you reach out to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, you’re partnering with an HVAC company that understands your needs. We are devoted to your comfort, environmental sustainability and total satisfaction.

Eager to switch to a SEER2-compliant AC? Still have questions? Call Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing at 866-397-3787 today, and we’ll help you every step of the way!

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