What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly releases new 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 if the changes impact new AC units, energy efficiency and whether they’ll mean you need to replace your existing 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 regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new air conditioning systems and heat pumps. These modifications aim to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, produce more environmentally friendly options and set new standards for refrigerants and testing methods.

How Is Heating and Cooling Efficiency Measured?

All air conditioners and heat pumps have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) indicating 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 unit is, as it can remove the same quantity of heat using less energy. This rating process has been an industry standard since the 1970s, allowing consumers to easily evaluate different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency requirements.

Quite a few air conditioners also earn 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 account for seasonal changes and instead evaluates the unit’s efficiency during peak performance. EER is used for identifying an air conditioning system’s abilities during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested with the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). This ratio determines the total heating required during the heating season (in BTUs) divided by the total watt-hours of energy consumed. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating signifies better energy efficiency. HSPF has been a standard heating efficiency calculation 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 accurate idea of their energy use when they purchase a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant units also use updated refrigerants with less global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP) compared to previously used refrigerants. 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 realistic 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 check is the yellow EnergyGuide label stuck to the side of your AC 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 list a SEER rating. Those produced in 2022 or sooner but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All systems constructed and installed in 2023 or later will have a SEER2 rating.

Know that AC models made before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant systems are required from January 1 onward. If an installer breaches these regulations and the DOE disciplines them, they must replace the non-compliant AC unit without billing the homeowner.

Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?

No, the shift to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only affects newly constructed and installed HVAC units. There is not a legal need to replace your home’s AC unit. Having said that, if you’re planning 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.

No matter if you determine now is the time to replace your home’s AC system, or you want to keep your current system in top shape and going strong, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. We’re well-versed in the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you select and install a compliant air conditioning or heat pump. We also perform reputable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not looking to replace your system.

When you choose Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, you’re partnering with an HVAC company that understands your needs. We are fully committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and utter satisfaction.

Ready 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 assist you every step of the way!

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