What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) continuously implements rules aimed at reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the newest 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you might wonder how these changes impact new air conditioning systems, energy efficiency and the need to replace your current AC system. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions on this topic.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new rules, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new AC units and heat pumps. These changes are supposed 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) specifying the level of cooling output over a regular 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 amount of heat using a lesser amount of energy. This rating system has been an industry standard since the 1970s, allowing consumers to easily evaluate different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency desires.

Quite a few ACs 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 account for seasonal changes and instead evaluates the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for identifying an air conditioner’s abilities 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 electricity consumed. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating means improved 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 newest ways to assess air conditioning and heat pump efficiency. These brand-new standards give homeowners a more accurate understanding of their energy use when they purchase a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant models also use updated refrigerants with less global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP) compared to previous 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 criteria mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more accurate. They include testing equipment under more practical field conditions, accounting for ductwork and static pressure, which SEER, EER and HSPF ratings don’t consider.

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 stuck to the side of your air conditioning unit or heat pump. You can also search for your system’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Units installed before 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 produced and installed in 2023 or later will have a SEER2 rating.

Note that AC models made before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant models are required from January 1 forward. If a heating and cooling professional breaches these regulations and the DOE disciplines them, they must replace the non-compliant AC unit without charging the homeowner.

Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?

No, the switch to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only places restrictions on newly manufactured and installed HVAC units. There isn’t any legal requirement to replace your current cooling system. However, if you’re planning to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on energy bills and provide you 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 conclude now is the time to replace your current AC system, or you want to keep your current air conditioning 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 find and install a compliant AC or heat pump. We also perform reputable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not looking to replace your system.

When you work with Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, you’re partnering with a service provider that understands your needs. We are fully committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and absolute satisfaction.

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

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