What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) frequently releases new rules targeted on reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the newest 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you may wonder how these changes impact new AC units, energy efficiency and if they mean you will have to replace your home’s 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 guidelines, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new air conditioning systems and heat pumps. These changes are designed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, generate 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 regular cooling season (in British thermal units or BTUs) divided by the energy 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 less energy. This rating system has been an industry standard since the 1970s, empowering consumers to easily assess different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency requirements.

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 factor in seasonal changes and instead assesses the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for calculating an AC unit’s performance during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is measured with the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). This ratio calculates 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 standard heating efficiency calculation since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the latest ways to measure AC and heat pump efficiency. These new standards give homeowners a more accurate picture of their energy use when they buy a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant units also use updated refrigerants with lower 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 repairing 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 assessment criteria mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more exact. They entail 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 check is the yellow EnergyGuide label on 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 before 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 models produced and installed in 2023 or later will have a SEER2 rating.

Notice that air conditioners built before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant models are required from January 1 forward. If an HVAC company violates these guidelines and the DOE cites them, they must replace the non-compliant AC unit without charging the homeowner.

Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?

No, the shift to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only places restrictions on newly constructed and installed HVAC units. There isn’t any legal requirement to replace your existing air conditioner. But, if you’re looking to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on power bills and grant access to 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 existing 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 very familiar with 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 quite ready 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 committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and complete satisfaction.

Eager 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 every single step of the way!

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