What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) continuously 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 could wonder how these changes impact new air conditioners, energy efficiency and the need to replace your existing AC system. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions on the changes.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new rules, which took effect on January1, 2023, apply to new AC units and heat pumps. These updates aim 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 get a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) specifying the level of cooling output over a normal cooling season (in British thermal units or BTUs) divided by the power consumed (in watt-hours). The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the model is, as it can remove the same amount of heat using a lesser amount of energy. This rating method has been an industry standard since the 1970s, enabling consumers to easily assess different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency requirements.

Quite a few air conditioning units 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 take into account seasonal changes and instead evaluates the unit’s efficiency during peak performance. EER is used for determining an air conditioner’s abilities during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested with the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). This ratio figures the total heating required during the heating season (in BTUs) divided by the total watt-hours of electricity consumed. A lot like SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating indicates better energy efficiency. HSPF has been a common heating efficiency measurement since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the newest ways to measure AC and heat pump efficiency. These brand-new standards give homeowners a more precise idea of their energy use when they buy 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 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 assessment criteria mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more accurate. They entail 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 out is the yellow EnergyGuide label stuck to the side of your air conditioning unit or heat pump. You can also search for your air conditioner or heat pump’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Models installed earlier than 2023 will show a SEER rating. Those manufactured in 2022 or earlier but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All systems constructed and installed in 2023 or later will get a SEER2 rating.

Know that air conditioning systems 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 breaches these rules 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 change to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only places restrictions on newly constructed and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal necessity to replace your existing cooling system. Having said that, if you’re wanting to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on electric 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.

Regardless if 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 on top of the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you find and install a compliant air conditioner or heat pump. We also perform dependable 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 a cooling and heating company that understands your needs. We are dedicated to your comfort, environmental sustainability and utter satisfaction.

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