What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly implements 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 the new rules impact new AC units, energy efficiency and the need to replace your current AC system. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions on these new standards.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, cover new AC units and heat pumps. These modifications 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 have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) indicating the level of cooling output in British thermal units or BTUs over a typical cooling season divided by the energy consumed. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the unit is, as it can remove the same quantity of heat using a lesser amount of energy. This rating method 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.

Many air conditioners also receive 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 measures the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for identifying an air conditioning system's operation 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 power consumed. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating indicates improved 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 latest ways to measure AC and heat pump efficiency. These brand-new standards give homeowners a more precise idea of their energy use when they purchase a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant models also use updated refrigerants with lower 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 testing 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 air conditioner 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 attached 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 prior to 2023 will list a SEER rating. Those manufactured in 2022 or sooner but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All units constructed and installed in 2023 or later will get a SEER2 rating.

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

Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?

No, the shift to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only impacts newly made and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal necessity to replace your existing air conditioner. However, if you’re looking 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 Strand Brothers Service Experts For HVAC Service in Austin

Regardless if you decide 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, Strand Brothers Service Experts can help. We’re well-versed in the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you pick out and install a compliant AC or heat pump. We also perform quality air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not quite ready to replace your system.

When you choose Strand Brothers Service Experts, you’re partnering with a service provider that understands your needs. We are devoted to your comfort, environmental sustainability and complete satisfaction.

Eager to switch to a SEER2-compliant AC? Still have questions? Call Strand Brothers Service Experts at 512-592-3072 today, and we’ll help you every single step of the way!

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