What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly implements rules focused on 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 air conditioners, energy efficiency and the need to replace your home’s AC system. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions on the changes.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new guidelines, which took effect on January1, 2023, cover new air conditioning systems and heat pumps. These updates 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 have 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 system is, as it can remove the same amount of heat using a reduced level of energy. This rating system has been an industry standard since the 1970s, enabling consumers to easily analyze different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency desires.

Many 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 evaluates the unit’s efficiency during peak performance. EER is used for identifying an air conditioner’s abilities during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is measured using 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 indicates improved energy efficiency. HSPF has been a traditional heating efficiency metric since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the most recent ways to evaluate AC and heat pump efficiency. These cutting-edge standards give homeowners a more accurate picture of their energy use when they install 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 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 Air conditioning systems.

What Are the New 2023 Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency?

The changes in HVAC system assessment specifications mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more exact. They require 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 conditioner or heat pump. You can also search for your system’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Systems installed earlier than 2023 will show a SEER rating. Those made in 2022 or before but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All models constructed and installed in 2023 or later will have 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 models are required from January 1 forward. If an HVAC company breaks 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 shift to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only impacts newly made and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal necessity to replace your current air conditioner. Having said that, if you’re wanting to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on energy 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 determine now is the time to replace your existing 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 very familiar with the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you pick out and install a compliant air conditioner 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 Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, you’re partnering with a cooling and heating company that understands your needs. We are devoted to your comfort, environmental sustainability and absolute satisfaction.

Eager 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 each and every step of the way!