The Department of Energy (DOE) frequently 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 could wonder how these changes impact new air conditioning systems, energy efficiency and if they mean you will have to replace your home’s AC system. Here are the answers to many of the frequently asked questions on these new standards.
Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?
The new regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new air conditioning systems and heat pumps. These changes aim to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, create more environmentally friendly options and establish 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 in British thermal units or BTUs over a typical cooling season divided by the power consumed. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the model is, as it can remove the same quantity of heat using a reduced level 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 factor in seasonal changes and instead measures the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for calculating an AC unit's abilities during the hottest days of the year.
Heat pump heating efficiency is measured utilizing 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 energy consumed. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating indicates better energy efficiency. HSPF has been a standard 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 brand-new 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 previously used refrigerants. Outdated R-22 (Freon) and R-410A (Puron) will be recovered and sold for restoring 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 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 consider.
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 is the yellow EnergyGuide label on the side of your air conditioning unit or heat pump. You can also look for your unit’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.
Units installed before 2023 will have a SEER rating. Those produced in 2022 or earlier but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All systems made and installed in 2023 or later will get a SEER2 rating.
Note that air conditioners built before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant systems are required from January 1 and afterward. If an installer breaks these guidelines and the DOE disciplines them, they must replace the non-compliant air conditioning free of charge to the homeowner.
Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?
No, the shift to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only places restrictions on newly manufactured and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal necessity to replace your current cooling system. Having said that, if you’re wanting to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on electricity bills and grant access to more advanced features, including smart thermostats and zoning.
Partner with BW/Cook Service Experts For HVAC Service in Elkhart
Whether you think 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, BW/Cook Service Experts can help. We’re on top of the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you select and install a compliant AC or heat pump. We also perform reliable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not looking to replace your system.
When you choose BW/Cook Service Experts, you’re partnering with a service provider that understands your needs. We are dedicated to your comfort, environmental sustainability and total satisfaction.
Eager to switch to a SEER2-compliant HVAC unit? Still have questions? Call BW/Cook Service Experts at 574-218-6404 today, and we’ll assist you every step of the way!