What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly enacts rules targeted on reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the newest 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you might wonder if the changes impact new air conditioning systems, energy efficiency and whether they’ll mean you need to replace your current AC system. Here are the answers to many of the frequently asked questions on this topic.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, cover new air conditioners and heat pumps. These updates are supposed 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) specifying the level of cooling output over a typical cooling season (in British thermal units or BTUs) divided by the electricity consumed (in watt-hours). The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the model is, as it can remove the same level of heat using less 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 needs.

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 account for seasonal changes and instead evaluates the unit’s efficiency during peak performance. EER is used for determining an air conditioning system’s abilities during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is measured utilizing 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 shows improved energy efficiency. HSPF has been a standard heating efficiency measurement 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 understanding 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 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 requirements mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more accurate. They include testing equipment under more accurate 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 on 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 before 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 models constructed and installed in 2023 or later will get a SEER2 rating.

Notice that air conditioning systems built 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 breaks these regulations 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 switch to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only affects newly made and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal requirement to replace your existing air conditioner. But, if you’re planning 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.

No matter if you decide 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 well-versed in the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you select and install a compliant air conditioner or heat pump. We also perform quality air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not looking to replace your system.

When you reach out to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, you’re partnering with an HVAC company that understands your needs. We are dedicated to your comfort, environmental sustainability and absolute 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 each step of the way!