What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly implements rules targeted on reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the most recent 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you could wonder how the new rules impact new AC units, energy efficiency and the need to replace your existing AC system. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions on the changes.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, apply to new air conditioners and heat pumps. These updates are designed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, produce 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 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 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.

Some air conditioning units also earn 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 assesses the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for calculating an air conditioning system’s performance during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested 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 power consumed. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating indicates greater energy efficiency. HSPF has been a traditional heating efficiency measurement since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the latest ways to assess AC and heat pump efficiency. These brand-new standards give homeowners a more precise understanding of their energy use when they buy a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant models also use updated refrigerants with reduced 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 restoring 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 evaluation criteria 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 take into consideration.

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 is the yellow EnergyGuide label attached to the side of your air conditioner 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.

Units installed prior to 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.

Know that air conditioning systems made 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 HVAC company breaks these rules and the DOE punishes 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 manufactured and installed HVAC units. There is not a legal need to replace your existing cooling system. But, if you’re looking to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on power bills and provide you with 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 decide now is the time to replace your existing AC system, or you want to keep your current air conditioner 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 pick out and install a compliant air conditioning or heat pump. We also perform quality air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not looking 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 committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and utter 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 guide you each step of the way!