What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) continuously releases new 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 these changes impact new air conditioning systems, energy efficiency and if they mean you will have to replace your current AC system. Here are the answers to many of the frequently asked questions on the changes.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new guidelines, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new AC units and heat pumps. These modifications 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 get a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) indicating 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 system is, as it can remove the same amount of heat using a lesser amount of energy. This rating system has been an industry standard since the 1970s, enabling consumers to easily assess different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency requirements.

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

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested using 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 electricity consumed. A lot like SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating shows improved energy efficiency. HSPF has been a traditional heating efficiency calculation since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

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

SEER2-compliant units also use updated refrigerants with reduced global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP) compared to refrigerants used in the past. Outdated R-22 (Freon) and R-410A (Puron) will be recovered and sold for repairing 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 testing specifications mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more exact. They entail testing equipment under more realistic 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 check out is the yellow EnergyGuide label attached to the side of your air conditioner or heat pump. You can also check for your unit’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Models installed before 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 come with a SEER2 rating.

Note that air conditioners made before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant systems are required from January 1 onward. If an HVAC company breaks these guidelines 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 affects newly manufactured and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal need to replace your home’s cooling system. Having said that, if you’re planning to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on electric bills and comes with more advanced features, including smart thermostats and zoning.

Partner with Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing For HVAC Service in the U.S.

Regardless if you conclude now is the time to replace your current 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 on top of the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you find and install a compliant air conditioning or heat pump. We also perform dependable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not quite ready to replace your system.

When you work with Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, you’re partnering with a service provider that understands your needs. We are committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and total 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 help you every step of the way!