What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) frequently enacts rules aimed at reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the latest 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you may wonder if the changes impact new air conditioners, energy efficiency and the need to replace your current AC system. Here are the answers to some 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 aim to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, generate 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 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 unit is, as it can remove the same level of heat using less energy. This rating process has been an industry standard since the 1970s, empowering consumers to easily analyze different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency desires.

Some air conditioners 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 measures the unit’s efficiency during peak performance. EER is used for identifying an air conditioner’s performance during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is judged 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. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating signifies greater 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 most recent ways to assess air conditioner and heat pump efficiency. These brand-new standards give homeowners a more reliable understanding of their energy use when they install 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 cooling 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 precise. They include testing equipment under more practical 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 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.

Units installed earlier than 2023 will list a SEER rating. Those manufactured in 2022 or before but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All models produced and installed in 2023 or later will have a SEER2 rating.

Notice that air conditioners made before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant models are required from January 1 onward. If an installer violates these regulations and the DOE disciplines them, they must replace the non-compliant AC unit free of charge to the homeowner.

Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?

No, the switch to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only impacts newly manufactured and installed HVAC units. There isn’t any legal need to replace your current air conditioner. But, if you’re wanting to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on energy 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.

No matter if you conclude now is the time to replace your home’s 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 well-versed in the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes and testing requirements, so we can help you select and install a compliant air conditioning or heat pump. We also perform reliable 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 devoted to your comfort, environmental sustainability and complete satisfaction.

Ready to switch to a SEER2-compliant AC? Still have questions? Call Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing at 866-397-3787 today, and we’ll help you every single step of the way!