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 most recent 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you might wonder if the changes impact new AC units, energy efficiency and if they mean you will have to replace your existing AC system. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions on these new standards.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new rules, which took effect on January1, 2023, apply to new air conditioners and heat pumps. These updates are designed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, create 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) signifying the level of cooling output over a typical 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 system is, as it can remove the same quantity of heat using a lesser amount of energy. This rating process has been an industry standard since the 1970s, enabling consumers to easily compare different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency desires.

Some ACs also receive 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 use. EER is used for identifying an air conditioning system’s abilities during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is measured with 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 power consumed. Like SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating means 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 most recent ways to measure air conditioner and heat pump efficiency. These new standards give homeowners a more precise picture of their energy use when they purchase 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 Air conditioning systems.

What Are the New 2023 Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency?

The changes in HVAC system evaluation specifications mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more exact. They require testing equipment under more practical 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 attached to the side of your AC or heat pump. You can also check for your air conditioner or heat pump’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Models installed before 2023 will show a SEER rating. Those made in 2022 or before but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All systems constructed and installed in 2023 or later will come with a SEER2 rating.

Know that AC models manufactured 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 installer breaches these regulations and the DOE disciplines 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 isn’t any legal necessity to replace your home’s air conditioner. But, if you’re planning 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 determine now is the time to replace your current AC system, or you want to keep your current air conditioning 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 select and install a compliant AC 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 a service provider that understands your needs. We are committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and complete satisfaction.

Prepared 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 every step of the way!