What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) frequently 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 might wonder how these changes impact new air conditioners, energy efficiency and whether they’ll mean you 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 guidelines, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new air conditioners and heat pumps. These updates are designed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, generate more environmentally friendly options and set 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) 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 level 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.

Quite a few air conditioners 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 take into account seasonal changes and instead evaluates the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for identifying an AC unit’s abilities during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is judged using 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. Like SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating signifies improved energy efficiency. HSPF has been a traditional heating efficiency metric since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the latest ways to determine air conditioner and heat pump efficiency. These new standards give homeowners a more precise picture of their energy use when they install a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant designs 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 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 evaluation specifications mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more precise. They require 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 stuck to the side of your AC or heat pump. You can also check for your unit’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Systems installed earlier than 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 units produced and installed in 2023 or later will have a SEER2 rating.

Know that AC models built before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant systems are required from January 1 forward. If an installer violates 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 change to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only places restrictions on newly constructed and installed HVAC units. There is not a legal requirement to replace your home’s air conditioner. However, if you’re wanting to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on electricity 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.

Whether 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 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 an HVAC company that understands your needs. We are fully committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and complete 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 assist you each and every step of the way!