What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) continuously implements rules aimed at reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the newest 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 existing 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 regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, cover new AC units and heat pumps. These changes are supposed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, produce 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 have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) specifying the level of cooling output over a regular 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 amount of heat using a lesser amount of energy. This rating process has been an industry standard since the 1970s, allowing consumers to easily assess 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 operation. EER is used for calculating an air conditioner’s operation during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested with 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 power consumed. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating means better energy efficiency. HSPF has been a standard 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 precise idea of their energy use when they purchase a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant designs 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 assessment criteria mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more exact. They involve 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 look is the yellow EnergyGuide label attached to the side of your air conditioner 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.

Systems installed before 2023 will have a SEER rating. Those manufactured in 2022 or earlier 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.

Notice that AC models made before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant units are required from January 1 and afterward. If an installer breaches these regulations and the DOE cites 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 made and installed HVAC units. There is not a legal need to replace your current cooling system. But, if you’re looking to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on electric 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 determine 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 find and install a compliant AC or heat pump. We also perform reputable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not quite ready to replace your system.

When you reach out to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, you’re partnering with an HVAC company that understands your needs. We are dedicated to your comfort, environmental sustainability and absolute satisfaction.

Ready 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!