What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) frequently enacts rules focused on reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the latest 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you may wonder how these changes impact new AC units, energy efficiency and whether they’ll mean you need to replace your current AC system. Here are the answers to many of the frequently asked questions on this topic.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new rules, which took effect on January1, 2023, cover new AC units and heat pumps. These modifications are supposed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, create 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 electricity 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 less energy. This rating method has been an industry standard since the 1970s, enabling consumers to easily compare different AC units and choose ones that meet their energy efficiency requirements.

Some air conditioning units 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 determining an AC unit’s performance during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested 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 standard heating efficiency measurement since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

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

SEER2-compliant units 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 fixing 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 criteria mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more precise. They require 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 is the yellow EnergyGuide label attached to the side of your air conditioner or heat pump. You can also search for your unit’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

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

Notice that air conditioners 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 HVAC company breaches these guidelines and the DOE cites 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 affects newly constructed and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal necessity to replace your home’s AC unit. But, 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.

Whether you determine now is the time to replace your existing 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 pick out and install a compliant air conditioning or heat pump. We also perform quality air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not prepared to replace your system.

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