What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly 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 the new rules impact new air conditioning systems, energy efficiency and if they mean you will have to replace your home’s AC system. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions on these new standards.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new AC units and heat pumps. These updates are supposed 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 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 electricity consumed (in watt-hours). The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the model is, as it can remove the same level of heat using a reduced level 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 desires.

Many 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 factor in seasonal changes and instead measures the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for determining an air conditioner’s performance during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is measured using the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). This ratio finds 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 better 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 evaluate air conditioning 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 designs also use updated refrigerants with lower 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 restoring 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 criteria mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more precise. They require testing equipment under more practical 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 on the side of your air conditioning unit 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 sooner but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All models constructed and installed in 2023 or later will come with a SEER2 rating.

Note 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 and afterward. If an HVAC company violates these policies and the DOE punishes them, they must replace the non-compliant AC unit without billing the homeowner.

Do I Need to Replace My Existing HVAC System?

No, the shift to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only affects newly constructed and installed HVAC units. There’s no 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 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.

No matter if you decide now is the time to replace your home’s 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 air conditioning or heat pump. We also perform quality air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not quite ready 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 guide you every single step of the way!