What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) regularly implements rules focused on reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the latest 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you might wonder if the 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 these new standards.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new regulations, which took effect on January1, 2023, apply to new AC units and heat pumps. These modifications are designed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, produce 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) specifying the level of cooling output over a normal 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 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 needs.

Some ACs also earn 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 measures the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for calculating an AC unit’s performance during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is judged using 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 electricity consumed. Like SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating means 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 newest ways to determine air conditioning and heat pump efficiency. These cutting-edge standards give homeowners a more reliable picture of their energy use when they buy a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant models also use updated refrigerants with reduced 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 restoring older units, but they won’t be allowed in new HVAC 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 accurate. They entail testing equipment under more accurate 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 stuck to the side of your AC or heat pump. You can also check for your system’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

Systems installed before 2023 will list a SEER rating. Those produced in 2022 or before but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All models produced and installed in 2023 or later will get a SEER2 rating.

Know that AC models 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 a heating and cooling professional breaks these regulations 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 switch to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only affects newly constructed and installed HVAC units. There is not a legal need to replace your current cooling system. But, if you’re wanting to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on electric 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 home’s 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 conditioner or heat pump. We also perform quality 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 a cooling and heating company that understands your needs. We are committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and complete satisfaction.

Ready to switch to a SEER2-compliant HVAC unit? Still have questions? Call Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing at 866-397-3787 today, and we’ll guide you each step of the way!