What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) continuously enacts rules targeted on reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the most recent 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 the changes.

Why Did the DOE Make HVAC Regulatory Changes?

The new rules, which took effect on January1, 2023, impact new air conditioning systems and heat pumps. These modifications are supposed to standardize and optimize energy efficiency, produce more environmentally friendly options and develop 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) signifying the level of cooling output over a regular 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 unit is, as it can remove the same quantity of heat using less energy. This rating process 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.

Some air conditioners 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 factor in seasonal changes and instead assesses the unit’s efficiency during peak use. EER is used for identifying an AC unit’s operation during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is tested utilizing 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 signifies improved energy efficiency. HSPF has been a common heating efficiency calculation since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the newest ways to evaluate AC and heat pump efficiency. These cutting-edge standards give homeowners a more reliable picture of their energy use when they purchase 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 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 accurate. They entail testing equipment under more realistic 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 conditioning unit or heat pump. You can also look for your system’s make and model on the DOE’s Energy Compliance Certification Database.

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

Know that AC models manufactured before 2023 can only be installed in the Northern U.S. In the South, SEER2-compliant units are required from January 1 forward. If an installer breaches these rules and the DOE disciplines 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 manufactured and installed HVAC units. There is not a legal necessity to replace your current AC unit. Having said that, if you’re wanting to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on energy 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.

No matter if you decide now is the time to replace your current 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 very familiar with 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 dependable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not looking 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 fully committed to your comfort, environmental sustainability and complete satisfaction.

Prepared 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 and every step of the way!