What to Know About the New Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency

The Department of Energy (DOE) frequently releases new rules focused on reducing energy consumption and pollution in the United States. With the newest 2023 HVAC regulatory changes now in effect, you may wonder how the new rules impact new AC units, energy efficiency and the need to replace your home’s AC system. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions on these new standards.

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 changes 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 receive a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) indicating 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 system is, as it can remove the same quantity of heat using a reduced level of energy. This rating method 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 conditioning units also have 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 determining an air conditioning system’s abilities during the hottest days of the year.

Heat pump heating efficiency is judged 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 electricity consumed. Similar to SEER and EER, a higher HSPF rating signifies greater energy efficiency. HSPF has been a traditional heating efficiency measurement since the late 1980s.

How Are SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 Different?

SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are the newest ways to assess air conditioning and heat pump efficiency. These new standards give homeowners a more reliable idea of their energy use when they purchase a particular AC unit or heat pump.

SEER2-compliant designs also use updated refrigerants with less global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP) compared to previously used 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 cooling systems.

What Are the New 2023 Federal Regulations for Energy Efficiency?

The changes in HVAC system evaluation specifications mean SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 are more accurate. They require 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 check is the yellow EnergyGuide label stuck 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.

Units installed earlier than 2023 will have a SEER rating. Those produced in 2022 or before but installed after January 1, 2023, will also have a SEER rating. All models constructed and installed in 2023 or later will have a SEER2 rating.

Notice 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 HVAC company breaks these policies and the DOE punishes 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 change to SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2 only places restrictions on newly made and installed HVAC units. There’s no legal requirement to replace your home’s cooling system. Having said that, if you’re planning to upgrade, meeting the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes will save you money on electricity 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.

Regardless if 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 reliable air conditioning maintenance and repairs if you’re not looking to replace your system.

When you work with 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 utter satisfaction.

Eager 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 every step of the way!