The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) New Minimum HVAC Efficiency Requirements
Understanding SEER and EER Ratings
The DOE has issued new efficiency requirements for central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps to reduce energy consumption and combat global warming. These efficiency requirements will go into effect as of January 1, 2023. This means that any central AC or air-source heat pump manufactured after January 1, 2023 must comply with these new standards. This requirement will increase the cost of equipment by a minimum of 20%, but tax credits and rebates will also be available. Those details are still in process.
Under federal law, as mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), air conditioners and heat pumps must have labels that note the system’s energy efficiency rating. These labels are referred to as Energy Guide labels, and the FTC requires them to state the appliance’s estimated annual operating cost and energy consumption. These labels express energy consumption in EER, SEER and HSPF ratings.
EER, SEER and HSPF abbreviations:
- EER: energy efficiency ratio
- SEER: seasonal energy efficiency ratio
- HSPF: heating seasonal performance factor
SEER and HSPF ratings apply to systems manufactured on or after January 1, 2015 and before January 1, 2023. Meanwhile, SEER2 and HSPF2 ratings apply to systems manufactured on or after January 1, 2023. Look for a bright yellow label on your unit to see your current system's ratings.
Note: different states and regions must meet different requirements. Keep reading to learn about the requirements for California and the rest of the Southwest.
SEER, EER and HSPF Requirements in California
California is considered part of the Southwest region. Consequently, it has to meet higher efficiency requirements than most other states in the country (the Southeast is also held to similar higher standards than the Northwest, Midwest, and Northeast).
For example, in California, a split-system AC with a certified cooling capacity of less than 45,000 British Thermal Units per Hour (Btu/hr) must have a minimum SEER2 rating of 14.3 and an EER2 rating of 11.7 or 9.8. Additionally, the minimum EER2 rating in California will depend on whether the system’s SEER2 rating is less than, equal to, or greater than 15.2. This means that a unit with a SEER2 rating of 14.3 must have an EER2 rating of at least 11.7, while a unit with a SEER2 rating of 15.2 only needs an EER2 rating of 9.8.
Understanding the SEER 2 and EER2 rating requirements can be confusing. This is where the experts at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar can help you. As a homeowner, you need to be aware that these regulations are changing and may impact purchasing and installing a new system. When planning your AC replacement or installation, you should work with an HVAC specialist who understands these regulations and can ensure that your new system is compliant.
To view the full explanation of efficiency standards across the US for different types of heating and cooling systems, review the Code of Federal Regulations § 430.32.
Systems Manufactured Before January 1, 2023
In many cases, heating and cooling systems are purchased well before installation, especially in new construction or with large remodeling projects. Furthermore, heating and cooling systems are not always installed simultaneously. For example, it is not uncommon for a home’s furnace to be installed before its air conditioning unit. However, the change in DOE minimum energy efficiency requirements makes the timing of your installation incredibly important.
If you are planning on installing a new HVAC system this year, and your new system does not meet the new requirements, it is important that you arrange to have the system installed before January 1, 2023.
For your system to be grandfathered in and to avoid being held to the new efficiency requirements, any system manufactured before January 1, 2023, must be installed by December 31, 2022. Whether you’re working on a new build or a renovation, we recommend speaking with the contractor managing your project and our HVAC installers to discuss how best to coordinate the installation of your heating and cooling system to ensure that you do not miss this deadline.
Note: some pre-2023 systems will meet the new efficiency requirements and these systems will continue to be sold in 2023, even if they were manufactured in 2022. Check the FTC label and speak with our experts to confirm that you are purchasing a system that meets DOE requirements.
Systems Manufactured After January 1, 2023
HVAC systems manufactured after January 1, 2023 must meet the aforementioned efficiency requirements. While these changes are very good for the environment, it may mean that purchasing a new air conditioner or heat pump will be more costly for consumers. As such, if you know you will need a new air conditioner soon, now may be the best time to purchase and install one.
Signs you may need a new HVAC system soon:
- Your current system is ten or more years old
- You are experiencing frequent repair problems
- You are not satisfied with your current system’s performance
At Valley, we know that these new regulations may be confusing, but our team is well-versed in all aspects of HVAC installation, including these recent updates. We can help you determine if now is a good time to replace your system, or if you can wait.
Have questions about the DOE HVAC efficiency requirement updates? Contact Valley for guidance. We are always here to answer your questions.
2023 EPA Refrigerant Updates
In addition to the changes in HVAC energy efficiency requirements, 2023 will usher in new rules regarding the type of refrigerant used in new air conditioning systems. You may be aware that for years the EPA has been working to phase out several kinds of refrigerants that are known to harm the ozone layer and the environment. R-410a is comprised of two different hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While HFCs, and by extension, R-410a, were preferable to previously used CFCs and HCFCs, they still pose a hazard to the environment and are being phased out.
In 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be phasing out the production and importation of common coolant, R-410a. To learn more about the phase-out of R-410a, review the EPA website here.