Since 1992, the Department of Energy (DOE) has revised the testing procedures and required efficiency rating for newly installed HVAC systems twice. In 2023, new DOE regulations will go into effect.
How will these regulations and testing procedures affect Oregon homeowners? The short answer is that HVAC systems manufactured after January 1, 2023, will be more expensive than systems from 2022 or earlier. If a heater or AC replacement has been on your mind lately, now is a good time to schedule an appointment while companies still have 2022 units available.
Keep reading for more details about HVAC efficiency standards and what is changing in 2023.
Table of Contents:
- What is a SEER Rating?
- A Brief History of Energy Efficiency Regulation in the US
- What is the Difference Between SEER and SEER2?
- So how Are Minimum Efficiency Standards Changing in 2023?
- How the New Standards for 2023 Affect Oregon Homeowners
- What Homeowners Need to Know in a Nutshell
What is a SEER Rating?
SEER means Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER number is the ratio of how much energy an air conditioner puts out over a typical season divided by the watt hours it uses.
The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient a system is. This equates to lower utility bills for the home or business owner and a reduction in fossil fuels used to generate electricity.
A Brief History of Energy Efficiency Regulation in the US
Before the early ‘90s, there were no approved and enforced regulations for residential HVAC system efficiency ratings. Inefficient units were sold, installed, or repaired in residential homes and businesses across the United States. HVAC companies could sell and install an outdated or insufficient HVAC system that would cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars annually in energy bills and thousands in repair or replacement of worn-out equipment.
In 1992, the Department of Energy mandated that all newly-installed HVAC systems meet a minimum seasonal energy efficiency (SEER) rating of 10. Simply stated, the higher the SEER number, the more energy-efficient the system.
In 2006, the minimum increased to 13 SEER. 2015 saw another increase, but only for the South and Southwest regions of the United States. Implementing these ratings provides a standard level of energy efficiency, using fewer fossil fuels and providing savings in money through reduced energy costs to businesses and homeowners alike.
January 1, 2023, will see new SEER2 regulations by the Department of Energy. In the northern part of the United States, a 14 SEER will be the minimum. The Southern portion of the United States will require a 15 SEER due to higher energy demands in cooling homes.
Here is a breakdown of the changes in SEER and efficiency standards in the United States over the years:
- 1992: The first minimum efficiency ratings for air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces were enforced by the Department of Energy. All residential central air conditioners must have a minimum SEER Rating of 10.
- 2006: Efficiency standards are updated to require a minimum SEER Rating of 13 for residential systems. The jump from SEER 10 to 13 resulted in a 30% improvement in the energy efficiency of HVAC systems.
- 2015: The DOE develops regional efficiency standards for HVAC systems to accommodate a difference in heating and cooling needs across the Northern, Southeastern, and Southwestern parts of the US. This update also created minimum standards for split systems.
- 2023: SEER2 regulations go into effect, updating testing requirements for manufacturers to measure products’ energy efficiency more accurately. Minimum efficiency standards in 2023 will also increase for all regions.
What is the Difference Between SEER and SEER2?
The Difference Between SEER and SEER2 Comes Down to Testing Procedures
SEER and SEER2 are both measurements of energy efficiency, but the methods used to take those measurements are different.
When measuring SEER ratings, cooling systems receive testing in a controlled environment, with no consideration given for external temperature, pressure, or other factors that could alter the performance of an HVAC unit. With SEER2 measurements, the DOE has updated efficiency testing procedures to represent more realistic conditions.
SEER2 Measurements are More Realistic
With the recent update to efficiency testing, the DOE has developed real-world scenarios to understand and measure how an air conditioning unit really performs.
To understand the latest testing method, you must understand the meaning of external static pressure. External static pressure is the measurement of any resistance in the duct system that the fan works against. A clogged air filter, improperly sized ductwork, or unit coils that are too small for the load or are dirty can all generate resistance.
The SEER2 testing procedures increase an HVAC system’s external static pressure to properly emulate the field conditions of equipment installed in real-world situations and not a laboratory. The result of this is that a system’s SEER2 rating will be less than its SEER rating, but the SEER2 rating will be more accurate.
So how Are Minimum Efficiency Standards Changing in 2023?
As of January 1, 2023, the DOE is enforcing new standards for SEER and introducing SEER2 ratings for energy efficiency. While SEER2 appears to be lower than SEER ratings, it’s important to note that SEER2 testing emulates real-world conditions.
The new DOE standards have different efficiency levels for air conditioners in the southern regions and an increased heating efficiency for heat pumps with an air source. SEER2 will make the old SEER measurement system obsolete.
The 2023 minimum efficiency ratings for new HVAC equipment will increase. The table below shows how minimum requirements in the Northern Region will change from 2015 to 2023.
|Type of HVAC System||2015 SEER||2023 SEER||2023 SEER2|
|Central AC||13.0 SEER||14.0 SEER||13.4 SEER2|
|Split System Heat Pumps||14.0 SEER||15.0 SEER||14.3 SEER2|
|Single Unpackaged Units||14.0 SEER||14.0 SEER
How the New Standards for 2023 Affect Oregon Homeowners
For systems already installed, there is no effect on homeowners in Oregon. You will not have to replace your HVAC systems or perform expensive upgrades. The new standards will affect homeowners needing to replace units after January 1, 2023.
Buying a New HVAC System
Oregon residents can still purchase an HVAC system manufactured before 2023. While these systems won’t meet the latest efficiency standards, they will be less expensive.
If you know you’ll need to purchase a new AC system, take advantage of the potential cost savings that older SEER inventory offers. Just know that HVAC companies will have limited stock – once those 2022 systems are gone, those prices won’t come back.
If you purchase a new air conditioner manufactured after January 1, 2023, that system will adhere to SEER and SEER2 testing and minimum efficiency requirements.
Can I Keep Using My Current AC?
The new 2023 regulations do not legally require any homeowner to purchase a new system if their current unit does not meet minimum SEER requirements. You can also repair your current system if a new HVAC system is not in your budget or plan.
An expert technician can provide an itemized breakdown of costs if you weigh the financials of repairs versus a new system. They can help you decide whether replacing your AC now is more cost-effective than replacing it later.
What Homeowners Need to Know in a Nutshell
For Portland homeowners with current HVAC systems, there is no need to rush into buying a new unit for fear of being fined or otherwise penalized. The 2023 SEER and SEER2 guidelines only apply to equipment manufactured after January 1, 2023.
However, if you have an older heater or air conditioner, you can get a good deal by purchasing a 2022 system while your local HVAC company still has inventory available. Because of the higher efficiency standards, 2023 systems will have a higher price than ones from previous years.
The new regulations ensure that new HVAC systems are higher-quality and more energy efficient, benefitting our natural resources. If you have questions or concerns about your home’s HVAC system and whether it meets the new guidelines, give Central Air a call today.