Explaining 2023 HVAC Regulation Changes to Homeowners

Ellie Brooks

Written By Ellie Brooks

Published 11/03/22
Explaining 2023 HVAC Regulation Changes to Homeowners

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) maintains minimum energy efficiency standards for residential and commercial appliances. Every six years, the agency reevaluates its standards and releases new guidelines that appliance manufacturers, homebuilders, and homeowners must follow.

On January 1, 2023, the DOE’s new HVAC regulations will go into effect. What does this mean for property owners? This article will cover all you need to know about upcoming changes to HVAC regulations and standards.

Why Does the DOE Maintain Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards?

Political efforts to enact energy efficiency standards started in California in the early 1970s. By 1987, Congress passed the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act. In the decades that followed, lawmakers wrote additional pieces legislation, including the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

These policies have codified minimum energy conservation standards for dozens of categories of home appliances and equipment. The result has been marked reductions in energy waste and substantial savings for the government and average American alike. The DOE estimates that American homeowners saved $63 billion in 2015 alone, and the agency anticipates cumulative savings of more than $2 trillion by 2030.

What Standards Does the DOE Use to Rate HVAC Equipment?

The DOE has a few metrics to gauge the efficiency of heating and cooling equipment. Some of these metrics and corresponding regulations vary by region.

  •          Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER): The DOE has a specific method of measuring the energy efficiency of an air conditioner. The EER is the ratio of an air conditioners cooling capacity (in BTUs per hour) relative to its power input (in watts) in a 95°F environment. The DOE requires air conditioners to meet a specific EER rating only in the Southwest, as this location experiences a greater number of hot and dry days relative to the rest of the United States—which means air conditioners work harder and more often.
  •          Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): Air conditioners across the United States must meet a minimum SEER rating. This is a ratio of the total heat removed from an artificially cooled space relative to the total power consumption in a single cooling season. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner.
  •          Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF): The HSPF rating is a measure of heating efficiency that applies to commercial and residential heat pumps. The HSPF rating is determined by comparing the appliance’s total heat output against its total energy consumption during a single heating season.
  •          Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE): The DOE assigns an AFUE rating to furnaces. This is a ratio of total heat output relative to fossil fuel energy consumption in a year. For example, an AFUE rating of 95% means that 95% percent of the fuel’s potential energy is converted to heat to warm a home or commercial building.

Recently, the DOE has changed how it tests air conditioners, heat pumps, and other HVAC equipment. These revised testing procedures have necessitated a new generation of efficiency ratings, which the DOE has dubbed SEER2, EER2, and HSPF2. Because the DOE’s new testing methods are more stringent—and accurate—SEER2, EER2, and HSPF2 ratings will register a little lower than current SEER, EER, and HSPF ratings for the same appliance.

Homeowners, real estate agents, contractors, and other home professionals concerned with the upcoming 2023 HVAC efficiency standards should be mindful of changes to SEER, EER, and HSPF guidelines as well as the new generation of ratings.

Regional Variations to DOE Heating and Air Conditioning Rules and Regulations

In 2015, the DOE created regional categories to inform home appliance efficiency guidelines. The rationale for this decision is that weather and climate variations affect how dependent people are on heating and cooling equipment. Southern states, for example, have more stringent guidelines for air conditioners than the North.

The DOE is maintaining these regional categories as they roll out the 2023 HVAC regulatory changes. Below is a summary of the current regions.

  •          Southwest: Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico
  •          Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, the U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C.
  •          North: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

DOE Minimum SEER Rating: 2023

Required SEER ratings are increasing across the board. In the North, the minimum rating for HVAC equipment will increase from 13 SEER to 14 SEER (13.4 SEER2). In the South and Southwest, the minimum rating for split unit cooling systems that use less than 45,000 BTU/hour will increase from 14 SEER to 15 SEER (14.3 SEER2). Machines that use more than 45,000 BTU/hour will require a rating of 14.5 SEER (13.8 SEER2).

Across all regions, minimum HSPF ratings will increase from 8.2 to 8.8. Furnaces in all regions will require a rating of 81% AFUE. EER requirements will increase for the Southwest.

What does this mean for homeowners? Existing HVAC equipment is fine. There is no need for the average homeowner to purchase new equipment at the beginning of the new year. But as of January 1, 2023, contractors in the South and Southwest may install only HVAC equipment that is compliant with the updated regulations. In the North, contractors can continue to install equipment that does not meet the new standards—as long as that equipment was manufactured before January 1, 2023.

Protecting Home HVAC Systems

Regardless of the age of your HVAC equipment, a home warranty can keep things running smoothly. If you have home systems coverage through Liberty Home Guard, we’ll ensure that unforeseen malfunctions are resolved swiftly and efficiently—and you’ll save a whole lot of money in the process. Explore our policies by calling (866)-432-1283. You can also get a free quote through our website.

 

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