As of January 1, 2023, new regulations from the Federal Government are going into effect mandating new minimum efficiency standards that affect all new commercial and residential HVAC systems. These changes are going to increase prices on all new systems by as much as 30%, but it will also increase the energy efficiency, making these systems less costly to run- saving consumers and businesses money on their energy bills.
As part of the efforts to reduce overall energy consumption and make a positive impact on the climate crisis, the new regulations are increasing the minimum efficiency standards for HVAC equipment.
As you know, your home heating and air conditioning energy use have the greatest impact on your monthly energy bills. When we get winter storms or a prolonged heat wave here in Elgin, everyone’s systems work harder, and we all expect to see a jump in our bill the next month as a result.
In general, systems that are more efficient have always cost more, but many people have opted for less efficient systems because they are less costly up front- and replacing a heating and cooling system is a major expense for any home or business. By mandating increased minimum standards, all new systems will have to be more energy efficient- and that means you’ll use less energy to be comfortable in your home.
This is similar to when the Government increases the CAFE standards for cars, mandating more efficient vehicles. It means when you go to buy a new car, the gas mileage is likely much better on just about every car you look at, and that means you’ll use less gas than you’d use in your old vehicle to get to the same location.
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is a way to measure the energy efficiency of HVAC systems. In a nutshell, SEER is the ratio of the cooling output of an air conditioner over a typical cooling season, divided by the energy it uses in Watt-Hours. A SEER ratio is calculated over an entire cooling season using a constant indoor temperature and a variety of outdoor temperatures ranging from 60 degrees to 100 plus. This is how it simulates a typical season.
The higher the SEER, the less electricity is required for a central A/C unit to do its job. Keep in mind that SEER ratio is a maximum efficiency rating, like the miles per gallon for your car. Say your car gets 28 miles per gallon on the highway. But if you’re stuck in city traffic it’s a lot less efficient. The same goes for your air conditioner. If your SEER ratio is 21, that’s the maximum efficiency and it could be lower depending on conditions.
The main difference between SEER and SEER2 is the testing conditions for each rating system. These differences may seem minimal, but they still produce different data values and warrant a new rating system that aligns more closely with ongoing efforts to reduce overall energy consumption in the United States.
First, the basics. DOE raised the total external static pressure testing conditions for SEER2. These pressure conditions were raised to make the test conditions more like those a typical ducted system would actually see in a typical residential setting.
SEER testing conditions did not properly account for the influence of ductwork on external static pressure, so under SEER protocols, the external static test pressure was often not high enough to replicate real-world applications.
Since the goal of testing is to represent typical real-world conditions, DOE determined that SEER2’s minimum static pressure requirement is more likely to represent actual conditions — which is why the updates were mad.
The Department of Energy has changed this system to a new measurement scale called SEER 2- but for most people, all you need to know is that previous systems could have efficiency ratings as low as 13, but that has been increased to 14 for all new systems in the North region, which includes us here in Illinois. In the Southeast, systems have to meet a SEER rating of 15 for both air conditioners and heat pumps.
Likewise, new heat pump systems will have to increase their heating efficiency as well. This is measured by a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), increasing the minimum efficiency to 8.2 under the old measurement system.
The new SEER 2 and HSPF2 standards measure efficiency a little differently, and have slightly different numbers, with a 14.3 SEER2 and a 7.5 HSPF2 minimum efficiency rating.
Different parts of the US have different climates, so how often you use your heating and A/C depends on the weather. However, together, the net impact of all those individual heaters and AC units has a big impact on energy use and the environment. The regulations are regionalized so that the standards are higher in the parts of the country where Air Conditioning is used most frequently, but are a little less strict in areas like ours where it doesn’t get as hot.
The Department of Energy has divided the US up into three regions- North, Southeast and Southwest, with slightly different efficiency standards mandated in each region. Here in Illinois, we are part of the North region, and all systems manufactured after January 1, 2023 and installed will have to meet the new, higher standards of 14 SEER for Air conditioning unit and 15 SEER for all split heat pump units, regardless of where they are located.
If you need a new heating or air conditioning system, the good news is that you’ll still have a lot of systems to choose from, and even the least expensive options will be more efficient, and use less energy than before. But because of the increased efficiency and testing needed, these systems will likely be more expensive up front than they were in 2022. The trade off is that you will be using less energy to heat and cool your home, so your monthly energy expenditure will be less.
While new systems are going to be more expensive, there are also new tax incentives in place to help make these new systems more affordable. Tax credits and rebates are available to help make upgrading your system more affordable, and you’ll win in the long run, by having a better system that will keep you more comfortable while also using less energy.
Compass Heating and Air Conditioning is an expert when it comes to air conditioning installations in Elgin, IL. We have repaired, serviced, and installed air conditioning systems for years. If you are having trouble with your AC, heating, or any aspect of your home comfort, give us a call at (630) 504-8688, or click on the link below to visit us online.