HVAC industry science has continued to pursue and provide better, safer and more sustainable cooling systems for homes. At the same time, because of their emissions and use of electricity, central air conditioners are federally regulated to limit their impact on energy consumption and the environment.
On January 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) instituted a new change for air conditioners by officially raising their minimum efficiency standards.
What Is SEER & What Are the New Standards?
DOE is required by law to “periodically amend energy conservation standards for certain equipment, but only if the amendments are energy-saving, technologically feasible, and economically justifiable.”
A cooling system’s efficiency is measured by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). Created by DOE and the Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute, SEER uses a number system to identify an air conditioner’s ability to maintain comfortable temperatures while using less energy.
The SEER rating is calculated by dividing the cooling output by the electric energy input in a standard cooling season. The rating indicates how much heat a system is made to remove from your conditioned space during the season. Increasing SEER ratings (numbers) indicate a system’s rising output with a decreasing energy draw.
Before January 1, the minimum rating for cooling systems in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield had been SEER 13 since 2006. As of 2023, the required minimum rating for AC manufacturing, sales and operation is SEER 14.
A homeowner in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora or Plainfield can still use an existing SEER 13 system or install one that was made before 2023, but any unit manufactured after January 1 must meet the updated standards before its sale and installation.
In addition to central air conditioners, the new standards apply to:
heat pumps and furnaces
HVAC parts and components
Understanding SEER vs. SEER2 Testing
Beyond requiring the efficiency improvements, DOE has initiated a new testing procedure called SEER2. The testing provides improved data values and metrics to more accurately determine how an installed HVAC system will perform.
Before the 2023 standards became policy, the SEER testing conditions had overlooked the effect of ductwork on a cooling unit’s external static pressure. This resulted in ratings that were not as accurate as they should have been.
To provide the more-precise information, the revised testing simulates ambient factors such as increased buildup of static pressure caused by a home’s piping systems. All HVAC equipment’s external static pressure–testing conditions are raised by a factor of 5 to be more exact in gauging system efficiency.
Under the new SEER2 testing and rating system, SEER ratings given before January 1, 2023, now have an adjusted number. For example, a unit with a 14 SEER rating in 2022 is rated a 13.4 SEER2 in 2023.
What the New SEER Standards Do for You
As we’ve touched on, because the new SEER system that you install in 2023 or later is more efficient, you will use less energy to run it. While it will cost more than a system made before 2023, it is designed to reduce your electricity bills over the life of ownership. The higher the SEER number, the greater the potential energy savings.
Because the new system is more efficient, it puts less wear on components, meaning they can potentially serve you longer before wearing down and needing replacement.
Other advantages of the new SEER systems include:
reduced carbon emissions
better air distribution
greater comfort at home
possible rebates and tax incentives (ask your accountant)
Once again, if you have a central air conditioner that was installed under the former SEER ratings before January 1, you can continue to use it for cooling your home. You also can choose to have a pre-2023 SEER 13 unit installed, although it will not be as advanced in technology as the new systems.
Another thing to note is that as technology continues to evolve, some refrigerants and components may eventually become obsolete or harder to locate. If you have a system that is getting up in years, and repairs start getting more expensive and parts more difficult to replace, you will be in a optimal position to switch to the new SEER units.
Your Local Resource for SEER Information: Contact Us Today
Air Dynamics supports Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield (IL) with the HVAC service and equipment for keeping cool and comfortable with efficient energy use. If you would like to further discuss the new changes in SEER ratings, or if you find you are getting closer to needing a new system, simply give us a call at (630) 731-1550.