Most of us here in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield (IL) are familiar with the word “inflation”: a rise in prices because of an increase in the volume of money that results in the loss of its value. We’ve read, heard and talked about it, and many of us may also have felt its impact on our finances.
In addition to having excess currency with lesser value in circulation, we’ve had supply-chain issues across the globe, many of which further impact the costs of daily living.
Higher prices have settled into HVAC as well. With spring and summer approaching, if you will be installing or replacing HVAC equipment this year or beyond, the following are some things to know.
What Is SEER & What Are the New Standards?
Effective January 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) raised the minimum efficiency standards for central air conditioners. The new standards require HVAC manufacturers to redesign system components, which has prompted many of them to increase their prices for equipment, parts and supplies.
The price increases concern what is known as the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). Created by DOE and the Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute, SEER rates by number the efficiency of a central air conditioner.
An AC system’s SEER rating is calculated by dividing the cooling output by the electric energy input during a standard cooling season. Higher numbers identify more-efficient cooling systems that draw less energy to run.
DOE applies different efficiency standards for different regions of the U.S. In the northern states, the minimum efficiency standard for central air conditioners had been SEER 13 since 2006. As long as a cooling system carried a SEER 13 rating, it satisfied requirements for manufacturing and operation.
As of January 1, 2023, the minimum SEER rating for new air conditioners has been raised to 14 in the northern states (including in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield). A SEER 13 unit built before January 1 can still be installed, but all systems made after January 1 must meet the new requirements before installation.
DOE also has initiated a new testing procedure called SEER 2. The testing provides better data values and metrics to better determine how an installed HVAC system will perform. With the more-stringent qualifications, what was a 14 SEER under the former testing system would now be rated a 13.4 SEER 2.
The changes in manufacturing and testing call for:
larger air conditioner units and coils, which require more copper, aluminum and steel
more labor in handling the larger equipment
more rail cars or tractor-trailers to transport the larger units
different design of fans and fan coverings in air conditioners
All of these modifications result in extra costs for labor, materials, shipping and handling, and design. As a result, consumers can now expect an average increase of about 15% in the cost of a central air conditioning system.
New HVAC Equipment: When to Replace
It’s good to know about these changes because you’ll want to be prepared if you find yourself needing a costly repair to your existing AC or a full system replacement.
Beyond installing a system for a new home or replacing a failing system in 2023, the following are a few reasons you might consider a unit with a SEER 14 or higher:
Your air conditioner still uses the ozone-depleting refrigerant R-22. Even if your AC is still functioning with R-22, the refrigerant is discontinued and very expensive to acquire if it can even be located.
Your AC is older than 12 years and uses the ozone-friendly refrigerant R-410A (Puron), which is being phase out.
Your AC uses R-410A and is under 12 years old but has a repair that will cost $500 or more.
Benefits in Spite of the HVAC Industry Price Increase
While few people get excited about a rise in equipment costs, especially those that climb into the thousands, the advantages of a better AC system with a higher SEER rating are ultimately worth it in the long run.
A system that is SEER 14 or greater provides:
less energy use and potentially lower utility bills
smaller carbon footprint
better air distribution
greater comfort at home
possible rebates and tax incentives (ask your accountant)
Local Professional HVAC Service: Contact Us Today
Air Dynamics supports Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield (IL) with the information, skill and equipment for comfortable indoor air as well as greater air quality. If you would like to further discuss your air conditioning for spring and summer, including the changes in AC standards and pricing, simply give us a call at (630) 731-1550.