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Changing Efficiency Standards: What You Need To Know For Your Air Conditioner or Heat Pump

Changing Efficiency Standards: What You Need To Know For Your Air Conditioner or Heat Pump
Olivia Minnier
Content Writer

About This Article

Changing HVAC efficiency standards are coming for 2023, and be can be confusing. Here's what you need to know if you’re upgrading your AC or heat pump.

The U.S. Department of Energy is updating the SEER rating for 2023 for split system air conditioners and heat pumps. The new regulations are set to go into effect in January.

At Fire & Ice, in our over a decade in business, we’ve helped customers navigate these kinds of changes before. We constantly monitor our efficiency standards and are here to keep you informed on any rollouts or future changes.

First, before getting into the SEER rating changes, we are going to explain what a SEER rating is.

What is a SEER Rating?

A SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, rating scores the efficiency of a central air conditioner or heat pump.

How Are SEER Ratings Determined?

To calculate SEER ratings, manufacturers divide a system’s cooling output during a typical cooling season by the energy it used. The higher the rating, the more efficient the system can be.

Cooling systems can fall into the following three categories based on SEER:

  • Baseline, or entry-level, efficiency: 13-16 SEER
  • Mid-efficiency: 16-18 SEER
  • High efficiency: 20+ SEER

New Efficiency Requirements Coming in 2023

The new DOE requirements are separated by region, but in the Northern region, which includes Ohio, split air conditioners will need to be 14 SEER instead of 13 SEER.

Additionally, HVAC manufacturers will have a new testing procedure for developing efficiency ratings called M1. Compared to the currently used procedure, called M, external static pressure will be used when testing to help adjust efficiency ratings and make them more effective.

The M1 requirements will reduce the ending efficiency rating; additional terms will be added to units, including; SEER2, EER2, and HSPF2.

The new SEER2 ratings will be lower, and the minimum efficiencies will be reduced to account for the increased difficulty in testing compared to SEER-rated machines on the same system.

“The North region’s 14.0 SEER minimum efficiency under the current test procedure will become a 13.4 SEER2 under the new test procedure,” according to Carrier.

This new testing will cause new products to be released and updated to meet the standards.

All over the country, the minimum efficiency for a split system HP will be 15 SEER, and 14.3 for SEER2, an SPP AC, and a gas-electric system will have to be 14 SEER, and 13.4 for SEER2 and a dual fuel heat pump and an SPP heat pump will have to be 14 SEER and 3.4 for SEER2.

What’s the Difference Between SEER And EER?

Manufacturers use SEER ratings for central air conditioners and heat pumps.

An Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) rating measures the efficiency of room air conditioners, usually smaller, window-mounted air conditioners.

To calculate an EER rating, manufacturers divide a system's cooling output by its power input. Like SEER, the higher the EER rating, the more efficient the system can be.

EER ratings are more constant because they don’t factor in a range of seasonal temperatures like SEER ratings do.

Of the two, SEER ratings are used more frequently to score efficiency.

How Do I Find the SEER of My Current System?

You can find the SEER of your current system by looking up your model on the manufacturer's website or in your manual if you can locate it. You can also contact the contractor who installed the unit, and they should be able to tell you that information as well. To look up your unit, the make and model information should be on the outside of your AC’s condenser or the outside of the heat pump.

But how will these efficiency ratings impact what you currently are using?

How Do These Changes Impact My Current System?

These don’t impact your current system unless you are looking to replace that system in 2023 or after. If you need to upgrade your system to a higher SEER, it will positively impact you and your home.

How Does SEER Impact my Utility Bills?

The SEER rating will positively impact your home by decreasing your energy bills. The higher SEER rating, if you need to upgrade, will result in better efficiency, and the unit will likely not have to work as hard to keep your home comfortable.

What is a Split System AC?

A split system AC is also called a ductless mini-split and is the most efficient option if you want to upgrade your home HVAC options.

How is a Split System AC Different from Traditional Central Air?

A ductless system allows you to fully customize your cooling to specific areas of your home or “zones” that you wouldn’t have with a traditional HVAC system.

They are hyper-efficient heating and cooling units that can control the temperature in hard-to-reach areas.

The term “split” refers to the fact that there is still an outdoor and indoor unit as part of the system. This contrasts with a “packaged” system, which has the heating and cooling equipment in a single outdoor unit. And, of course, “mini” refers to the fact that the individual units, or “heads,” are smaller than traditional A/C or furnace equipment.

But how do you know if these are suitable options for your home?

What is a Heat Pump?

In the simplest terms, it is an air conditioner with a reversing valve that automatically switches the unit from producing heat to producing cold.

During the summer, a heat pump squeezes the heat out of the outside air and transfers it to the inside of your home.

If you’re looking at a heat pump, it can look exactly like a simple AC. Unfortunately, without knowing the model or seeing the inner workings, there’s often no way to tell the difference between the two.

In the winter months, the unit’s reversing valve switches, which means the heat pump squeezes the heat out of the outside air and transfers it to the inside of your home.

If it’s an all-electric HVAC system, the heat pump’s warmth can be complemented by heat strips inside the furnace. Heat strips are wire elements in your air handler heated by electricity, which heats the air that flows over them. Heat strips are similar to the inner workings of a toaster. They are pieces of conducting metal that get very hot.

The heat is pushed throughout the ductwork by an air handler or a furnace’s blower, and cool air is sucked into the air handler through return ducts to be warmed.

How are Heat Pumps Affected?

Heat pumps are impacted by the changes because of HSPF, or the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, being upgraded. It does not impact the cooling side of heat pumps, but if you own one and use it for heating, this will impact you when you choose to upgrade.

What are the various types of heat pumps?

1. Single-stage

Entry-level air heat pumps are typically single-stage. This means that they’re either running at 100% capacity or they’re off. While single-stage systems can reliably cool your home, they may struggle with multi-story or large homes. Single-stage air conditioners are going to be the cheapest to purchase and have installed. The good news: A one-stage AC can cool your home adequately, provided it’s appropriately sized and installed correctly.

2. Two-stage

Two-stage heat pumps can run at 100% or at their second stage, generally around 70% of capacity. This allows the heat pump to not work at full blast all the time, saving wear and tear and, ultimately, energy.

Two-stage air conditioners will provide more efficiency compared to single-stage air conditioners.

3. Variable-stage

A variable-speed air conditioner can have up to 700 distinct compressor settings corresponding to varying airflow levels. Variable-speed air conditioners will run the most efficiently. They will generally be the quietest since they often operate as low as 40% of their maximum power capacity. You’re also going to save the most on energy costs and have the most significant degree of control over the temperature in your home. The primary downside is the initial cost. The systems don’t come cheap, even if they essentially make up that cost in the long run.

How Do I Know If a Ductless System or Heat Pump is Right For Me?

This all depends on what you want from your heating and cooling system and how customizable you would like it to be. It also depends on your home, what climate you live in and whether or not you have existing ductwork in your home. If you have existing ductwork that reaches all areas of your home, you could consider a traditional HVAC system replacement.

But if your ductwork does not reach certain areas of your home effectively, you have a larger home or areas such as a garage, a workspace, a four seasons room or a guest home that is not connected to the ductwork, a mini-split, or a heat pump may better suit your needs.

Next Steps to Improve Your Home’s Efficiency

At Fire and Ice, we know changes to requirements can be confusing, especially when you’re looking to upgrade your system. Feel free to call us with any additional questions. If you live in the Columbus, Ohio, area and are looking to take the next step, check to see if you’re in our service area by using the zip code map below.

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