Beginning in 2023, all new residential central air-conditioning and air-source heat pump systems sold in the United States will be required to meet new minimum energy efficiency standards. The most recent minimum energy efficiency standards for these equipment types went into effect in 2015, and for the first time, separate standards were set for cooling central air conditioners sold in the northern parts of the United States and those sold in the southern parts. The new standards continue to set different cooling efficiency levels for air conditioners in the south, and they also require an increase in the heating efficiency of all air-source heat pumps.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975 first gave the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) authority to develop, revise, and implement minimum energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment. EPCA requires DOE to periodically amend energy conservation standards for certain equipment, but only if the amendments are energy-saving, technologically feasible, and economically justifiable.

The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 established the first minimum efficiency requirements for central air-conditioning and heat pump equipment sold in the United States. These standards went into effect in 1992, and later updates went into effect in 2006 and 2015.

The new standards effective in 2023 require a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER)—a measure of a system’s cooling performance—of no less than 14 SEER for residential systems in the northern part of the United States and 15 SEER in the southern part of the United States, where cooling loads are a larger share of home energy use. Higher SEER ratings indicate more energy-efficient equipment.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) estimates that 76 million primary occupied U.S. homes (64% of the total) use central air-conditioning equipment, and about 13 million homes (11%) use heat pumps for heating or cooling. When defining the new standards, DOE calculated that, in total, households using central air conditioners or heat pumps will collectively save $2.5 billion to $12.2 billion on energy bills during the 30-year period following implementation of the standards.

In addition, the new standards require an increase in the heating efficiency of air-source heat pumps—measured by the equipment’s heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). The minimum HSPF will be 8.8 HSPF compared with the 8.2 HSPF required by the current standard that went into effect in 2015.

For more information about AC efficiency, schedule service or request a free estimate on a high efficiency HVAC system.

What is a SEER Rating?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Like EER, it is a measurement of an AC unit’s efficiency. However, as its name suggests, the SEER measures the unit’s efficiency over the course of an entire cooling season.

This is done by measuring the average EER over a range of indoor and outdoor temperatures, and across varying humidity levels, to simulate the run of an entire season. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit is.

What is the Minimum SEER for my Location?

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 regulates standard SEER efficiencies, based on the following:

  • Northern states: Minimum 13 SEER
  • Southern and southeastern states: Minimum 14 SEER
  • Southwestern states:  Minimum 14 SEER

However new SEER standards are set to take effect next year.

What are the New SEER Standards for 2023?

On January 1, 2023, the federal minimum will increase by 1 SEER for all regions, for both AC units and heat pumps. This includes central air conditioners, as well as split systems like ductless mini splits.

Region AC Minimum SEER now AC Minimum SEER by 2023 Heat Pump Min. SEER now Heat Pump Min. SEER by 2023
North 13 14 14 15
South + Southeast 14 15 14 15
Southwest 14 15 14 15

The new standard will be known as SEER2. Apart from AC units and heat pumps, higher ratings will apply to:

  • Single Packaged Units
  • Evaporator Coils
  • Gas Furnaces

What Does SEER2 Mean for Homeowners?

The new standards apply to residential AC units and heat pumps manufactured after December 31, 2022, so existing appliances aren’t covered. However, consumers and contractors looking to install a new air conditioner, heat pump, or any of the appliances mentioned above next year will have to abide by the new minimum SEER2 ratings.

For contractors, there is one important difference to note between regions:

  • Northern states: compliance is determined by manufacturing date
  • Southern states: compliance is determined by installation date

The higher minimums are driven by a new testing standard from the Department of Energy, which takes into account new external static pressure conditions that better reflect real-world conditions.

According to the DOE, the current SEER testing method doesn’t accurately simulate the effect of ductwork and external static pressure on HVAC systems, so it’s less representative of real-world operating conditions.

For more information about AC efficiency, schedule service or request a free estimate on a high efficiency HVAC system.

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