Major changes are in store for the HVAC industry in 2023 that will have a big impact on how much you can expect to pay for a new air conditioner or heat pump and how efficient your new unit will be. One of these changes is the new SEER2 scale that will now be used to measure the energy efficiency of all central cooling units. Today we’re going to look into what SEER2 is and what impact it will have on homeowners.
What Is SEER?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is the scale used to measure the energy efficiency of central air conditioners, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits. In order to calculate SEER, all new units are subjected to rigorous testing to determine how much heat they can remove from a building and how much energy they use under varying temperature and humidity levels. The testing conditions are designed to simulate the different real-world conditions that a cooling unit will operate in throughout the summer, and this helps to calculate the unit’s estimated energy usage over one cooling season.
Once the tests are completed, SEER can then be calculated. This is done by dividing the number of BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat the unit removed by the total kilowatt-hours of energy it consumed. The higher the SEER value is, the more efficient the unit is and the less energy it will use.
SEER vs. SEER2
Beginning on January 1, 2023, all new cooling units must now be tested and measured for energy efficiency using the new SEER2 system. However, all units will list both the SEER and SEER2 ratings for the foreseeable future so as to avoid any possible confusion and also make it easier for consumers to compare the energy efficiency of various air conditioners or heat pumps.
The new SEER2 system slightly tweaks the conditions that the units are tested under. Specifically, the units are tested by running them at a higher static pressure, which means that there is greater resistance to airflow inside the duct system during the tests. This is important as the old SEER scale wasn’t all that accurate since the units were tested at a lower static pressure than what most HVAC systems operate at. The new SEER2 scale is thus designed to more accurately represent real-life conditions and thus more accurately measure energy efficiency.
New Federal Minimum Efficiency Standards
In addition to switching to the new SEER2 scale, the US Department of Energy is also increasing the federal minimum SEER requirements for all new air conditioners and heat pumps. On January 1, 2023, the minimum rating for all new central cooling units installed in Kentucky and the rest of the southern US will be 15 SEER, which is an increase of 1 SEER from the previous standard. The minimum SEER requirement in the northern US is also increasing from 13 to 14 SEER.
What These Changes Mean for You
The new SEER2 testing requirements, combined with the increase in the minimum efficiency requirements, will have a direct impact on consumers. Due to these requirements, the price of all new air conditioners and heat pumps will increase by at least a few hundred dollars and potentially much more depending on the specific brand, size, and model of the unit. Unfortunately, there is really no way to avoid this increase, as it will affect the entire HVAC industry and the whole country.
That being said, there are a few major benefits to these new laws. The change to the SEER2 system is definitely a good thing since it will allow you to more accurately estimate the energy costs for different units. In turn, this lets you compare estimated energy costs and savings versus the cost of different SEER units. This is important as, in many cases, the additional energy savings from a higher SEER unit won’t always offset its higher initial cost.
The biggest benefit of the new energy efficiency requirements is that it means that your cooling bills should decrease once you replace your AC or heat pump, as the new unit will most likely be more energy efficient. This is especially the case if your current unit was installed before 2010, as back then, the minimum requirement was only 10 SEER. Compared to a 10 SEER unit, upgrading to even the most basic 15 SEER unit should reduce your energy costs by around 35%.
If you have any questions about these changes or need any HVAC service in the Richmond area, Affordable Service Solutions Heating & Air Conditioning has you covered. We are a full-service HVAC contractor, and our certified technicians specialize in residential and commercial cooling and heating installation as well as repairs and maintenance. We service and install air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and geothermal HVAC systems, and we also offer indoor air quality services. For more information or to schedule a service appointment, contact us today.