The U.S. Department of Energy is set to change the minimum energy efficiency requirements for all new cooling equipment beginning in January 2023. As part of these new standards, the DOE has also mandated new testing requirements for central air conditioners, heat pumps, and other AC equipment. Known as SEER2, the new measurement scale is designed to gauge the energy efficiency of AC equipment more accurately under real-life conditions. To help you better understand the implications, let’s take a more in-depth look at SEER2 and what it means for your AC system and energy bills.
Understanding the SEER Scale
Until now, the energy efficiency of all central air conditioners, heat pumps, and ductless mini-split ACs have been measured in SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratios. The SEER system was designed to measure the energy efficiency of cooling equipment by calculating how much total energy the unit would use throughout an entire cooling season.
Before calculating SEER, each AC unit is subjected to rigorous testing to see how much energy it uses in different conditions. The unit is subjected to temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees and various humidity levels. This is done to simulate the typical outdoor conditions the unit would operate in throughout the summer.
By seeing how the system performs and how much energy it uses in these varying conditions, researchers can better judge the total amount of energy the unit would use throughout an average cooling season. This is important as the energy efficiency of an AC unit can vary quite a lot depending on how hot and humid it is outside.
SEER is technically calculated by looking at the total BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat energy the unit can remove from the air and how many watt-hours of energy it consumes. Dividing the BTUs by the watt-hours gives you the unit’s SEER number. However, every unit must first undergo strict testing to calculate these two values accurately.
The Difference Between SEER and SEER2
The new SEER2 system is quite similar to SEER in terms of how it is calculated. The primary difference is how the units will now be tested. Under the new SEER2 testing requirements, the unit will be tested at a higher static pressure level. The purpose of this is to better simulate the actual conditions the unit will experience in the real world.
Static pressure refers to the resistance to airflow inside a ductwork system. It is essential to how well an HVAC system performs and how much energy it uses to circulate air throughout the system. For example, high static pressure makes the blower fan work much harder to circulate air due to the increased resistance. This is a common problem in many homes, and many different issues can cause it. Dirty air filters, clogged vents, improperly designed ductwork, and undersized ducts can all increase static pressure.
Under the old system, units were tested at 0.1 inches of static pressure, which is much lower than what most HVAC systems run at. The new system will test equipment at 0.5 inches of static pressure. While 0.5 inches is generally the ideal amount of static pressure, this is still lower than what most systems run. Nonetheless, by increasing the static pressure during testing, the new SEER2 system should more accurately reflect real-world conditions and thus provide a more precise estimate of energy consumption.
Understanding the New Energy Efficiency Standards
Although the SEER2 requirements don’t go into effect until the start of 2023, AC manufacturers have already begun using the new system. Any equipment installed on or after January 1, 2023, must meet the new SEER2 energy efficiency requirements.
Along with the new SEER2 testing requirements, there will be an increase in the minimum energy efficiency requirements. In the North, the efficiency requirement for all packaged ACs, split ACs, and packaged heat pumps are set to increase to 13.4 SEER2. This is the equivalent of 14 SEER, which means there will be an increase of 1 SEER from the previous standard. For split heat pumps, the new requirement in all parts of the country will be 14.3 SEER2, equivalent to 15 SEER.
The new efficiency standards for split AC systems are slightly more complicated for people living in the Southwest and Southeast. In these regions, the efficiency standard depends on the size of the AC unit. Units that produce more than 45,000 BTUs will now need to be at least 14.3 SEER2 while the efficiency requirement for units under this size will be 13.8 SEER2.
However, the changes won’t affect people in Baltimore or the Northern U.S. until 2024. The reason is that in the Northern U.S., equipment that meets the old energy efficiency standards can still be installed until the end of 2023 as long as the unit was manufactured before the end of 2022. However, in the Southeast and Southwest, any equipment installed after December 31, 2022, must conform to the new standards.
What Does SEER2 Mean for Your AC System?
In practical terms, the new SEER2 standard doesn’t mean all that much to consumers until it comes time for them to replace their current AC unit. That said, if you plan on replacing your AC unit in 2023 or after, your new unit will likely be slightly more energy efficient than the old one.
The new standards mean that all new AC equipment will use at least 7% less energy than the previous minimum requirement. It is important to note that 7% is the difference between the old 13 SEER and the new 14 SEER (13.4 SEER2) requirement. Therefore, if your current AC is already 14 SEER or higher, then you won’t see any energy savings from the new requirements unless you choose to upgrade to a higher SEER unit.
However, if your AC was installed before 2006, then you may see quite a significant decrease in energy costs even if you upgrade to the minimum 14 SEER. This is because up until then, the minimum standard was only 10 SEER. Compared to an old 10 SEER unit, upgrading to a new 14 SEER model should reduce your energy costs by at least 28%. Most likely, your energy savings will be even higher as this number assumes that your old AC unit is functioning at its peak efficiency, which probably isn’t the case since energy efficiency tends to decrease as the unit ages.
Baltimore’s Air Conditioning Experts
At Your Service Heating & Cooling LLC is a local, family-owned company, and we have been providing professional cooling and heating services to residents of Baltimore and the surrounding areas since 2013. We carry a wide selection of highly efficient Trane equipment if you’re looking to upgrade or replace your air conditioner. Our experienced HVAC technicians also specialize in repairing and maintaining all types of cooling equipment from any manufacturer. We also perform residential plumbing services. If you have any questions about the new SEER2 requirements or you need to schedule a service appointment at your home, just give us a call today.