In recent years, the HVAC industry has made considerable improvements in the performance and energy efficiency of its heating and cooling systems. But, in 2023 new regulations have been introduced and they will come into effect soon. These regulations will introduce new eco-minded refrigerant and energy efficiency requirements. These will not have an immediate impact on your home heating and cooling system, but it’s a good idea to understand what you can expect.
New SEER Regulations
There are new Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) regulations to consider. The SEER rating is a measurement of the air conditioner output in relation to the electrical energy that the system consumes. A fuller explanation of the SEER rating is beyond the scope of this article. But, to keep things simple, all you need to know is that higher SEER ratings indicate that the AC system is more energy efficient. HVAC systems with the highest SEER ratings tend to cost more upfront, but they cost less to run and the purchasing costs can be recouped faster. On January 1, 2023, a pair of new SEER changes came into effect and these are applicable to new HVAC systems.
1. Minimum SEER Rating Changes
The first change is that the minimum SEER rating for new HVAC equipment has been raised. Before the change all new AC systems had a minimum SEER rating of 14 in southern states and 13 in northern states. This has been raised to SEER ratings of 15 and 14 respectively.
2. The SEER 2 Standard
The HVAC industry will now adopt a SEER 2 standard which is similar to SEER because it measures the total heat removed from a space and how much energy it uses. But, the testing conditions have been altered to better reflect real world conditions to make testing more accurate. From January 1, 2023, all new HVAC equipment, including heat pumps and air conditioner condensers will have SEER 2 ratings clearly displayed on the packaging. The SEER 2 changes are designed to give the consumer a better estimate of performance vs potential energy usage when they are purchasing new HVAC systems.
New Air Conditioner Refrigerant Regulations
The HVAC industry recently stopped using Freon (R-22) as a refrigerant and they moved to using Puron (R-410) instead. This is because Puron is a lesser threat to human health and the environment and it doesn’t cause ozone layer damage. From 2023 onwards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to require that HVAC manufacturers move to an entirely different class of refrigerants, known as A2L. This will occur by 2025 because A2L has a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) that is lower than alternate refrigerants including Puron. That said, there is a drawback to consider because A2L is mildly flammable. So, all HVAC manufacturers are now designing new systems that can handle A2L safely. This will include technology for transportation and storage too. In the event of a leak, there will be automatic shutoff systems to limit the fire hazard potential.
What are the Pros and Cons of these New HVAC Regulations?
When new regulations are introduced into any industry it’s perfectly normal to be skeptical and suspicious of the motivations behind the changes. But, in this case, these changes seem to have good intentions behind them. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons in more detail. They are:
- The energy bills should be reduced significantly.
- These two changes will have a positive impact on the environment.
- There are some significant technical challenges to overcome.
- It may be harder to source replacement parts for older HVAC systems.
- The initial purchasing costs are likely to rise due to R&D costs.
Heating and cooling systems tend to require a lot of energy to perform as intended. An AC system alone can account for 12% of the annual energy costs. So, any efficiency improvements can have a dramatic impact on utility bills. There are also environmental considerations and using less energy with no loss in performance is always preferable.
What is the Impact of These Changes?
As you can see, the new 2023 HVAC regulations may not have an immediate effect on your life, but over time you will notice the change. A switch to greener and more energy efficient technologies can be difficult, but you may notice a reduction in your energy usage. But, as time passes, you may experience a few negative consequences as your HVAC system ages. A local HVAC dealer may need to overcome certain challenges to obtain inventory to work on older heating and cooling equipment. There may even be problems sourcing the new inventory designed to meet the new regulations too. Routing maintenance and repairs of older equipment may become harder as the HVAC industry phases out the production of compatible components.
Do I Need to Upgrade My HVAC System?
This is a tricky question to answer because every homeowner will have a different set of circumstances to consider. If you have a newer high-efficiency HVAC system that was installed in the last few years, you don’t need to consider an upgrade at this time. It’s likely that the parts for your heating and cooling system will be in production for a few years to come. In this case, the best course of action is to schedule some essential annual HVAC maintenance before the start of each heating and cooling season. This will keep the equipment working at optimal efficiency for longer to maximize the return on your HVAC investment.
If you have an older HVAC system, you may need to consider an upgrade to a new heating and cooling system. The useful lifespan of a well maintained HVAC system is around 15 years. Every year after installation the HVAC system will lose a little efficiency and regular maintenance can offset this loss. But, it cannot be halted entirely and eventually, the system will waste more energy. To compound this problem there may be a loss in performance too and expensive repairs may become more frequent. So, if you have an aging system, it makes good sense to invest in a new high efficiency HVAC system that meets the new requirements.
If you need to schedule some essential maintenance or you’re considering an upgrade, contact your local HVAC specialist.