The United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) new regulations for residential central air conditioning sold in the United States went into effect on January 1st, 2023. The DOE now requires residential air conditioner systems sold in the Northern United States to have a SEER of 14 or higher; in the Southern United States, new residential air conditioner systems must have a SEER of 15 or higher. These are both increases over the minimum SEER of 13 codified in 2011.
The DOE’s new regulations also require residential air-source heat pumps to have a minimum heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) of 8.8, and additionally affect single packed units, evaporator coils and gas furnaces.
The DOE estimates that its updated regulations will save households between $2.5 and $12.2 billion on energy bills during the three decades following their implementation. But what is SEER, and why would increasing it save homeowners money?
What Is SEER?
SEER stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio.” An air conditioning’s SEER equals its cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric input during the same period. SEER is essentially a measurement of how efficiently an air conditioner converts electricity into cool air, where a higher number is better. For example, a SEER 9 air conditioner consumes 30% more electricity to produce the same result as a SEER 13 air conditioner.
What Is SEER2?
Predictably, SEER2 stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio 2.” It is an updated version of the SEER calculation that includes the M1 test procedure. The SEER2 formula more accurately reflects how an air conditioning system works in the real world where ductwork and external static pressure both bear on its performance.
Because it takes an additional variable into account, the same air conditioning unit does not have identical SEER and SEER2 ratings. For example, if an air conditioner has a SEER of 14, then its SEER2 is 13.4.
Why Is a Higher SEER or SEER2 Better?
The higher an air conditioner’s SEER or SEER2 score, the less electricity it will consume. You will save approximately 7% on electricity costs for every SEER unit an air conditioner has. To put that into proportion, if you were to purchase a 20 SEER air conditioner instead of a 14 SEER model, you could reasonably anticipate saving 42% on your electricity bills. In short, you can realize even greater savings by purchasing an air conditioner which exceeds the DOE’s minimum SEER threshold of 14.
By utilizing less electricity, an air conditioner with a higher SEER or SEER2 rating also reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions. By purchasing a new appliance, you can do your part to help offset the 1,600 tons of carbon dioxide Bill Gates’ private jets emit each year alone (which is about 400 times the average person’s carbon footprint).
Your Air Conditioner’s Refrigerant May Be Obsolete, Too
After the ban on chlorofluorocarbons (aka R-12) was implemented in 1987, Freon (R-22) became the predominant refrigerant used in air conditioners. Freon would ultimately become banned by the Clean Air Act of 2010 for the same reason as its predecessor: It is harmful to the ozone layer. As of January 1st, 2020, Freon was no longer manufactured within or legally imported into the United States.
Puron (R-410A) is now the standard air conditioner refrigerant. The chlorine-free chemical does not deplete the ozone layer once it is released into the atmosphere, and it promotes greater energy efficiency than Freon as well. Unfortunately, Puron also operates at a higher pressure than Freon – the reason why putting Puron into a system that is designed for Freon would cause its parts to rupture.
If your home currently has an air conditioning system with a SEER lower than 14 or which operates on Freon, don’t worry. DOE agents will not knock on your door in the middle of the night and drag you away to an environmental reeducation center. But if you would like to upgrade to a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective air conditioning system, then we welcome you to contact Gilk Plumbing, Heating & A/C today. We provide quality HVAC and plumbing services at homes and commercial properties in Albany, Avon, Cold Spring, Eden Valley, Freeport, Kimball, Lake Henry, Paynesville, Richmond, Rockville, St. Joseph and Watkins, Minnesota!