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New SEER Regulations for DC, MD & VA Residents

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Central air conditioning unit in a residential backyard.

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has raised the minimum efficiency requirements for residential HVAC systems. The updated standards only apply to newly manufactured equipment and do not require you to replace your existing system.

If you’re in the market for a new air conditionerheat pump, or furnace, learn how this year’s higher efficiency ratings will affect you as a resident of Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC.

What Are the New HVAC Standards for 2023?

The DOE’s updated regulations include two significant changes — rating increases and more precise testing metrics.

Efficiency Rating Increases for New HVAC Equipment

  • Air conditioner SEER ratings: An AC unit’s seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) describes how well it uses electricity to transfer heat from your home. The minimum SEER rating for the South, including MD, VA, and DC, is rising from 14 SEER to 15 SEER.
  • Heat pump HSPF ratings: In addition to meeting the new 15 SEER requirement when in cooling mode, new heat pumps must also achieve a higher HSPF rating. The heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) describes how efficiently the system transfers heat in the winter. The minimum rating nationwide is increasing from 8.2 HSPF to 8.8 HSPF.
  • Furnace AFUE ratings: A furnace’s annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) tells how effectively the system converts a fuel source into usable heat for your home. The old standard of 80% AFUE is changing to 81% AFUE.

More Precise Testing Metrics

The DOE is also enacting new testing procedures to determine HVAC efficiency ratings. The goal is to reflect each unit’s rating more accurately in field conditions. This means you’ll see the labels SEER2 and HSPF2 to coincide with the new testing metrics.

This is where it gets confusing. Because the updated test procedures are more stringent, ratings with a “2” after them are lower, even though they reflect the same performance. For instance:

  • The South region’s 15 SEER minimum for air conditioners is now written as 14.3 SEER2.
  • The nation’s 8.8 HSPF minimum for heat pumps is now written as 7.5 HSPF2.

Testing procedures to determine furnace AFUE ratings are not changing.

What if My HVAC System Doesn’t Meet the New HVAC Standards?

Check the yellow and black EnergyGuide sticker attached to the side of your HVAC unit. There, you should see the system’s performance ratings (SEER, HSPF, AFUE, etc.) and the estimated operating costs. Remember, if you install a new unit in 2023 or later, you’ll see SEER2 and HSPF2.

If your AC or heat pump has a SEER rating lower than 15, there’s no need to worry. The new regulations only apply to systems installed after Jan. 1, 2023. To help your existing equipment last as long as possible, be sure to schedule routine maintenance.

If the system is nearing the end of its life span, consider a replacement before it breaks down completely. The upgrade requires an investment, but the new efficiency ratings ensure lower energy bills for the next decade or more.

Install HVAC Equipment Compliant With the 2023 Standards

If you’re ready to replace your heating and cooling system, turn to James A. Wheat & Sons. We’re a fully licensed and insured HVAC company serving Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, since 1978. In preparation for the changing requirements, we have stocked up on the latest HVAC equipment compliant with the updated standards.

Our team has the knowledge, skills, and experience to install your new furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump. We can also keep your equipment running smoothly for years to come with regular maintenance visits.

Call (301) 241-9636 or contact us online for more information about the new efficiency standards or to schedule HVAC services.

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