What A SEER Rating Is and How It Impacts Homeowners


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The New SEER Rating Methodology for 2023

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, measures the energy efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. As of January 1st, 2023, HVAC efficiency standards have been updated, with the Department of Energy assigning new minimum SEER ratings for HVAC units and a revised method of measuring energy efficiency. These changes will help to reduce energy consumption, lower energy bills, and minimize environmental impact. These changes are great news for homeowners who are looking to save money on energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint.

By installing a higher SEER-rated HVAC system, homeowners can save 20% or more on their energy bills compared to systems with lower SEER ratings. And with incentives and rebates available for energy-efficient HVAC installations, the cost of upgrading to a system with a higher SEER rating system can be offset, making it an even more attractive option for homeowners.

HVAC companies in the Greater Kansas City area, such as Polestar Plumbing, are a trusted resource for homeowners as they navigate these new regulations and look to purchase an energy-efficient air conditioning system!

What is a SEER Rating?

It’s hard to discuss SEER ratings without first defining what a SEER rating is.

Central air conditioners and heat pumps are tested in a controlled setting to establish the amount of energy that is used to effectively cool a space. In the past, EER, or energy efficiency ratio, was the standard for testing the energy efficiency of a central HVAC system. EER evaluates the wattage used by the unit to cool a space in a set environment. In recent years, the Department of Energy found that the system wasn’t sufficient in evaluating how a central air conditioning unit performs over the cooling season.

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The SEER rating system takes seasonality into consideration, rather than being tested in a static environment, air conditioning systems are rated over a variety of different temperatures to better mimic changes in heat levels throughout a cooling season. However, the Department of Energy found that even this testing didn’t best represent the real-world energy consumption of an air conditioning system, and added testing methods to simulate the pressure changes that occur when blowing air through ductwork. This updated tested methodology has been named SEER2. 

Dividing the United States into three regions (North, South, and Southwest) to account for regional climate differences, the Department of Energy has set different minimum SEER requirements for each region. These changes impact what homeowners can buy and when and it is suggested that homeowners and business owners check with a trusted local HVAC installation specialist in Kansas City when purchasing a new unit. 

Kansas lies in the region that the government has designated to be the “Northern States” and there are fewer restrictions on minimum energy efficiency levels for heat pumps and air conditioners, as there is less overall AC usage in cooler climates. Manufacturers must now produce air conditioning and heat pump systems that fall within the updated minimum requirements, 14 and 13.8 respectively. Units that have already been manufactured can still be sold and installed in homes by a licensed HVAC contractor.

In Southern regions, all newly installed air conditioning or heat pump systems must be rated at the new minimums, 15 SEER and 14.3 SEER respectively. Heat pumps and air conditioners that are rated below the new minimums may not be sold nor installed in states in the Southern region. 

Energy-Efficient Air Conditioners

There are many benefits to choosing an energy-efficient air conditioner for your home or business – reduced energy costs, more reliable cooling, and they’re also better for the environment. Innovations in air conditioning technology, such as variable-speed compressors, advanced heat exchangers, and smart thermostats, have led to the development of systems with higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings.

Prior to January 1st of 2023, air conditioners sold and installed in the United States had to have a minimum SEER rating of 13 or 14 SEER, depending on the region. With the new legislation, the minimums have increased to 14 and 15 SEER2. Some newly manufactured energy-efficient air conditioners, including those with an ENERGY STAR designation, may have a SEER2 rating upwards of 20, and are considered highly energy efficient. It is estimated that air conditioners with a SEER2 rating of 25 can save homeowners up to 50% on energy costs. 

Window units, because they are portable and not connected to a central heating or cooling system, are still rated using the EER rating methodology. There are plenty of energy-efficient wall or window air conditioning units available, but if you’re interested in keeping your home at a consistent temperature and having a more precise measurement of energy efficiency, it’s best to consult with a local HVAC contractor in Kansas City to determine how a central air conditioning system will perform in your home or workspace. 

Energy-Efficient Heat Pumps 

Similar to central air conditioning systems, centralized heat pumps and ductless mini-split systems are subject to the new 2023 HVAC efficiency standards. Manufacturers must use the new testing methodology and update labeling, and retailers and installers must abide by the regional regulations when selling or installing new units.

Additionally, heating units are subject to HSPF2 ratings, which stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. With these 2023 SEER rating and HSPF changes, those looking to purchase a new energy-efficient HVAC system should consult a local heating and cooling specialist to ensure they are choosing a unit that meets minimum ratings and provides the energy savings they’re looking for.

The Benefits of Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems 

An energy-efficient HVAC system equals energy savings, resulting in lower utility bills, less reliance on fossil fuels, and systems that are kinder to the environment. With an easy-to-read numerical measurement system, the SEER rating listed on HVAC units helps to inform buyers of the level of energy efficiency that an air conditioner or heat pump has. Homeowners can even use the SEER rating to calculate exactly how much an air conditioner or heat pump is costing them on their energy bill.

In addition, the US government, and many state governments offer significant tax savings and incentives on newly installed energy-efficient air conditioners and heating units, allowing homeowners to save thousands of dollars.

It is important, however, to know that the SEER2 rating doesn’t tell you everything about how energy efficient an air conditioner will be when installed in your space. The square footage of your home, the age of your home, the quality of your home’s insulation, and the climate that you live in all factor into how much you’ll benefit from a highly-rated SEER2 air conditioner.

To dive deeper into how the SEER rating works and to learn how it will impact you as you look for a new SEER-rated HVAC unit, you can learn more here – or reach out to the experts at Polestar Plumbing who can guide you in exactly how to choose the most energy-efficient HVAC unit for your home or business!

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