What to Know about New Regulations Affecting Air Conditioners

March 2020

Federal Restrictions on Buying New Air Conditioners

In three years, the government is changing environmental standards that will affect AC systems in homes across the United States. This coming change is already impacting service companies like us at Standard Plumbing, Heating & Air here in Manhattan, Kansas. It will affect homeowners over the coming years, but how much?

The way that air conditioning systems work has always had an impact on energy use and our environment. Our industry has regularly dealt with federal guidelines on the service and installation of air conditioners and refrigerant. The rules affecting AC systems in homes across the country sometimes change, and they are about to change again.

How will the next AC change affect you and your home?

 

First: Understanding SEER

Knowing how this coming regulation change on minimum SEER requirements will affect your home’s HVAC system starts with understanding the SEER rating.

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is a measurement that tells you the level of energy efficiency for an air conditioner. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient it is.

KANSAS FACTS: AC systems in homes across the Manhattan area usually have a SEER rating somewhere between SEER 10 and SEER 20. If you have an older air conditioner, yours might have a lower SEER number. If you have a newer AC, your system may even have a SEER number higher than 20.

The minimum efficiency rating of air conditioners has been mandated for decades. In 1987, the U.S. Department of Energy set it’s first SEER rating standards. Those standards vary from region to region. The reason for this is because of the wide range of climates across the country. The temperature and climate are primary factors into determining the minimum SEER rating allowed for each regions. Many states south of Kansas have a higher SEER rating requirement.

KANSAS FACTS: Here in the Manhattan area, the current federal requirement for air conditioners is that any new ones installed have a SEER rating of 13 or higher.

Our current SEER 13 minimum requirement began five years ago – back in 2015. Just 8 years later, the EPA will raise the SEER minimum again.

The new federal regulation means that all new air conditioners that get install need to be SEER 14 or higher starting 2023.

Beginning in 2023, Standard Plumbing, Heating & Air (along with every heating and air conditioning company in the United States) can no longer install an air conditioning unit with a SEER rating of 13 or less. For HVAC companies in states further south, they will only be permitted to install air conditioners with a minimum rating of SEER 15.

 

What if Your Current AC Has Less than a SEER 14 Rating?

Standard AC technician repairing an air conditioner in Manhattan areaThere is nothing to worry about right away. The new higher standard coming in 2023 is only for new AC units that are getting installed.

The new change to the SEER minimum coming in 2023 will not force you to have to do anything soon.

Many homeowners aren’t meeting the current SEER 13 requirement right now anyway. If your AC has a lower SEER rating and it’s running fine, you don’t have to replace it right now with a new, more efficient system, although there are great reasons why you should do that anyway. But if you do choose to (or need to) replace your system, there are already a lot of great high efficent AC options. You will easily be able to purchase one with a SEER of 14 or higher.

New AC installed by Standard Plumbing Heating & Air ConditioningYou Will Likely NOT Be Affected By This Regulation Change

The SEER 14 minimum rule will only be a potential issue for homeowners who need to replace an aging cooling system on or after 2023. But even that isn’t going to be much of an issue.

Cooling technology has improved greatly over the years. Today, you have a lot of different air conditioning options to choose from. It’s quite easy to find a system that is not just more energy efficient, but also affordable. Even today, most homeowners don’t even consider getting a new AC that has a rating lower than SEER 14. For not a great cost difference, you can purchase an AC that has a high SEER number, one that runs more efficiently and provides you reliable cooling for your entire house.

When you hire Standard for a professional AC installation, we give you the information necessary to help you understand the benefits of different systems so you can be sure you have the right cooling solution for your home.

Choosing an AC system with a higher SEER rating could end up saving you money. The amount you spend every month on energy bills can be reduced by simply having a more efficient air conditioner. Over time, you may find that the money you save on monthly bills will more than equal the additional price of buying a more efficient unit.

 

The Larger Impact of the 2023 SEER Rating Change

While we’ve explained this regulatory change isn’t likely to affect homeowners across Kansas or anywhere in the United States, it is expected to impact our country in other ways. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EPA) has stated that this new rule change for SEER minimum ratings will add up to creating a savings of between $2.5 billion – $12.2 billion on energy bills over three decades.

 

A Different Federal AC Rule Change

The regulation raising the SEER minimum ratings in 2023 isn’t the only change happening to homeowners’ air conditioning systems. A different governmental rule just went into affect in January 2020. The refrigerant used in many current air conditioning units, R22 (also known as Freon), has been phased out. Learn how the R22 phase out could affect you and your HVAC costs.

 

Have Questions?

Photo of Standard Heating & Air service van outside Manhattan shopContact us with your heating and air questions. The Standard Plumbing Heating & Air team are your Manhattan experts on the rules and standards for proper service and installation of AC systems. We would be happy to help you understand the heating and cooling options for your home. Call us at (785) 776-5012.