HVAC Standards: What's Changed in Your Region?
Choosing the efficiency of your new furnace, air conditioner or heat pump is one of the most crucial decisions you will make in terms of long-term performance, initial system costs and future energy-saving potential. However, you may now have to take more than just the number into consideration.
In addition to raising the minimum efficiency level requirements for equipment on a national level, the Department of Energy is enacting a policy that would affect the efficiency of equipment purchased in different areas of the country – either the North, South or Southwest. A 13-SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) air conditioner won’t be good enough if you live in Florida, but while in Minnesota you could be completely fine.
Previous Efficiency Guidelines
Efficiency standards change as new information becomes available to governmental agencies and new technology is developed by heating and cooling manufacturers. If you were to purchase a new system 15 years ago, it may have only been between six and 10 SEER. New efficiency standards, even those in place before the most recent change, blow those old figures out of the water. Prior to 2015, units had to be manufactured to meet at least 13 SEER. In terms of heating efficiency, heat pumps and gas furnaces had to be rated at least 7.7 HSPF and 78% AFUE respectively. All of these ratings were national in the past – a homeowner in Florida could have a 13 SEER air conditioner and so could a homeowner in Minnesota. Now, with the new changes, efficiency ratings will vary for air conditioners.
Changes to Regional Efficiency Guidlelines
The Department of Energy has ruled that some parts of the country will have to meet Regional efficiency standards. These will take effect for split system and packaged air conditioners starting in 2015. Homeowners in the North will adhere to the old minimum efficiency standard (of 13 SEER) – while homeowners in the South and the Southwest must meet at least 14 SEER. Additionally, the Southwest will have an EER (Energy Efficiency Rating) minimum requirement to meet. A split system air conditioner installed in a home in the Southwest will also have to meet 12.2 EER (if it works below 45,000 BTU/H) or 11.7 EER (if it works above 45,000 BTU/H).
Furthermore, the Southwest will also have an EER requirement for package air conditioners (although all regions throughout the nation will have to meet a new minimum SEER rating of 14 SEER). Equipment installed in homes in the Southwest must also be rated at 11.0 EER.
Changes to National Efficiency Guidelines
Homeowners everywhere should be concerned with the changes to national energy efficiency standards. These will take effect for split system heat pumps and all packaged equipment. After January 1, 2015, split system heat pumps will have to be rated at a minimum of 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF. Packaged air conditioners and packaged heat pumps will have to meet a minimum of 14 SEER – a one-SEER jump from 13 SEER. The minimum-efficiency rating for gas/electric packaged units will also be raised. They will now have to be rated at a minimum of 14 SEER and 81% AFUE.
What This Means for Homeowners
When purchasing a new air conditioner, heat pump or packaged system, homeowners will need to keep these efficiency standards in mind. There are both performance and monetary benefits that come with choosing a high-efficiency heating or cooling system. If you already have a heating or cooling system that meets the efficiency standards it may improve the resale value of your home. However, the biggest benefit will come in the form of money-saving, efficient performance. When you have an ultra-high-efficiency HVAC system, the unit will maximize the amount of cooling or heating power extracted from a given amount of energy.
This can cut money from your monthly utility bills. Since heating and cooling costs can comprise a significant chunk – 44% of monthly utility costs – maximizing efficiency is a good way to keep money in your pocket at the end of each month.
Which region are you in?
Now it's time to figure out how your system selection would be influenced.
Most states would be considered a northern state. States that are considered to be a part of the northern region include: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The states that comprise the southern region are: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The last category, the Southwest, is a small group and is comprised of Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico.
Check out the chart below for a closer look at how the regional changes in efficiency standards will affect a homeowner in your state.
This article and imagery originally ran on Frigidaire.com.