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What is the minimum SEER rating for a new air conditioner?
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
The latest minimum SEER standard, effective January 1, 2023, is 14 in northern states and 15 in southern states (both southeast and southwest). The way the SEER rating is calculated has also been modified, and a new standard called SEER2 must be used. See our article What is the difference between SEER and SEER2? for details.
The former minimum standard, from 2015 through 2022, was 14 SEER for both heat pumps and cooling air conditioners. Exception: straight cool air conditioners in the Northern region of the U.S. remained at minimum 13 SEER, and air conditioners in the Southwest had slightly different secondary specs as in the South.
The SEER upgrade before that was in January, 2006, when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) required that all new residential air conditioners sold in the United States have a minimum Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio of 13. A higher number indicates less energy usage for the same amount of cooling, and the previous minimum SEER for the 1992 to 2005 was 10, with the 13 SEER about 23% more energy efficient than a 10.
For a new system to get an EnergyStar rating, it must jump higher than the SEER minimum. But window air conditioners are exempt, and most hover around 10.
Systems are now available with ratings above 20, and climbing regularly as the technology advances. Each notch upward in the SEER ratings requires a bigger equipment investment, and the condenser unit (outside part of a split-system heat pump or air conditioner) itself also grows larger as the SEER increases.
The efficiency of a heat pump system in heating mode is rated by a different standard called HSPF, which stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. The HSPF is also raised on January 1, 2023 from 8.2 to 8.8. See What does the HSPF of a heat pump system mean? for details.
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