Changes in HVAC 2023
What Is Changing?
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will raise the minimum efficiency standards for air-source heat pumps and central air conditioners starting next year. Systems sold in the U.S. beginning Jan. 1, 2023, must meet those minimum standards.
The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) describes cooling system efficiency. The number represents the unit’s output during the cooling season divided by the amount of electricity the unit used over that same period.
As of 2022, the efficiency baseline was 14 SEER for heat pumps and air conditioners installed in homes. In 2023, there are new metrics and nomenclature – SEER2, EER2 and HSPF2. The new SEER2 ratings will be lower, and the minimum efficiencies will be reduced to account for the more difficult test procedures.
The federal government will not require you to replace your older heat pump or air conditioner when the minimum standards change next year. However, if you decide to install new equipment in 2023, you will not be able to buy an old 14 SEER model*. Your new equipment must be rated 15 SEER or 14.3 SEER2 at minimum. Your new heat pump also must carry an HSPF rating of 8.8 or 7.5 HSPF2.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the new standards will result in huge savings on utility costs for consumers. The agency estimates that households with air conditioners or heat pumps collectively will save $2.5 billion to $12.2 billion over the next 30 years on energy bills.
How You Can Save Money
If your air conditioner or heat pump is older than 15 years, consider upgrading to a high-efficiency model. New equipment offers more energy-saving features, such as two-stage and variable speed compressors and blower motors.
Single-stage compressors, for example, work at capacity all the time. Two-stage and variable speed compressors operate at lower speeds and use less energy most of the time. They also can run at capacity when the temperature rises.
New Refrigerants in 2023
The other significant HVAC change in 2023 involves the kind of refrigerant manufacturers will use in all new air conditioners
and heat pumps.
Since 2010, residential cooling systems have contained a refrigerant called R-410A (pre 2010 R-22), a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). This refrigerant has high global warming potential and could harm the environment if it leaks from a cooling system. For that reason, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is phasing down the manufacture and importation of HFCs by 85 percent over the next 15 years.
Beginning next year, new cooling systems will contain a refrigerant with a lower global warming potential. <anufacturers will build heat pumps and air conditioners compatible with R-454b. This refrigerant is more environment-friendly than its predecessors but also mildly flammable. We cannot retrofit existing equipment to use the new refrigerant.
Although R-410a will be available for equipment repairs over the next few decades, no new air conditioners or heat pumps will contain
R-410a beginning next year.
Purchasing a new cooling system with your preferred refrigerant is all in the timing. If you want a new unit with R-410a, buy it this year.
HVAC industry alerts are now warning of significant price increases for 2023.
There are four reasons for this increase:
The cooling equipment components will perform higher to achieve a high-efficiency rating. Ultimately this is a good thing as these components generally have higher quality and will last longer.
The physical size of the indoor cooling and outdoor air conditioner coil will increase to gain efficiency. This equates to more copper, aluminum, and steel and hence more cost.
With the physically larger units comes more labor in handling the equipment, and fewer units will fit in a rail car or tractor-trailer. Both handling and shipping costs will be increased.
Fans and the top that covers fans in air conditioners will be a different design to achieve a higher efficiency rating. The cost of the design is more with the larger units.