Air conditioner energy efficiency ratings are changing. Up till the 31st of December 2022, we using the SEER rating to determine the energy efficiency of air conditioners. From the 1st of January 2023 onward, the SEER rating will be replaced by the SEER2 rating. We are going to look at what SEER2 is and how it impacts the minimum SEER rating in 2023.
Here is what we are dealing with:
- SEER rating stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is the main energy efficiency rating for air conditioners. It tries to most realistically determine how energy-efficient AC units are by dividing cooling BTU/h output by input wattage (BTU/Wh) over the 3 months of summer. Overall, the SEER is a weighted average of an AC running at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% output, with a calculated 58% output on average.
- SEER2 rating stands for Season Energy Efficiency Ratio 2. This is the new main energy efficiency ratio developed in 2016 and introduced by the US Department Of Energy in 2023 and onward. In its essence, SEER2 is the same (equation, calculation) as SEER, but under different test conditions.
The only technical difference between SEER and SEER2 are the harsher test conditions for SEER2 rating measurement pertaining to the external static pressure (we are going to explain this further on). This difference is small (SEER2 rating is about 4.5% lower than SEER rating) but, in addition to the increase in minimum SEER rating in 2023, is presumed to make a big difference.
In 2023, we will see two changes that affect the minimum SEER rating:
- Increase of minimum SEER rating from 14 SEER to 15 SEER for Southeast and Southwest states.
- Replacement of SEER rating by SEER2 rating. Example: 15 SEER unit is now 14.3 SEER unit. This will take some time to get used to in the HVAC community as well.
According to the DOE’s Energy Conservation Program document released in 2017, “the cumulative national net present value (NPV) of total consumer costs and savings for the amended standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps ranges from $2.5 billion (at a 7-percent discount rate) to $12.2 billion (at a 3-percent discount rate).”
This is the presumed economic effect for the 30-year period (from 2023 to 2052) of implementing the SEER2 rating and an increase in the minimum SEER (now SEER2) rating.
We are going to look into what the SEER2 rating is in split-system air conditioners and heat pumps, and what are the minimum SEER ratings in 2023 (state by state for Southeast, Southwest, and the rest of the US):
What Is SEER2 Rating For Air Conditioners And Heat Pumps
Most of us are familiar with the SEER rating. We find it on AC specification sheets and EnergyGuide labels; it is a great metric that enables us to adequately compare the energy efficiency and thereby economic viability of air conditioners and heat pumps.
The goal of every HVAC energy efficiency metric is to most realistically determine real-life energy efficiency and energy expenditure. The first such rating for AC is EER (in 2023, EER is also being replaced by EER) which presumed that an AC would run at 100% cooling output 100% of the time.
We don’t run AC 100% of the time. That’s why, to provide a more realistic metric, DOE introduced Seasonal EER (SEER) in 1987. SEER rating presumes that an AC mostly runs at 50% and 75% output, with a weighted average of 58% output, according to this SEER equation:
SEER2 rating actually uses the same equation to calculate the energy efficiency; the amount of cooling BTU we get for electricity input (wattage) over a period of 3 summer months (June, July, and August). SEER2 rating presumes, the same as SEER rating, that:
- We run an AC unit at 100% load for 1% of the time (EER100%).
- We run an AC unit at 75% load for 42% of the time (EER75%).
- We run an AC unit at 50% load for 45% of the time (EER50%).
- We run an AC unit at 25% load for 12% of the time (EER25%).
In short, SEER2 is calculated in the same exact way as SEER. The SEER2 vs SEER difference comes in testing conditions. Namely, we measure how many cooling BTUs we get at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% output (these are partial and full power EER ratings). If you change the test conditions, these EER ratings will change and hence the SEER will change, and that’s exactly what the DOE did.
SEER2 rating is measured under harsher test conditions. Specifically, there is a 5-times increase in external static pressure (or pressure at the AC or heat pump vent):
- SEER rating uses 0.1 inches of water column (in. WC) external pressure test condition.
- SEER2 rating uses 0.5 inches of water column (in. WC) external pressure test condition. Basically, when measuring the SEER2 rating, the external pressure is 5 times higher external pressure used when measuring the HSPF rating.
Note: According to the Federal Register documents, the DOE also considered 0.3 in. WC pressure for the SEER2 rating.
In short, increasing this pressure aligns the test conditions with realistic conditions better than the up till now used 0.1 in. WC SEER pressure.
The resulting SEER2 rating is thus lower than the SEER rating. This is because the blower motor has to work harder to push the air against 5-times higher external pressure, consuming more watts, and lowering the SEER2 rating.
In addition, the DOE has increased the minimum required SEER rating in 2023, in accordance with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA):
Minimum SEER Rating By State (2023)
In 2023, HVAC efficiency standards will increase. Here are the increases, based on the US region (we are also going to look at this state by state):
- In Southeast states, the minimum SEER rating in 2023 will be increased from 14 SEER to 15 SEER for AC units with below 45,000 BTU cooling output. AC units with 45,000 BTU or higher cooling capacity will have a minimum of 14.5 SEER rating in 2023.
- In Southwest states, the minimum SEER rating in 2023 will be increased from 14 SEER to 15 SEER. AC units with 45,000 BTU or higher cooling capacity will have a minimum of 14.5 SEER rating in 2023.
- In the rest of the US, the minimum SEER rating in 2023 will be increased from 13 SEER to 14 SEER for all AC units.
Source: US Energy Information Administration
Here is a minimum SEER rating state-by-state chart for 2023 for below 45,000 BTU AC units (be mindful that this doesn’t yet account for SEER2 rating test conditions, we are going to look at SEER to SEER2 conversion further on):
|State:||Minimum SEER Rating In 2023:|
|New Hampshire||14 SEER|
|New Jersey||14 SEER|
|New Mexico||15 SEER|
|New York||14 SEER|
|North Carolina||15 SEER|
|North Dakota||14 SEER|
|Rhode Island||14 SEER|
|South Carolina||15 SEER|
|South Dakota||14 SEER|
|West Virginia||14 SEER|
As you can see, the warmer Southeast and Southwest states have a higher minimum required SEER rating (15 SEER vs 14 SEER in the rest of the US). This is a 7% difference; it makes sense for the hot South to have a higher air conditioner energy efficiency because we use AC more in the South than in the North.
Now, we do have to keep in mind that the minimum SEER rating is not the same as the minimum SEER2 rating because SEER is not the same as SEER2.
If you are going to buy a central air conditioner or split-system AC unit (mini split AC or heat pump) that was manufactured in 2023 and onwards, you will likely not see the SEER rating on either the specification sheet or the EnergyGuide label. Instead, the energy efficiency will be expressed as the SEER2 rating.
In order to get a sense of what this SEER2 rating means compared to the SEER rating, it is useful if you convert the SEER2 rating to the SEER rating we are all familiar with.
Converting SEER2 To SEER And SEER To SEER2 Rating
We can figure out the relationship between SEER and SEER2 by comparing two tables, namely:
- “Table V-30 Amended Energy Conservation Standards for Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps as Determined by the November 2016 Test Procedure Final Rule” specifies 2023 HVAC efficiency standards in terms of SEER2 rating.
- “Table I-1 Amended Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Based on the DOE Test Procedure at the Time of the 2015-2016 Negotiations (Recommended TSL)” specifies 2023 HVAC efficiency standards in terms of SEER rating.
From these two tables, we can see that:
- A 15 SEER rating is now a 14.3 SEER2 rating. SEER2 rating is 4.7% lower than the SEER rating.
- A 14 SEER rating is now a 13.4 SEER2 rating. SEER2 rating is 4.3% lower than the SEER rating.
- A 14.5 SEER rating is now a 13.8 SEER2 rating. SEER2 rating is 4.5% lower than the SEER rating.
In short, we can say that the SEER2 rating is roughly 4.5% lower than the SEER rating. Based on this, we can convert SEER to SEER2 rating as well as convert SEER2 to SEER rating. Here are these two conversion charts that will help you understand how the new SEER2 rating relates to the older SEER rating:
SEER To SEER2 Rating
|SEER Rating:||SEER2 Rating:|
|12 SEER||11.5 SEER2|
|13 SEER||12.4 SEER2|
|14 SEER||13.4 SEER2|
|15 SEER||14.3 SEER2|
|16 SEER||15.3 SEER2|
|17 SEER||16.2 SEER2|
|18 SEER||17.2 SEER2|
|19 SEER||18.1 SEER2|
|20 SEER||19.1 SEER2|
|21 SEER||20.1 SEER2|
|22 SEER||21.0 SEER2|
|23 SEER||22.0 SEER2|
|24 SEER||22.9 SEER2|
|25 SEER||23.9 SEER2|
|26 SEER||24.8 SEER2|
|27 SEER||25.8 SEER2|
|28 SEER||26.7 SEER2|
|29 SEER||27.7 SEER2|
|30 SEER||28.7 SEER2|
Here are some examples of how to think about air conditioner energy efficiency in 2023 and onward:
- 16 SEER unit is now 15.3 SEER2 unit.
- 18 SEER unit is now 17.2 SEER2 unit.
- 20 SEER unit is now 19.1 SEER2 unit.
You can also figure out what the SEER rating is if you see the SEER2 rating of the AC specs sheet using this table:
SEER2 To SEER Rating
|SEER2 Rating:||SEER Rating:|
|12 SEER2||12.6 SEER|
|13 SEER2||13.6 SEER|
|14 SEER2||14.7 SEER|
|15 SEER2||15.7 SEER|
|16 SEER2||16.8 SEER|
|17 SEER2||17.8 SEER|
|18 SEER2||18.8 SEER|
|19 SEER2||19.9 SEER|
|20 SEER2||20.9 SEER|
|21 SEER2||22.0 SEER|
|22 SEER2||23.0 SEER|
|23 SEER2||24.1 SEER|
|24 SEER2||25.1 SEER|
|25 SEER2||26.2 SEER|
|26 SEER2||27.2 SEER|
|27 SEER2||28.3 SEER|
|28 SEER2||29.3 SEER|
|29 SEER2||30.4 SEER|
|30 SEER2||31.3 SEER|
Here are some examples of how to think about air conditioner energy efficiency in 2023 and onward:
- 14 SEER2 unit is the old 14.7 SEER unit.
- 16 SEER2 unit is the old 16.8 SEER unit.
- 18 SEER2 unit is the old 18.8 SEER unit.
Hopefully, this explains adequately what the new SEER2 rating is and what effect it has on the minimum SEER rating in 2023.
We also have similar changes to these HVAC energy efficiency rating in 2023:
- HSPF2 rating (15% lower than HSPF rating). This is applicable primarily for heat pumps and furnaces.
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