What You Need to Know About the DOE’s New Efficiency Standards for Commercial HVAC in 2023
Starting in 2023, the Department of Energy (DOE) will implement new standards for commercial HVAC systems designed to be more energy efficient. This is good news for businesses, as it will help save on operating costs, but there are some important details to know about the transition.
Let’s cover what you need to know about the DOE’s new efficiency standards for commercial HVAC in 2023.
Reason For Change
The DOE reanalyzes the impact of energy usage and sets the minimum efficiency requirements every six years. They also manage the testing standards that measure those efficiencies.
The 2021 standards were 15% more efficient than the 2015 baseline, with a savings of 3.8 quadrillion BTUs over 30 years. In 2018, the DOE commenced phase one of a six-year plan requiring a 13% increase in energy efficiency for commercial packaged air conditioners, heat pumps, and split systems.
This year, 2023, will begin phase two.
Minimum Efficiency Requirement
All commercial air conditioning and heat pump equipment from 65,000 btu/h to 760,000 btu/h must have an additional 15% efficiency increase over the ratings set in 2018.
Since the energy efficiency requirements outlined in 2018 required 15%, this new requirement will result in a total 30% increase over a six-year period. In addition, gas-fired commercial air conditioners will be required to meet an 81% efficiency rating.
New Measurement and Labels
Three means of measurement, SEER, EER, and HSPF, will be changing in 2023. Let’s look at what each of these metrics means:
SEER vs. SEER2
SEER, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is the central air conditioning system efficiency metric and applies to heat pumps too.
SEER = the ratio of total cooling capacity/total energy input
The metric is observed during periods of regular use – so spring and summer in most regions – and is usually represented by math that divides BTUs by watt-hours.
The higher the SEER on an air conditioning unit, the less electricity it requires. Previously, the DOE required a minimum energy conservation standard of 13 SEER in northern states and 14 SEER in the south.
So, what is SEER2? The main difference between SEER and SEER2 is how an air conditioning system is tested. Testing for the SEER2 metric now involves raising the total external static pressure testing conditions to mimic the behavior of a real, ducted AC unit.
Old SEER testing conditions didn’t account for the static pressure that occurs due to ductwork, so the static test pressure was not high enough to measure the systems as they would function in the real world.
EER Vs. EER2
EER, or Energy Efficient Ratio, is another metric applied to air conditioners. It is calculated by dividing the air conditioner’s capacity in BTUs by its power in Watts.
The DOE has changed the test condition to increase the external static pressure (the pressure of the air coming out of the air conditioner unit). This change happened to make the test more accurately reflect real-world conditions.
EER2 ratings will be about 4.1% lower in existing systems.
HSPF vs HSPF2
HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Ratio and measures a heat pump’s heating efficiency. Unlike SEER, the higher the HSPF number, the more efficient the heat pump is.
HSPF is the amount of heat provided compared to the electricity used to run the heat pump during that time. Again, the key difference between HSPF and HSPF2 is the testing condition applied to achieve the metric readout.
New testing increases the external static pressure to more closely reflect how a unit actually performs with a ducted system in real-life weather conditions.
Up until now, the HSPF minimum was 8.2. HSPF2 requires an 8.8 rating.
2023 DOE HVAC Regulations and Regionality
Since heat pumps and air conditioners operate very differently in different areas of the country, the DOE has split the US into three regions and has adjusted SEER2 requirements for each.
The North region includes:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
SEER2 requirements for the North are: 13.4 (or 14.0 SEER)
The Southeast region includes:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- District of Columbia
- US territories
SEER2 requirements for the Southeast: 14.3 (or 15.0 SEER)
The Southwest region includes
- New Mexico
SEER2 requirements for the Southwest: 14.3 (or 15.0 SEER)
How DOEs Efficiency Standards Impact Your Business?
Since all products that were legally compliant the day they were manufactured will be sold and distributed in the US, you will likely have a lot of people knocking on your door to get you to upgrade your system to an air conditioning unit or heat pump that is no longer technically compliant. Don’t fall for it!
The DOE specifically designates air conditioning units as “date of install” products, so any unit not compliant with new DOE standards would need to be installed prior to 1/1/2023. Yup, too late to install any that will not pass today’s standards.
The good news is more energy-efficient HVAC products will ultimately save money for your business. And, if you have a system in place that works fine, you can wait a while before replacing your new system. These updates from the DOE are for manufacturing new products, not a requirement that all businesses follow now.
That being said, we do love to save your company money and resources, and we like to help the environment. There are many things we can do to improve the efficiency of your existing commercial HVAC system, so give us a call today!