Air conditioning units for sale on the market today never dip below a specific SEER rating. So, in your search for a brand new AC unit, you’ll notice you can’t find any units with a SEER rating below a particular point.
In 2023, the number will change again, and the minimum will rise.
What is a minimum SEER rating, and why does it exist? This article examines minimum SEER ratings and their purpose, so keep reading to learn more!
What Is The Current Minimum SEER Rating
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) outlines minimum energy efficiency standards for AC units. SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is a mathematical calculation that accounts for the cooling output in a typical cooling season and the total energy input for the same time frame.
What is the minimum SEER rating for new systems? As of 2022, HVAC products must meet the minimum rating of 13 to 14 SEER. This means that HVAC brands must meet or exceed the lowest SEER rating, as outlined by law.
However, in 2023, the requirements will rise again, moving to a minimum of 14 to 15 SEER. As technology progresses and new developments arise, the minimum SEER rating will continue to rise, the highly efficient models eliminating their archaic counterparts.
The chart below depicts various HVAC brands and the company’s minimum SEER rating. Several of these brands span a drastic range of efficiency ratings, such as Lennox or Carrier. For example, Lennox’s least efficient model has ratings of 13 SEER, while its top model is highly efficient, with a rating of 28 SEER.
|Air Conditioner Brand||Minimum SEER Rating|
|Day and Night||13 seer|
|American Standard||14.5 seer|
Minimum SEER Rating By Year
Over the years, SEER rating requirements have fluctuated, moving up as the air conditioner technology advanced.
What year did SEER ratings start? In 1992, the Department of Energy initiated requirements surrounding efficiency ratings on HVAC systems. At the time of inception, HVAC systems had to meet a minimum SEER rating of 10.
Before these rules, HVAC companies developed AC units with efficiency ratings around 8 SEER and 9 SEER. Compared to today’s HVAC units that boast ratings up to 28 SEER, older units don’t even make the cut.
The DOE continued to bump the minimum SEER rating as the years progressed, though the requirements don’t change regularly and happen sporadically.
|Year||Minimum SEER Rating|
|2023（New）||14 seer - 15 seer|
|2022（Current）||13 seer - 14 seer|
Minimum SEER Rating By State
Certain states outline specific SEER ratings that differ from the overall requirements. The chart below outlines the DOE’s regional breakdown by state.
These regional standards divide the US into two primary reasons; the defining factor in this decision is the population-weighted number of heating degree days.
The DOE defines states that experience 5,000 or more heating degree days (HDD) as part of the northern region. On the other hand, states that experience less than 5,000 HDD are considered part of the southern portion of the U.S.
Basically, heating degree days correlate with how many days you have to use your furnace on cold days. If you live in a colder region, like Michigan, you will have more HDDs than a southern state like Georgia.
The southern portion is split further into two regions: the southwest and the southeast. The southwest sector experiences “hot-dry” weather, while the southeast portion experiences “hot-humid” weather.
To determine these southern regions, the DOE accounted for the number of cooling operating hours and the relative humidity during said hours throughout the year.
These regional standards are specific to split-system central air conditioners. With that said, the DOE also outlines efficiency standards for other types of central air conditioners, including heat pumps.
Other product categories include split-system heat pumps, split-package AC units, split-package heat pumps, small-duct high-velocity systems, space-constrained air conditioners, and space-constrained heat pumps.
|State||Minimum SEER||DOE Regional Breakdown By State|
|Southwest||Arizona, California, Nevada, or New Mexico||14 seer|
|Southeast||Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories||14 seer|
|North||The remainder of the United States||13 seer|
2023 SEER Rating Change
The Department of Energy continues to adjust the minimum efficiency standards. Why change them? The answer falls to the Department of Energy’s purpose.
The DOE’s job is to advance energy, environmental, and nuclear security of the U.S. Since energy security is part of their grounds of jurisdiction, they make policies surrounding energy sources, which impact the HVAC industry.
According to the DOE, AC units use roughly 6% of all electricity produced here in the United States. Although it seems minor, this contributes to about 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide production.
Millions of metric tons of carbon emissions are avoided by continually implementing new policies. For example, consider the 2015 policy change, which raised the minimum efficiency standard from 13 SEER TO 14 SEER. The DOE estimated that the new standard avoided 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
In 2023, the minimum efficiency rating moves up to 14 SEER to 15 SEER. As leading brands continue to progress and provide higher efficiency models, the DOE will likely adjust the new minimum efficiency standards accordingly, further cutting back on carbon emissions resulting from AC energy use.
How Do These Standards Affect The Consumer?
The DOE’s standards surrounding energy efficiency minimums are beneficial for consumers. New air conditioners are more expensive than their older, less efficient counterparts, but they can save considerable amounts of money in the long run.
The higher the efficiency, the lower the energy bills. Various leading brands offer highly efficient units, with some models boasting ratings up to 28 SEER. Models with higher efficiency ratings tend to be more expensive up front, but consumers should notice a significant decrease in their energy bills during operating seasons.
Although the Department of Energy mandates a higher and higher minimum efficiency standard as the years pass, it can be a good thing. On top of the lower energy bills, consumers may also obtain rebates for their high-efficiency models.
Various organizations offer these rebates on highly efficient models, which can help compensate for the steep upfront price.
The government may also offer a rebate for your particular model, which may be in the form of tax rebates. Either way, customers have the chance to cut back on costs a bit with these rebates.
Some HVAC brands will display available rebates on their actual websites, specific to your area. So, when you view the unit’s price, the rebates may be located up in the corner of the page, each outlining the specific organization that offers it.