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Every six years, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) reviews how much energy certain home appliances and mechanical systems use and determines if an increase in energy efficiency requirements is justified.

New energy conservation standards

As a result of the 2017 assessment, the DOE has mandated new energy conservation standards that take effect on January 1, 2023, for all newly manufactured residential and commercial air conditioners, heat pumps, and gas furnaces.  In addition to the new standards, there are also new, more stringent test procedures for all residential and 3-5-ton light commercial, single-phase equipment manufactured on or after January 1, 2023.

The new, more rigorous testing procedure will determine energy efficiency ratings for all residential and light commercial single-phase, air conditioners and heat pumps manufactured on or after January 1, 2023. The procedure increases external static pressure (ESP) by 60%, from 0.3 to 0.5, which more accurately reflects field conditions.

New testing metrics

The new test procedures will result in reduced, yet more precise, efficiency ratings

Compared to the current SEER, EER, and HSPF ratings, the new test procedures will result in reduced, yet more precise, efficiency ratings. Because of this, new metrics and nomenclature were developed, including SEER2, EER2, and HSPF2. Minimum efficiency ratings will be reduced for these versus the 2023 SEER, EER, and HSPF minimum efficiency ratings for each region.

Johnson Controls is committed to helping our dealers, contractors and partners overcome the challenges that these new regulations bring through educational offerings that cover all new HVAC products and testing updates to make this transition as smooth as possible,” says Chris Forth, Vice President, Codes & Environmental Affairs, Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls.

Webinars and training programs

Specifically, Johnson Controls is updating all HVAC products beginning in 2022 to meet minimum requirements for air conditioners and heat pumps manufactured for 2023 DOE compliance and simultaneously making additional performance and efficiency improvements. They are also complying with new DOE testing procedures to conform to upcoming regulations.

Johnson Controls’ ongoing webinars and training on the new regulatory changes will continue through 2022 and 2023 regulatory training will be provided for each future product update and launch.

Efficiency standards

Air conditioners installed in northern climates must achieve a 14.0 SEER rating or 13.4 SEER2

For air conditioners, efficiency standards vary by region. The U.S. is divided into three regions based on climate: North, South (east), and Southwest. The climate makes a big difference in how often air conditioners and heat pumps operate; those that operate more have greater opportunities for energy savings. Therefore, air conditioners installed in northern climates must achieve a 14.0 SEER rating, or 13.4 SEER2, while those installed in the southeast and southwest must achieve a 15.0 SEER rating or 14.3 SEER2.

For heat pumps, efficiency standards are the same for each region. Heat pumps in every region must achieve a minimum efficiency of 15.0 SEER or 14.3 SEER2.

Testing capabilities

Manufacturers need to retest, optimize and relaunch every product tier by the new testing procedure,” says Forth.

For some, the scale of this project is huge and unprecedented. Many manufacturers expanded their testing facilities and advanced their technology to ensure all products are tested and ready when they are needed. Johnson Controls has dedicated our Rooftop Center of Excellence in Norman, Oklahoma, to driving innovation in manufacturing technologies and testing capabilities.”

Residential and commercial equipment

The new efficiency minimum for commercial, single-phase air conditioners and heat pumps are 13.4 SEER2

For now, the new energy conservation standards and new testing procedures will affect residential equipment more than commercial equipment. The new requirements apply only to commercial equipment with a single-phase power supply. The minimum efficiency of commercial equipment with a three-phase power supply will continue to follow 2018 requirements until these systems convert to the new SEER2 levels at some point in the future.

The new efficiency minimum for commercial, single-phase air conditioners and heat pumps are 13.4 SEER2. IEER will remain the primary metric for commercial, three-phase products above 65K Btu/hr, making part-load efficiencies more important and increasing the use of variable-frequency drives (VFDs).

Consequences of non-compliant equipment

There are several possible enforcement consequences DOE can take should a dealer or contractor installs non-compliant equipment, if a distributor supplies non-compliant equipment, or if a manufacturer knowingly sells non-compliant equipment. They might have to replace non-compliant equipment at their own expense, and repeat violators may be placed on a national “no-sell” list. They might also be prohibited from purchasing any of the seven classes of products identified in the Code of Federal Regulations (10-CFR-430.32) and could be subjected to fines.

HVAC professionals can avoid accidental non-compliance by familiarizing themselves with the specific DOE regulations and by keeping accurate, up-to-date records of products sold per DOE requirements.

2023 DOE compliant equipment

One of the biggest misconceptions among homeowners is how the standards affect their existing systems"

Johnson Controls and other manufacturers are also helping dealers, contractors and technicians learn about the new requirements and working with them to ensure they have compliant equipment now and when the new requirements become effective on January 1, 2023.

One of the biggest misconceptions among homeowners is how the standards affect their existing systems,” says Forth. “It’s important for contractors to communicate to homeowners that the 2023 requirements only apply to new systems manufactured to meet the new DOE 2023 efficiencies. The functional equipment they currently have installed in their home does not need to be replaced.”

Reducing energy consumption  

The new DOE minimum energy efficiency requirements are part of ongoing efforts to reduce energy consumption in the U.S. and save home and property owners money. When the time comes to replace or upgrade existing systems, home and property owners will be able to select new higher efficiency, 2023 DOE compliant equipment, says Forth.

“If HVAC installers have questions, most contractors and distributors are ready to help them understand and prepare for the 2023 minimum efficiency change and answer any questions they have,” says Forth. “Understanding the efficiency standards for their region is going to be critical before the standards go into effect. Preparation and planning now as to which systems and components meet their region's requirements regulatory requirements will make the transition easier.”

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