A Guide To The New 2023 SEER Standards

Major changes are coming to the HVAC industry in 2023 that will help you to reduce your energy costs when it comes time to replace your old central AC or heat pump. All central cooling units have long had to conform to specific requirements in terms of minimum energy efficiency, and these requirements will soon increase. The efficiency of all central cooling units is measured in SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency rating, and here is everything you need to know about the new SEER requirements coming in 2023.

Minimum Energy Efficiency Requirements

As part of the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987, the U.S. Department of Energy mandated that all new cooling units like air conditioners and heat pumps had to meet certain minimum energy efficiency requirements, and these requirements first took effect in 1992. The standards were then updated in 2006 and again in 2015, and they are set to increase once more starting on January 1, 2023. The Department of Energy estimates that the new efficiency standards will result in residential energy costs being lowered by somewhere between $2.5 billion and $12 billion over the next 30 years. 

The current standards are different depending on which part of the country you live in. In the Pacific Northwest and the entire northern part of the U.S., all new central air conditioners and heat pumps must be at least 13 SEER. From 2023, the minimum efficiency requirement for central AC units will increase to 14 SEER, which equals an increase in energy efficiency of around 7% compared to the previous standard.

In the hotter Southeast and Southwest regions, the current minimum efficiency requirement is 14 SEER. This will increase to 15 SEER starting in 2023.

The minimum efficiency for some types of heat pumps is also increasing depending on which part of the country you live in. All split heat pumps will also now have to be at least 15 SEER in all parts of the country. The minimum for packaged heat pumps will be 14 SEER, and this is only an increase in the northern region since the minimum is already 14 SEER in the Southeast and Southwest.

Due to the new requirements, HVAC manufacturers will no longer be able to manufacture any units that aren’t at least 14 SEER after December 31, 2022. However, in the northern half of the country, units that meet the old 13 SEER standard can still be installed through the end of 2023 provided that the unit was manufactured before the end of 2022. In the Southern states, any equipment installed from 2023 on must conform to the new standard and be at least 15 SEER.

How Is SEER Calculated

The SEER scale is designed to accurately estimate how much electricity a central AC or heat pump will use throughout a typical cooling season. The average cooling season is estimated to be approximately four months with the unit running for around eight hours each day throughout the season. 

Before SEER can be calculated, all units are subjected to rigorous testing to determine how effectively they cool and how much energy they use under the different conditions they may operate in throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall. Specifically, the units are run in temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees and in varying levels of humidity. This is important as the outdoor temperature and humidity level directly impact how effectively the units cool, which in turn determines how long they need to run and thus how much electricity they use. 

SEER is calculated by taking the total BTUs of heat the unit can remove from a building in an hour and dividing this by how many watts of electricity it uses in an hour. The higher the SEER number is, the more efficient the unit is. 


Along with increasing the minimum efficiency requirements, the Department of Energy is also introducing a new testing scale known as SEER2. The primary difference between SEER and SEER2 is in the way that the units are tested. The units are still subjected to the same kind of tests by seeing how effectively they operate in a range of different conditions. However, the new SEER2 testing increases the amount of static pressure that the units are run at in an attempt to more accurately simulate real-world operating conditions. 

In a central, forced-air HVAC system, static pressure refers to how much resistance there is for the air that flows through the ductwork. The higher the static pressure is, the more resistance there is, and the harder the blower fan will have to work to circulate air throughout the duct system. The rate at which the system removes heat from the building also slows down as the static pressure increases since there is a lower volume of air being circulated through the system at one time.  

Unless your entire HVAC system is almost brand new, it likely has a number of different issues that contribute to increased static pressure. This includes things like leaking or poorly sealed ducts, dirty ductwork, clogged or obstructed air vents, dirty HVAC air filter, etc.
Under the original SEER scale, the units were tested using a static pressure of 0.1 inches. The SEER2 system increases this pressure to 0.5 inches, which is much closer to the typical static pressure found in the average home. Increasing the static pressure used during testing should make the new scale more accurate and provide a better estimate of how much electricity a unit would use over an entire cooling season. 

Although any unit manufactured or installed after the end of 2022 must be tested using the new SEER2 scale, most units will still list both the SEER and SEER2 ratings to help ensure consumers are better informed and to clear up any confusion. The new 14 SEER standard in the northern part of the country is the equivalent of 13.4 SEER2, while the new 15 SEER standard equals 14.3 on the new SEER2 scale. 

New Minimum HSPF Standards

Heat pump units have their own scale for measuring how efficient they are when heating. When cooling, heat pumps are still measured in SEER, but their heating efficiency is measured in terms of HSPF (heating seasonal performance factor). As with the minimum SEER requirements, the minimum HSPF standards will also increase in 2023, and the Department of Energy is also updating the testing method resulting in the new HSPF2 scale. 
The minimum HSPF requirements are the same throughout the entire country. The current minimum is 8.2 HSPF, which will increase to 8.8 HSPF in 2023. This is the equivalent of 7.5 on the new HSPF2 scale.

Expect HVAC Services and Solutions

If you need any HVAC service in Portland or Vancouver, you can trust the experts at Revival Energy Group to help. Our technicians specialize in cooling and heating maintenance and repairs, and we also install a full range of HVAC units, including furnaces, central ACs, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits. We also offer oil-to-gas conversions, indoor air quality services, and a range of comfort and efficiency upgrades like air sealing, duct upgrades, and insulation. If you have any questions about the new SEER standards or need any heating or cooling service, give us a call today.