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Everything You Need to Know about the New Minimum Efficiency Requirements

Updates on the SEER Upgrades of HVAC Systems

With improvements to technology and growing concerns for human effects on the environment concerning our modern American society, energy efficiency has been a hot topic for several years now. It is no surprise then that so many of the vehicles, tools, and appliances we use in our every day lives have recently been made more energy efficient, and that includes HVAC systems. With 44-45% of our monthly energy consumption directed toward our HVAC systems, the heating and cooling of our spaces accounts for a significant portion of the energy we use regularly in our homes and business, and that portion can come at a significant cost if our HVAC systems are not up to date with present efficiency rates. The many adjustments that have been made to new energy efficient HVAC systems enable them to save home and business owners hundreds of dollars annually when substituted for systems that are as young as ten to fifteen years old, and these adjustments include the latest changes to the minimum efficiency requirements.

As of January 1, 2015, higher standards for the SEER ratings of air conditioning systems have been enforced, and these standards can be a source of big savings for families with new air conditioners. Stellar Services is committed to helping Gainesville area homes and businesses stay energy efficient and experience increased savings, so we have taken the time to inform the community about what these new minimum efficiency requirements are and what they mean for you.

What are the New Minimum Efficiency Requirements?

Almost ten years ago, in 2009, the American government implemented the International Energy Conservation Code, or IECC, an action of legislation with the purpose of establishing a long-term system of energy efficient upgrades within the various geographical areas our country. In an effort to improve energy efficiency across America, the IECC agreement outlines a framework of upgrades that will continue until the year 2030 for American air conditioning manufactures and installers to follow.

In order to define the efficiency levels of an air conditioning system and confirm that the system complies with the latest upgrades from the IECC, federal law and manufacturers apply a rating to each system called SEER. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and the SEER rating of a unit is “calculated by dividing the total cooling output used during cooling season by the total electrical energy used during that same season.” The best air conditioning units are those that require less energy to run, and they therefore have a high SEER rating.

Theoretically, the range for the SEER ratings start at 1, but systems with a SEER rating below 9 are rarely seen today, as these old and extremely inefficient systems have be replaced with the newer and more energy efficient versions. In fact, certain ductless mini-split air conditioners available today have SEER ratings that reach as high as 33.

In the beginning of this past decade, an upgrade from the IECC mandated a minimum SEER rating of 13 for all residential HVAC systems, but as we mentioned earlier, more changes to that minimum were made in January of this year. Now, according to the IECC, the minimum efficiency rating of newly manufactured split system central air conditioners is 14 throughout the Southeastern and Southwestern regions of America. The change only applies to these regions because the IECC agreement divides the country into three different geographical regions and holds each region to the appropriate minimum energy efficiency requirement. These regions are the Northern, Southeastern, and Southwestern regions, and for now, the minimum energy efficiency requirement of the Northern region remains 13 SEER, which makes sense considering the fact that residents of the northern states generally use less air conditioning than those of the southern states. From 2006 to 2014, the minimum energy efficiency requirement of 13 SEER applied to all regions, and the change made in 2015 was the first that differentiated between the regions.

As part of the Southeastern region of the United States according to the boundaries expressed in the IECC, the new minimum efficiency requirement of 14 SEER does affect the state of Florida, but it only applies to newly installed units. This fact means that distributors such as Stellar Services can no longer offer systems with 13 SEER: the lowest rating the systems we install can have is 14 SEER.

What do the New Minimum Efficiency Requirements Mean for You?

Though an air conditioning system with a 14 SEER may not yet be a part of your home or business, the changes made by this latest upgrade from the IECC are beneficial to both the people and the environment of America. Higher SEER ratings result in less energy used, and less energy used drives down monthly costs and environmental damage.

New air conditioning units with 14 SEER require less energy to operate, so they save Gainesville home and business owners money in operational costs on their monthly energy bills. However, the specific amount of money that people can save depends on several factors, the most important being how often the unit is used and what the SEER rating was of the old system that the new 14 SEER system replaced.

To discover how much money you could save by replacing your old HVAC system with one of 14 SEER or higher, calculate the percentage of power the new unit uses in comparison to the old by dividing the old SEER number by the new SEER number. For example, upgrading from 7 SEER to 14 SEER uses 50% less energy, because 7 divided by 14 is .5, so that means that the cost per month of running your air conditioning system should decrease by 50%. Therefore, replacing an older unit with a new unit can lead to substantial monthly savings, so there are clear financial advantages to the new minimum efficiency requirements.

There are also environmental advantages of the new minimum efficiency requirements. Producing the energy that humans need from natural sources on earth results in the creation of harmful greenhouse gases, so decreasing the amount of energy we consume each month decreases the total pounds of greenhouse gases that our energy production generates. For example, in 2014, the common SEER ratings of HVAC systems in many homes was 9 or 10 SEER, and 9 or 10 SEER systems can make as many as 250,000 lbs. of greenhouse gases in their lifetimes. In contrast, air conditioning systems with 14 SEER only produce 150,000 lbs. of greenhouse gases in their lifetimes, which leaves a significantly smaller carbon footprint overall.

What Will You Do with the New Minimum Efficiency Requirements?

The people that are the most responsible to adjust to the new minimum efficiency requirements are HVAC companies like Stellar Services, but just because you don’t have to does not mean that you shouldn’t. Upgrading your old air conditioning system with the installation of a new 14 SEER system can lead to the downsizing of your monthly energy bills and of the carbon footprint of your home or business. While some families may be concerned about the size of the new 14 SEER systems, these systems are only about 10-25% larger than the old, so fitting them into the same place is typically not an issue. However, with their improved energy efficiency that cuts costs and supports nature, fitting the great features of a 14 SEER HVAC system into your life is always a rewarding option, so to learn more about how you can gain from the new minimum efficiency requirements, contact Stellar Services today!