HVAC Standards : What’s Changed in Your Region

What's changed in your region?

Important changes are taking place that could affect the efficiency of your next heating or cooling system.

Choosing the efficiency of your new furnace, air conditioner or heat pump is one of the most crucial decisions you will make in terms of long-term performance, initial system costs and future energy-saving potential. In the future, you may have to take more than just the number into consideration though. Currently, there is a push to conserve energy by choosing efficient heating and cooling systems. Most recently, the Department of Energy is championing a plan that would mandate different efficiency benchmarks based on where you live – the North, the South or the Southwest. A 13-SEER heat pump won’t be good enough for the North, South or Southwest, and a 13-SEER air conditioner may not cut it if you live in Florida.

Here we break down how the current efficiency standard system works and how it may be changing over the next few years.

What are the current efficiency guidelines?

Efficiency standards change as new information becomes available to governmental agencies and new technology is developed by heating and cooling manufacturers. If you were to purchase a system 15 years ago, the system may have only been between 6 and 10 SEER. Current efficiency standards blow those old figures out of the water. Now, units must be manufactured to at least 13 SEER. Similarly, old heating equipment from 15 years ago may have only been 65% AFUE. A furnace manufactured today must be 80% AFUE in order to comply with the guidelines currently in place. As of now, no regional breakdowns or discriminations are made in terms of efficiency ranks.

What are the proposed new standards?

Recently, the Department of Energy released new guidelines that would make minimum efficiency ratings vary by your location within the country. Air conditioning efficiency standards would remain at 13 SEER for homeowners in the North. In contrast, states that are in the South and Southwest need to meet higher cooling efficiency benchmarks. The standard would jump from 13 SEER to 14 SEER. For homeowners everywhere, heat pumps must be rated at least 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF – this will be the new national standard. The regional distinctions are made to take into account the run time of your air conditioner during a given cooling season. Obviously, a homeowner in the South is going to have to run their air conditioner for a longer period of time than a homeowner in the North who may see fewer scorching days throughout the year.

Which region are you in?

Now it’s time to figure out how your system selection would be influenced. Most states would be considered a northern state. States that are considered to be a part of the northern region include: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. The states that comprise the southern region are: Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Hawaii and Delaware. The last category, the Southwest, is a small group and is comprised of California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona. Check out the chart below for a closer look at how the regional changes in efficiency standards will affect a homeowner in your state.

When can I expect these changes to take place?

The new standards are slated to take effect on January 1, 2015; however, there is an 18-month grace period.

What does this mean for me?

Energy efficiency should already be one of the top factors you weigh when choosing a new HVAC system. Now, with the changing efficiency standards, it is even more important that you think about investing in efficiency. Having an air conditioner or heat pump that already meets the efficiency guidelines (regardless of when they were implemented) can positively impact the resale value of your home. Not to mention, you can save money monthly on utility savings by having an efficient heating and cooling setup installed in your home.

What is AHRI?

The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerant Institute has many roles, but one of its more important roles is acting as an advocate for the HVACR industry when it comes to government policy. In regards to regional standards, the organization was one, among many organizations that helped reach a compromise with the Department of Energy when it comes to feasible implementation dates.

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