Updated September 18, 2023
Energy efficiency remains a high priority in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry to slow climate change and protect the environment. The US Department of Energy (DOE) oversees regulations that manufacturers must follow, and they have recently implemented three significant changes. Servicing Columbia, MD, and the surrounding areas, Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating offers expert advice to navigate these changes and decide if now is the best time for a new HVAC system.
Here are three changes introduced by DOE and how they may affect your decision to invest in a furnace replacement.
1. New Efficiency Standards for Residential Systems
Residential cooling and heat pump systems are labeled with seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings. The ratings indicate how efficiently a unit operates within a specific region. Manufacturers are required to clearly label HVAC equipment to help you choose the most energy-efficient unit for your budget. DOE increased the required SEER ratings for residential heat pumps, air conditioning systems, and ductless mini-split systems. The new rating system is referred to as SEER2. SEER2 ratings represent an 8% to 10% increase in efficiency regulations. Most HVAC systems do not meet the new requirements. Units that do meet the SEER2 requirements are likely to be more expensive for the average homeowner. Finding replacement parts may be difficult initially. The good news is that you don’t need to replace your current system if it’s working properly. If you need a new HVAC system, you can expect to have lower energy costs each month.
2. Revised Heating Efficiency Standards
Because heat pumps are used for cooling and heating, the units are labeled with SEER and heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) ratings. DOE has increased HSPF requirements for heat pumps. The minimum rating requirements for heat pumps are 14 for SEER and 8.8 for HSPF. Changes to these ratings may mean spending more upfront for your new heat pump, but DOE believes that the savings in monthly energy costs will help you recoup the cost over the lifetime of the unit. If you need to replace your heat pump, we can help you find a unit that meets the new DOE requirements and fits comfortably into your budget.
3. New Refrigerants for Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners
Heat pumps and air conditioners use refrigerants to cool the air during the summer. The first refrigerants were developed in the 1920s and contained chlorofluorocarbon, which has been linked to climate change. Known as R22, the refrigerant was phased out and replaced with R-410A refrigerant. Unfortunately, the hydrofluorocarbon in R-410A has been linked to climate change and environmental damage. New DOE regulations require that R-410A be replaced with R-454b, and many manufacturers have already begun this transition. As with the changes to SEER and HSPF ratings, manufacturing HVAC equipment to accommodate the new refrigerant may take some time. The refrigerant will not work with systems that are designed to use R-410A or R22 refrigerant. If you are looking for a new HVAC system for your home, now is the best time to make the purchase. You benefit from the advantages of the new SEER 2 and HSPF ratings, and many systems on the market use R-410A.
How Much Will the New HVAC Regulations Affect Your Budget?
Because the changes in HVAC regulations are relatively new, it is hard to say how much more the average consumer will spend on new HVAC equipment. Some sources indicate that you could see a 30% increase compared to new units that don’t meet all the requirements. A reduction in energy use offsets the upfront cost. The US Energy Information Administration estimates that the new regulations will result in savings of $2 to $12 billion over the first 30 years. At Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, we understand that staying within your budget is important, and we also want to ensure that you maximize your monthly energy savings. We help you find a good balance between the cost of your new system and the average monthly savings.
Going Beyond Ratings and Refrigerants
Although ratings and refrigerants are essential factors when you are choosing a new HVAC system, there are other considerations. You may be tempted to purchase the system that fits well within your budget. The downside is that your new system may be too small for your home. In this situation, the HVAC system works harder, and you may need frequent, expensive repairs, or the system may not last for its expected lifetime. It is best to purchase a unit that is sized for your home with SEER and HSFP ratings that will maximize your savings each month. We also recommend other updates to your heating and cooling equipment, such as air purifiers, zone systems, whole-home humidifiers, and programmable thermostats.
Navigating the New HVAC Regulations – Don’t Do It Alone
Choosing an HVAC system for your home is overwhelming, and the process is even more complex with the new DOE requirements. At Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, we recommend that homeowners focus on maintaining their equipment if it is in good working order and less than 15 years old. We provide routine maintenance HVAC services and repair services. As manufacturers normalize their production operations for the updated DOE requirements, the cost of new systems may decrease. Additionally, the inventory of replacement parts will increase and reduce the cost of repairs. If your system needs to be replaced sooner rather than later, schedule an appointment with one of our expert technicians. We perform in-house evaluations to help you find a heating and cooling system that fits your needs and budget. Expect the new unit to have a larger footprint than your current unit.
Are There Other Changes to HVAC Regulations?
The recent updates to SEER, HSPF, and refrigerants are the only changes being introduced this year. There are changes planned for the next two years. Next year, a 40% phase-down is expected for hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, such as R-410A. As these products are phased out, supply will become limited, and you may pay more for repair issues that involve the refrigerant. In 2024 and 2025, A2L refrigerants, such as R-454B and R-32, are expected to become the standard for heat pumps and air conditioning systems. A2L refrigerants need to be handled with special precautions, and you may need to add some auxiliary equipment to your HVAC system, such as larger recovery hoses, gauges to monitor the refrigerant, and components to effectively recover refrigerant.
Rely on the Beltway HVAC Technicians
Updates to DOE HVAC requirements help protect the environment and maximize efficiency, yet these changes may overwhelm you. The heating and cooling experts at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating in Columbia, Hanover, Severn, and Arbutus, MD are always here to help. We offer both heating repair and furnace maintenance services for your current HVAC system as well as indoor air quality solutions, custom ductwork, and duct cleaning. When you are ready to replace your heating and cooling system, we help you find the best equipment, and our expert technicians perform the installation. Call us today to learn more.