How to Prepare For New Regional Efficiency Standards

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 provided for the next round of government regulated standard efficiencies allowed for air conditioners sold in the Unites States.  These new standards will go into effect on January 1, 2015.  What is unique about these new efficiency standards is that they have allowed for different standards for various parts of the country rather than having just one national standard.  Similar to the standard efficiency increases experienced in 2006 when the minimum went from 10 SEER to 13 SEER, this regulation will apply to all equipment, whether it is being installed in an existing structure as a system replacement or in a new structure.

Here is a summary of what you need to know about the new regulations (also, see the map and table below):

Northern States – Minimum 13 SEER air conditioning remains the standard, but heat pumps go to 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF.

Southern (Southeastern) States – Minimum efficiency goes to 14 SEER for both air conditioning and heat pumps and 8.2 HSPF for heat pumps.  The 8.2 HSPF/14 SEER heat pump rating will become a national standard.

Southwestern States – Minimum efficiency also goes to 14 SEER for air conditioning, but there is a new standard for EER that will call for 12.2 EER for systems less than 45,000 BTUH and 11.7 EER for systems over 45,000 BTUH. Heat pumps require national standard of 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF

What can you do?

Here are few things you can do to prepare for these new standards:

  • Stay in touch with us via this site or our other contractor support sites as we get closer to the implementation date
  • Watch for OEM’s to change their product offerings to be ready for these new standards.  Emerson is working directly with all the major OEM’s to help them be ready, but each one may have a slightly different approach to meet the needs of three different regions.
  • Train your employees on the latest in new equipment which will feature electronic controls, variable speed blower motors and more.  You will need to stay current through Emerson training or through your OEM’s training.

What questions do you have about the regulation changes?

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18 thoughts on “How to Prepare For New Regional Efficiency Standards

  1. Where can I find a list of manufacturers using technology that allows increasing the SEER to 14 or higher without much increase in physical size of the unit? Rooftop space in Lee County Florida condo restricts much increase in size. Thank you for your help!

    • Hi Diane,

      Please visit the ACCA directory for the list. Here’s the link:



  2. Al Coates I have a 8 year old seer 10 heat pump that was managed by a tree I have gotten a quote to replace with a 14 seer and because my old unit is r22 and the new one is r410a I have to replace the air handler I’m fine with this but my insurance company is trying to force me into a dry shipped r22 heat pump so they don’t have to pay for both my problem with this is in 2020 r22 will be no longer made and then if I have a problem I will have to replace both at my cost I need help in fighting this I am in the state of Virginia thanks

    • Al Coates I have a 8 year old seer 10 heat pump that was managed by a tree I have gotten a quote to replace with a 14 seer and because my old unit is r22 and the new one is r410a I have to replace the air handler I’m fine with this but my insurance company is trying to force me into a dry shipped r22 heat pump so they don’t have to pay for both my problem with this is in 2020 r22 will be no longer made and then if I have a problem I will have to replace both at my cost I need help in fighting this I am in the state of Virginia thanks also I forgot to ad my contractor told me even if I was to put in a seer 14 r22 unit it will not work with my air handler

      • Hi Al – I will try to answer some of your questions by providing some background on other situations and how people are dealing with them. First of all, it has been a fairly common practice since 2010 to replace R22 outdoor units with units that do not have a refrigerant charge (dry charge units) and then recharge it with reclaimed or stockpiled R22 refrigerant. As long as there are some of those R22 units in stock somewhere this practice will likely continue. If the dry charge unit is 14 SEER and your indoor unit is 10 SEER, the system will probably “work” if it is installed properly. The problem the contractor might be referencing is that it will not be operating at 14SEER. To achieve true 14 SEER efficiency for the system, you would need to have a matched 14 SEER indoor coil and air handler to go with it. The issue you raise about the price and availability of R22 replacement gas into the future is probably worth discussing with your contractor. One suggestion might be to get a credit from your insurance for the cost of an R22 dry charge replacement unit and then apply that to get a matched, R410A system with both new indoor and outdoor equipment. This approach could get you to the higher 14 SEER efficiency level with the new refrigerant. I hope this helps answer a few of your questions.

  3. Hi Lisa – There are a few things that could be happening with this situation and they seem to be related to the various regulations that have been affecting the HVAC industry for the past few years. First of all, it seems like your current system probably was designed for R-22 refrigerant (the gas that moves the heat from the indoor coil to the outdoor coil and then to the outdoor air). So, your outdoor unit and indoor fan-coil unit were both probably designed for that refrigerant, which was banned from being used in new system installations since 2010 (part of the Montreal protocol on atmospheric ozone depletion). The indoor and outdoor coils are connected by copper tubing to carry the refrigerant and both units need to be matched to use the same refrigerant. Here is a link to an article that shows how typical AC systems work and there are other articles on this searchable site that explain the refrigerant regulations.

    The other national regulation that could be affecting your situation is the 2015 regional efficiency standards which raised the minimum efficiency level to 14 SEER (for residential unitary AC systems in the South and Southwest US regions, which includes NC, and for all residential heat pumps, nationally) from the previous minimum level of 13 SEER, and this has been in effect since 2006 when the minimum was 10 SEER. Since your system was installed in 2002, it could have a rating as low as 10 SEER. If that is the case, you might want to get an indoor coil which was designed to match your new 14 SEER outdoor unit so it can operate at the same 14 SEER efficiency as a new outdoor coil. A high efficiency outdoor, when matched with a lower efficiency indoor will not operate at the rated efficiency of the new outdoor unit.

    You might also have the contractor look into repairing and recharging your older, outdoor unit but depending on how much run time it has had you might be better off going with the new, higher efficiency system. The national average for replacement of old systems is about 16 years based on recent survey results. However, the average age is lower in the South and Southwest regions due to the number of cooling days required and lower also for heat pumps since they run year round for both heating and cooling.

    I am not sure if the above is exactly what is going on with your situation but if so, this might help explain some of what has been going on with our national HVAC regulations. On this site, we usually recommend that homeowners get at least three quotes from qualified contractors before deciding on their HVAC investments and also ask contractors about the various levels of efficiency and improved comfort that are available in new systems today. I am also not sure if there are any other state and/or local mandates or codes that might be affecting your situation but your contractor should know about these as well and explain them to you. I hope you find this information helpful. Good luck with your HVAC project.

  4. Hi. Our outside unit has a split in the heat expansion value and all the coolant has leaked out. The unit is 13 years old (Trane).
    We are in the process of getting quotes and something I was told confuses me.
    We are being told if we replace our outdoor unit we must replace the indoor unit via NC mandate (and efficiency regulations). They also told us that the coil on the outside unit also goes through the indoor unit. Due to new coolant mandates, we have to replace because of this.
    I thought the coils where separate and you werent required to replace both.
    Can you explain to me why we would have to replace both units if one is working fine?

  5. Hello,
    Can I replace the coil on a 12seer and what would I ask for to be sure that it would meet the codes for the future?

    • Hello Annette,

      Based on your comment it is not very clear as to which coil is leaking. There are two coils in typical central AC systems. One is inside the house and the other is outside. If the indoor coil is leaking and can’t be repaired, you may replace the indoor coil only. However, if your outdoor coil is leaking and can’t be repaired, you will probably have to upgrade the outdoor unit to a higher efficiency, 13 or 14 SEER model depending on your region (South and Southwest regions get the 14 SEER units). If you do that, you might as well have them quote you for an upgrade on the indoor unit too so you can realize the full efficiency improvement from the new outdoor unit. You would also be getting a whole new AC system with a new warranty as well.

      If you only replace the outdoor unit and stay with your old indoor coil you will not achieve the rated efficiency level from your new outdoor unit. On average, systems in the US are replaced when they are about 16 years old so you might be heading into more repairs from your older system anyway. You might also want to have the contractor quote an upgrade to a higher efficiency, 16 SEER+ system which would give you even better energy savings and superior comfort, humidity control, etc.

      On this site, we recommend getting three quotes from different contractors before deciding. We also support an industry organization of qualified contractors that provides a contractor locator. Here is the link.

      Good luck with your repair.

  6. Hello, I have an 12seer A/C unit, 18yrs old. The coil is leaking, so I was told it could be replaced. Is that true due to the new codes and what do I ask for?

    • Hi Bill,
      Generally, higher SEER means a larger indoor and outdoor unit as more heat exchanger surface (coils) are usually added to help achieve the higher efficiencies and the bigger the SEER change the larger the size change. For example, going from 13 SEER to 14 SEER might not be that much of a change but going from an old, pre-2006, 10 SEER system to a new 14 SEER system will be a bigger change – again, possibly for both the indoor and outdoor units. Some brands have minimized the size impact of the SEER increases in their equipment by using other methods to improve their efficiency rather than adding coils so you might want to shop around to some different brands if you are anticipating fit up problems.

  7. The ruling is not specific as to the type of building (e.g. manufactured or not), but it is specific as to the system type. The above discussion is mostly about typical US residential unitary air conditioing systems which feature and indoor air handler and a separate outdoor unit. The rules are a little different for packaged units and space constrained units. Some details about these other systems can be found at the following links.

    Ruling 76 FR 67037 see Page 10, Table I.1

  8. Here is link to our web page which shows details about upcoming training events as well as our on-line training opportunities.

  9. West Virginia is in the North. All our charts and tables have been updated to make this a little more clear. If you want more information click on these links.

    1. Ruling 76 FR 37408 see Page 23, Table III.5 for AC and HP and Page 21, Table III.3 for Furnace Standards

    Click here

    2. Revision of above but regions did not change. Ruling 76 FR 67037 see Page 10, Table I.1

    By the way, have you seen our latest update to this topic? Here is a link to it .

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