What contractors should know about Regional Standards Enforcement

As part of the final determination as to how the new air conditioning efficiency standards will be enforced, the Department of Energy-appointed “Regional Standards Enforcement Working Group” has made their recommendation on an enforcement plan for the new regional efficiency standards. The proposal should clear up some confusion about compliance, but will still need to be approved and will likely be approved by a committee to complete the formal rulemaking process.

The following is a simple summary of the enforcement policy outlined in the recommendation.

Compliant Product (14 SEER) in the Southeast & Southwest Regions is now defined as:

  • Least efficient rating combination for a specified model of condensing unit must be 14 SEER.
  • Least efficient rating combination for a specified model of condensing unit must meet minimum EER requirement in the Southwest region.
  • Any condensing unit model that has a certified combination that is below the regional standard cannot be installed in the region.
  • A condensing unit model certified below a regional standard by the OEM cannot be installed in a region subject to regional standard(s) even with an Independent Coil Manufacturer (ICM) indoor coil or air handler combination that may have a certified rating meeting the applicable regional standard.

All contractors are required to retain records of installations in the Southeast and Southwest regions as described below (includes both split system central air conditioners and single packaged air conditioners):

  • System manufacturer, model and serial number
  • indoor coil or air handler: manufacturer and model number
  • location of the installation (including street address, city, state, and zip code)
  • date of the installation; and
  • party from whom the unit was purchased, including company or individual’s name, full address and phone number.
  • All records should be retained for 48 months.

Contractors may violate the standard by doing the following:

  • Knowingly sell to and/or install for an end user a central air conditioner subject to regional standards with the knowledge that such product shall be installed in violation of any regional standard applicable to the product.

A product is installed in violation if:

  • Complete system installed is not certified as a complete system that meets the applicable standard.
  • Replacement outdoor unit is not certified as part of a combination that meets the applicable standard.
  • Outdoor unit installed has a certified combination less than standard applicable in region.

We welcome any additional questions you might have in the comments section below.


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10 thoughts on “What contractors should know about Regional Standards Enforcement

    • As we understand it, the new regional efficiency standards referred to in this article will only be applied to Residential Single Phase units. Small three phase (<65KBTU) AC units will continue to be 13SEER and the small three phase HP standard is expected to change to 14SEER and 8.2HSPF on 1st Jan 2017.

  1. Please note, there has been some discussion within the industry as to whether the 18 month grace period would apply to heat pump systems built before 1/1/15. Some people believe that if some of these older, 13 SEER heat pumps are still in stock after the grace period ends on 6/30/16, they can still be installed. We will update information on this site as we get clarification. Again, the question is only about “heat pumps” built before 1/1/15. The grace period still applies to air conditioners built before 1/1/15. Thanks for your patience.

  2. If a contractor were to replace the outdoor condenser only, installing a new 14 seer rated unit on a system with a 13 seer rated coil who is held responsible? Can the manufacturer or distributor be held responsible in this case?

    • Although the rule is not final, as we understand it, contractors in the South and Southwest regions will be compliant with the new regulations if they install a 14 SEER outdoor unit, irrespective of the rating on the indoor coil. However, there is an additional EER requirement in the Southwest region as well so the 14 SEER outdoor units in that region should also have that EER capability.

      Note, if the contractor is replacing the whole system, then the combination (indoor and outdoor units) should meet the minimum required for the region i.e. 14 SEER. The list of approved combinations can be found on AHRI directory


      To make this process a little easier, starting from 1st April 2015, the OEM’s will add additional information on outdoor units regarding which regions that unit maybe installed.

      Also, as we understand it, the contractor will be required to keep records of model numbers, where purchased, installation location and date installed etc. for a period of 48 months. The documentation would serve as evidence of proper SEER (and EER) levels. A contractor who is repeatedly found in violation may be classified as a “routine violator”, in which case they will not be able to purchase from any wholesaler or manufacturer. If a manufacturer or distributor knowingly provides equipment to a routine violator, they may also be subject to penalties.

      This is all supposed to be clarified and detailed in the final ruling by DOE which should be available soon and we will post updates on this site as they become available.

  3. My original heat pump (split system) ran on R-22, installed 1983. A new heat pump was installed in 2009, using 410A refrigerant. This month the lines blew and the air handler is a complete loss. Installer claims they had no duty to inform me that the existing soldered joints would not support the increased pressure used with the new system. Is this true? As I am not an HVAC installer, how would I have known this was a potential problem?

    • Any good contractor would have offered you the option of replacing the indoor airhandler at the same time as the outdoor heatpump(highly recommended). All though it would have been more expensive at the time it would avoid the issues you are having now.

  4. Can lower seer ,manufactured before 1/1/15 still be installed, I thought i read that they could. if so, untill what date?

    • Yes. 13 SEER Products built before 1/1/15 can still be installed in the south and southwest regions during the 18 month grace period which ends on 7/1/16. Those same 13 SEER A/C products can also be installed in the north region even after the grace period. All heat pumps in all regions will have to be 14 SEER after the grace period however. I hope this answers your question.

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