When shopping for a new air conditioner, you should consider the unit's SEER rating. The SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, is a measure of a unit's energy efficiency and is calculated by dividing the cooling output for a typical cooling season by the total electric energy input for the same time period. A higher SEER rating typically means a more energy efficient and cost-effective unit.
The Department of Energy has recently introduced an updated SEER calculation called SEER2, which uses the new M1 blower testing procedure to more accurately reflect real-world conditions. This is because the fact that the current SEER testing does not account for factors like poorly designed ductwork, which can increase static pressures and energy consumption among other real-world conditions not scene in a testing center. The M1 blower testing procedure adjusts the static pressure in the lab from 0.1’’ w.g. to 0.5’’ w.g., which more closely resembles the static pressure found in real-world installations.
In addition to the testing procedure change, the Department of Energy has also established new minimum equipment efficiency ratings for the SEER2 update. These ratings vary based on the region and type of equipment. For example, in the North (National) Region, residential air conditioners must have a SEER2 rating of 13.4. In the Southeast Region, residential air conditioners under 45,000 BTUs must have a SEER2 rating of 14.3, while air conditioners between 45,000 and 65,000 BTUs must have a SEER2 rating of 13.8. In the Southwest Region, residential air conditioners under 45,000 BTUs must have a SEER2 rating of 14.3 and an EER2 of 11.7 (or 9.8 EER2 if the SEER2 rating is 15.2 or higher). Air conditioners between 45,000 and 65,000 BTUs must have a SEER2 rating of 13.8 and an EER2 of 11.2 (or 9.8 EER2 if the SEER2 rating is 15.2 or higher).
Heat pumps must meet a SEER2 rating of 14.3 and an HSPF2 (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) of 7.5 in all regions. Residential single packaged air conditioners and gas-electric packaged units must meet a minimum SEER2 of 13.4, and packaged heat pumps and dual-fuel units must have a minimum SEER2 of 13.4 and an HSPF2 of 6.7.
It's worth noting that these minimum equipment efficiency ratings only apply to new air conditioning units. If you already have a unit with a lower SEER or EER rating, you are not required to upgrade to a unit with a higher rating. However, if you are in the market for a new air conditioner, it may be beneficial to consider a unit with a high SEER2 and EER2 rating to take advantage of energy and cost savings.