Because of changes to the U.S. Department of Energy’s conservation rules, certain systems must meet minimum SEER requirements in order to be used in residential buildings in different parts of the country. Before installing a 13 SEER unit, it’s important to first answer a few key questions that will help you determine whether the unit is acceptable in your home:
Which region are you in? When was the 13 SEER unit manufactured and is it a heat pump or AC?
If you live in the North region of the United States, for example, as determined by the Department of Energy, a 13 SEER AC system manufactured at any date can be installed, however, heat pumps manufactured after January 1, 2015, must have a rating of at least 14 SEER.
Similarly, in the South and Southwest regions, 13 SEER units, including both air conditioning and heat pumps, can only be installed if they were built before January 1, 2015, within an 18-month window that ends on June 30, 2016. After this time, all systems installed in that region must hold a SEER rating of at least 14, regardless of its manufacture date.
In addition to SEER requirements, the Southwest region also has an EER minimum of 12.5, so both are important to consider before installing. In all other regions of the United States, split system central air conditioners continue to require a minimum of 13 SEER which is also the current national requirement.
With the upgrade to a higher minimum SEER requirement, power consumption is generally greatly reduced and homeowners stand to save hundreds in energy costs. For example, by upgrading a 9 SEER system to a 13 SEER system, energy consumption is reduced by 30%. This also translates to roughly $300 USD saved annually, depending, of course, on the cost of electricity and usage rates. While maintaining existing units may be more cost effective than purchasing and installing newer systems with higher SEER ratings, the efficiency of air conditioners can degrade drastically over time. Though 13 and 14 SEER may be the minimum for most of the United States, higher SEER ratings can further improve the efficiency of your system and stand to save you more in the long run.
Though the dates and regulations may make installing new systems confusing, there are a number of resources that can help you break things down, including manufacturer websites. Before going in search of the right system, you should first determine which state your region falls under according to the Department of Energy. From there, further comparing systems becomes much easier.