March 14, 2024

The Department of Energy establishes standards for HVAC equipment in the country. SEER is one of the metrics the DOE uses to quantify energy efficiency. It sets standards that restrict the units that HVAC companies may sell and install. The DOE made significant changes to the standards recently. These went into effect on January 1, 2023, and the new standards vary per region: Southwest, South, and North. New York State is in the Northern region.

What Is SEER Rating?

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. The DOE codeveloped the metric with a trade association, the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. The AHRI maintains the technical definitions, while the DOE maintains the industry standards.

The industry uses the rating to measure the cooling efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. The calculation starts with the cooling output needed over a specified period. This varies from region to region, which is why the DOE sets different standards. The manufacturer then divides that number by the amount of electric energy needed to power the unit over that period. That gives you the SEER rating.

The higher the number, the better when it comes to efficiency. The minimum SEER rating was 10 in 1992 when the government passed the Energy Policy Act. It settled in at 13 for many years. The new standard is 14 in New York and 15 in some regions of the country. Units with a SEER as high as 25 are now available.


The industry refers to the DOE changes that went into effect in 2023 as SEER2. SEER2 and SEER are fundamentally the same as a metric. However, the DOE has changed the manner in which manufacturers must test. For systems with ductwork, they must now take into account static air pressure.

Moving forward, many products will have both a SEER and SEER2 label. This double labeling may cause confusion and will likely continue until manufacturers sell all grandfathered systems. To make an informed decision, you must compare the correct ratings when deciding between air conditioners or heat pumps.

Sale and Installation of Non-compliant HVAC Equipment

As of January 1, 2023, all products must meet the new standards concerning both performance and testing. However, it is still legal to sell and install non-compliant units made before this date in New York and other states in the North region. This is not the case in the South and Southwest regions. Most brands are shipping their non-compliant systems from those regions to the North.

SEER2 Minimums for New York Moving Forward

The new SEER2 minimum ratings for New York State are:

  • 13.4 for packaged air conditioners and heat pumps
  • 13.4 for split air conditioners
  • 14.3 for split heat pumps
  • 14.0 for ductless air conditioners and heat pumps

Are Pricing Increases Expected?

Yes. The industry expectation is that manufacturers will pass the additional costs onto the consumer. The EPA estimates the additional cost to be between $500 and $1,500 per installation. It also forecasts that the total cost of ownership for homeowners of these newer systems will still be lower despite this increase due to lower monthly electricity bills.

How SEER Rating Matters for You

SEER indicates energy efficiency and thus your month-to-month cooling costs. The EPA requires a minimum SEER rating for ENERGY STAR certification. This certification is necessary for the federal tax credit and typically any rebates that may be available to you.

Which SEER Is Best for Your New York Home?

A higher SEER is not necessarily better for you in terms of long-term costs. A HVAC professional can help you determine if the long-term savings in terms of your monthly bills will be greater than the extra expense of buying and installing a unit with a high SEER rating. Since non-compliant systems in the Southwest and South regions are being shipped north for sale, you may find a deal if you are in the market for an air conditioner or heat pump.

Air Conditioner and Heat Pump Services in the Hudson Valley

If you’d like to install a new AC or heat pump and want to ensure the best deal, WK Mechanical, Inc. can help. We have served the Hudson Valley with reliable HVAC services since 1945. Our technicians also install, maintain, and repair furnaces, boilers, and ductless mini splits. Additionally, we are indoor air quality experts and install air purifiers. Call us today or contact us online with any questions or to schedule an appointment.

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