Update: The standards slated to go into effect in 2013 may be delayed.
The decision to purchase a new heating or air conditioning should not be a decision that is made hastily. After all, a new HVAC system is not a cheap purchase and there are a lot of different factors and options for you, as a homeowner, to chose from. A qualified heating and air conditioning contractor is going to be able to inform you about the options you have available to you; however, you need to know what your options are so you can ask the appropriate questions. One of the most critical indicators of how your new unit is going to perform is its energy efficiency rating. Although SEER, AFUE and HSPF may not have any meaning for you now, it will as the benchmarks for these efficiency rankings are raised by the Department of Energy.
As of right now, the Department of Energy mandates that any new air conditioner, heater or heat pump that is installed meet the same rankings across the United States. This means that cooling units need to be at least 13-SEER and your heating system needs to be at least 80% AFUE. This is set to change starting in 2013 for heating units and 2015 for split air conditioners and heat pumps.
The Department of Energy is dividing the nation into three regions: the north, the south, and the southwest. In the north, heating units are going to be expected to be more energy efficient than those in the southern parts of the nation. The cooling levels will remain at 13-SEER, but the number for heating units will increase from 80% AFUE to 90% AFUE. This is the opposite for states in the southern parts of the country. For those states in the south and southwest the heating standard will remain at 80% AFUE while the cooling efficiency levels will go from 13-SEER to 14-SEER. These changing standards all have to do with whether your home will require more energy to heat or cool throughout the year.
What does this mean for you, the one purchasing the new system? Basically, switching to the more efficient system now rather than in the future may help the resale value of your home. This is because everyone will eventually have to replace their systems, whether it be in a few years or a decade or two. When they do, they are going to have to make sure that they meet these standards. If the system already meets these benchmarks it is a good selling point. In addition, you are going to save money monthly on utility bills. Heating and cooling your home can account for 44% of your monthly bills. With a more efficient system, you can cut that percentage.
Westinghouse offers many ENERGY STAR-rated options that include additional benefits for your home heating and cooling needs. In addition, you can pick and choose other home comforts that come with your system.
What region are you in?
Northern Region: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine.
Southern Region: Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Hawaii and Delaware.
Southwestern Region: California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.
Update: Currently the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute is trying to move the dates that these energy efficiency benchmarks are supposed to go into effect back by 18 months.