DOE Efficiency Standards: What You Need to Know

Where you live in the U.S. determines which air conditioners and heat pumps you can shop for — in a good way!

Did you know that where you live in the United States has an impact on which HVAC products you can buy?

That’s because the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has placed minimum energy efficiency standards on the appliances and equipment we use at home every day. This includes air conditioners, washers and dryers, refrigerators and more.

Why is this good news? Because the standards are helping us save energy at home, as well as money on utility bills. They work so well that a 2017 report from the Consumer Federation of America showed that these standards have saved consumers over $1 trillion dollars.

SEER Standard by Region of the USWhat does this mean when you’re shopping for cooling and heating equipment?

It means that when you’re buying a new HVAC system, minimum energy efficiency standards influence which air conditioners and heat pumps HVAC dealers are allowed to sell to you, based on your region. Even if a company carries products with lower energy efficiency ratings, it doesn’t mean they can sell those products everywhere in the U.S.

Why do regions matter? Because there are different standards based on the climate needs of customers living in the North, Southeast, and Southwest regions. Since people living in southern climates use their air conditioners more often, they require more energy efficient systems. But the rules get even more complex. The Southeast standards only apply to split-system air conditioners. And the Southwest standards apply to split-system air conditioners and single-package air conditioners. So, let’s keep this simple.

Here are the 3 key things you need to know.

  1. The DOE regional breakdown by state
    Southwest: Arizona, California, Nevada, or New Mexico
    Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories
    North: The remainder of the United States
  2. The minimum efficiency standards for split-system air conditioners by region

     MINIMUM STANDARDS North Southeast Southwest
    Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) 13 14 14
    Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)† 12.2
    Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)‡ 11.7

    †Units with rated capacity of less than 45,000 Btu/h
    ‡Units with rated capacity of equal to or greater than 45,000 Btu/h

  3. The minimum efficiency standards for heat pumps and other types of central air conditioning 
    Product Class SEER *HSPF
    Split-System Heat Pumps 14 8.2
    Split-Package Air Conditioners 14
    Split-Package Heat Pumps 14 8.0
    Small-Duct, High-Velocity Systems 12 7.2
    Space-Constrained Air Conditioners 12
    Space-Constrained Heat Pumps 12 7.4

    *HSPF is the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. The higher the HSPF rating, the less electrical energy your heat pump uses to heat your home.

The bottom line? You should always ask your dealer about the SEER, EER and HSPF ratings of the equipment they are recommending — just to make sure they match your region’s requirements. It’s illegal for them to sell you a new system that falls below the standards, even if you ask them to.

When it’s time for you to get a new central air or heat pump system, working with your local Trane Comfort Specialist™ will ensure that your equipment meets the minimum standards for your region and you’ll have a solid selection of energy efficient systems to choose from.

For more details on air conditioner and heat pump efficiency standards, check out this helpful fact sheet from the DOE. Or read the Environmental and Energy Study Institute’s report on requirements for all appliances, lighting and equipment — this includes info about ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and what to consider when building your energy efficient dream home.