Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New Efficiency Regulations Impact Homeowners

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) initiated new regulations, in January, regarding air conditioning. Manufacturers rate this type of equipment and others, such as heat pumps, on their efficiency using what's known as SEER ratings, Seasonal-Energy-Efficiency-Ratio.

For several years, the minimum efficiency standard has been 10 SEER. On Jan. 23,2006, the law changed to require 13 SEER equipment impacting the heating, ventilation and air conditioning market across the country. The new standard requires manufacturers to cease production of A/C components rated less than 13 SEER. While no one can predict how long existing systems may remain in use, manufacturers are now prohibited by law to build A/C components rated less than 13 SEER. The law will ultimately result in a phase-out of less efficient machines altogether.

One result of 13 SEER is the increased size of the new units. They are almost twice as large as 10 SEER units are. They take up more space in warehouses and delivery trucks, and may require more than one person to carry and install. That means additional work hours and more cost to both contractors and, ultimately, consumers. Homeowners will face another very real problem when the industry depletes the existing supply of less efficient components now that building them is illegal.

An A/C system includes two units that work together: one outside and one inside. If the outside unit of a less efficient system breaks down and there are no compatible parts left to repair it, there may be no other option than to upgrade the entire unit to 13 SEER, at considerable expense. Since the indoor unit must be compatible with the one outdoors to meet manufacturer efficiency guidelines, it will also require additional work.

It is understandable, that homeowners will be frustrated when they face a possible system upgrade instead of the standard repair they were expecting. The lack of education on 13 SEER and energy efficiency in general will serve to compound that frustration with shock and related financial worries. Another issue is the Home Warranties many homeowners have in effect, as the warranty may not address 13 SEER mandated upgrades. So, check with your warranty company. It is probably a good idea to talk with your homeowner insurance company also.

American Home Shield, one of the country’s largest home warranty companys, is offering an upgrade to get 13 SEER coverage now for just $30. The AHS resource center can be reached at 800-735-4663 and online at

To learn more about 13 SEER efficiency guidelines, check out,where you can read the actual 13 SEER legislation and find out about the history of the new mandates. Contact the U.S. Department of Energy for more legislative information and questions by mail at 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20585 or by phone at 800-DIAL-DOE.

Good luck and call, 425-308-3669 if I can help in anyway!


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