The U.S. Energy Policy and Conservation Act directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish minimum efficiency standards for various consumer products, including central air conditioners and central heat pumps.
Why 13 SEER?
New technology has made higher efficiency in HVAC systems economically justified as required by law. The DOE is recommending amended energy conservation standards accordingly.
The 10 SEER, effective through January 22, 2006, debuted in 1987. By 1993, the DOE was already considering initiating regulations requiring an increase in efficiency.
Congress halted the deliberation process in 1995, and the DOE picked it up again in 1999. After two Presidential terms and a final decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in January 2004, 13 SEER became reality. On January 23, 2006, the law will change to require manufacturers to cease production of components rated less than 13 SEER.
Why 14/15 SEER ?
The proposal for improved AC and heat pump efficiency builds on previous consensus standards issued in 2011 and taking effect last year, and, before that, the very large improvements that took effect in 2006. Combined, these three rounds of improvements (effective in 2006, 2015 and, now, 2023) will raise central air conditioning and heat pump efficiency by about 50 percent over less than 20 years.