As far as manufacturers are concerned, we figured this increase to be an advantage for them because they will be able to sell more expensive equipment. For a long time, there was speculation as to whether or not they would be able to make base model 13 SEER condensers and pair them with an energy efficient air handler to yield a 14 SEER system. Allowing this would have given contractors an easy way to work around the new regulations, therefore, the base model condensing unit that is going to be manufactured is 14 SEER. Some tend to do a little better than others when new legislation such as this is passed. Many of them have been released new products over the course of the past year or so to prepare themselves. Some are encouraging contractors to use this increase to sell more efficient equipment.
Air conditioning contractors in the Southern United States including Florida will have a slightly different set of rules to play by. The minimum efficiency requirement will be 14 SEER for residential and packaged and split HVAC products. Although the requirement kicks in on January 1, 2015, there will be a grace period of 18 months for straight cool 13 SEER installations and contractors can install 13 SEER heat pumps indefinitely so long as they were manufactured prior to January 1, 2015. Although there is a grace period, many contractors do not seem to think the products will last anywhere near that time. Gus Melo, owner of Tampa HVAC company Melo Air Conditioning, can't see 13 SEER products lasting beyond February or March of this year. He argues that the number of multi-family dwellings throughout the state of Florida will consume much of the supply. Many distributors only carry a month or two worth of product at any time and simply do not have the warehouse space or capital to stock more equipment. He also notes there are a considerable number of active projects and contractors that are placing large stocking orders prior to the end of the year.
Some questions we still have unanswered are whether or not dry charged condensing units will be manufactured. Recently, the HVAC industry experienced another mandate that units using R22 refrigerants could no longer be manufactured. This added substantial burden to a homeowner that simply needed a new condensing unit and had a functioning air handler because it would force them to purchase an entire new system. Manufacturers found a way around the regulation by making condensing units that were void of refrigerant and could be charged on site by the contractor.
We also still have some uncertainty to what will happen with federal and local rebates. As news first made its way around that the new minimum would be 14 SEER in 2015, many energy companies discontinued their high efficiency incentives and the federal rebate also ended. At this point, we do not know what the new requirements will be if any.
At Melco HVAC Services of Orlando, we will continue to update you on new information we have regarding the new federal minimum SEER ratings that are to take place January 1, 2015.