CEE Efficiency Specification for Split Central Air-conditioners

April 4, 2014

Boston, MA—Now that spring is in the air and warmer temperatures are fast approaching, it’s the right moment to consider air-conditioner efficiency. Just in time, CEE is offering a revised Tier 3 Specification for Split Central Air-conditioners. The new criteria help consumers, HVAC industry partners, and efficiency program administrators identify and promote the most energy efficient central air-conditioners available on the market.

Laying the Groundwork

By increasing the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) requirement from 16 to 18 and maintaining the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) requirement at 13, the new CEE Tier 3 lays the groundwork for capturing savings not only from today's most efficient equipment, but also from more sophisticated technology, such as variable capacity systems.

"Variable capacity air-conditioners' ability to dial capacity up or down could one day be used more prevalently in demand response or load management programs," stated Don Brundage, Principal Engineer at Southern Company. "They could help avoid peak demand issues on the hottest summer days while improving dehumidification performance compared to current demand response programs, which cycle the compressor on and off."

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) describes the efficiency of an air conditioner over the entire cooling season. However, SEER is not an ideal measure of performance under peak or very hot conditions, which is better captured by the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). Addressing electricity consumption during periods of peak demand remains an important goal for many electric utilities, and 13 EER continues to represent an ambitious level of performance when outside temperatures are scorching. Variable capacity equipment that is also demand response ready could provide a future alternative to relying exclusively on high EER equipment to address summer peak, an area that CEE is committed to exploring further with the HVAC industry. Several CEE members appreciate that variable capacity equipment also excels at managing humidity.

The CEE Tier 3 is the highest of three CEE performance levels for split central air-conditioners. It’s intended to recognize the most energy efficient models in the market, appeal to early adopters, and define a stretch target that spurs the development of new and even more efficient products. CEE members who incentivize the highest efficiency equipment can leverage this highest CEE Tier, in addition to CEE Tiers 1 and 2, to accelerate market acceptance of high efficiency products.

The new CEE Tier 3 for split central air-conditioners also aligns with the SEER and EER requirements of the 2014 ENERGY STAR Most Efficient, creating an additional opportunity for efficiency program administrators to leverage the ENERGY STAR brand and marketing platform in promoting this level.

Learn More

The CEE high efficiency specification is just one element of a broader CEE Residential Central Air-conditioner and Air Source Heat Pump Initiative, with CEE members pursuing additional savings through the promotion of Quality Installation and proper maintenance. For more information, please see the CEE Residential Central Air-conditioner and Air Source Heat Pump Initiative and High Efficiency Specifications. Equipment qualifying for the revised Tier 3 can be found on the CEE Directory of AHRI-Verified HVAC Equipment.

"Variable capacity air-conditioners ability to dial capacity up or down could one day be used more prevalently in demand response or load management programs."
Don Brundage,
Southern Company
Installers benefit from change to central air-conditioner specification change. Photo credit: iStock photo/CEE.


About CEE
CEE is an award-winning consortium of efficiency program administrators from the United States and Canada. Members work to unify program approaches across jurisdictions to increase the success of efficiency in markets. By joining forces at CEE, individual electric and gas efficiency programs are able to partner not only with each other, but also with other industries, trade associations, and government agencies. Working together, administrators leverage the effect of their ratepayer funding, exchange information on successful practices and, by doing so, achieve greater energy efficiency for the public good.