HVAC regulations in California can be quite complex, which is why it is essential that you always hire a certified, experienced contractor whenever you need any type of work done on your home’s HVAC system.

If you were to hire someone without the proper certifications, there is a high chance your system may not meet all relevant building codes in which case you could be charged with a code violation and forced to make expensive changes or upgrades. HVAC regulations also vary quite a bit from state to state and even from city to city, and here is a quick overview of the 2023 HVAC regulations in California.

2023 Federal Minimum Energy Efficiency Requirements

Federal law always supersedes state law in the US, which means that all new HVAC units installed in California must meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standards set out by the US Department of Energy. These efficiency standards were updated at the start of 2023 to increase the minimum energy efficiency rating required for all new central air conditioners and heat pumps.

All new central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps installed in California or anywhere else in the southwest or southeast US must have an efficiency rating of 15 SEER (14.3 SEER2), which is an increase of 1 SEER from the previous standard. Heat pumps must also have a heating efficiency rating of at least 8.8 HSPF (7.5 HSPF).

It is important to note that these increased energy efficiency requirements only apply to newly installed units. Even if your current air conditioner or heat pump doesn’t meet the new standards, you can continue to use it without any issues. However, whenever it comes time to replace your existing unit, you will only be able to have a new unit installed if it meets the updated standards. If somehow you did try to install a new unit that didn’t meet the minimum requirement, it would fail the required building inspection and you would be forced to tear it out and replace it.

The minimum energy efficiency standard for gas furnaces has remained the same since 2015. To meet the federal requirements, any new gas furnace installed in California and throughout the southern US must have a rating of at least 80% AFUE.

California Building Energy Standards

Although all new HVAC units must meet the federal efficiency requirements, California also has its own requirements as set out in the California Energy Commission’s 2022 Building Energy Standards. Any new HVAC unit installed after January 1, 2023, must conform to these 2022 standards. some of the California requirements are slightly stricter than the federal requirements for certain HVAC units depending on the type and size of the unit.

California also updated its Title 24 Building Code standards in 2022, and these new code requirements apply to all new buildings. The biggest change is that all new newly built homes are required to have either a high-efficiency heat pump for space heating or an electric heat pump water heater instead of a gas furnace or gas water heater. This requirement also sometimes applies when making major renovations or adding on to a home depending on the size of the project.

Homeowners do still have the option to install gas furnaces and gas water heaters. However, if you do still choose to use gas appliances, then they must meet a much higher energy efficiency standard than the state otherwise requires.

The state made this change to the building code as part of its efforts to slowly phase out gas-burning appliances and push residents to adopt more environmentally friendly, higher-efficiency electric units for space heating and water heating. This new building code is why more and more homes are now being built in the state without natural gas connections and with only electric appliances.

Modesto’s HVAC Experts

If you need any type of HVAC work performed, you can trust the team at Honey's Air & Solar to ensure your system conforms to all state and federal requirements. We specialize in all types of HVAC repairs and maintenance, and our team works on and installs central air conditioners, heat pumps, ductless mini-splits and various other HVAC units. We also install and service water heaters, mechanical ventilation systems, whole-house fans and whole-house generators, and we can also help with window replacement or if you need any type of solar services. If you have any questions about California’s HVAC regulations or need to schedule any service, give us a call today.

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