As temperatures rise with the onset of spring, the costs of repairing and filling air conditioners with the cooling gas known as freon will also increase.
Air conditioning contractors in northeast Florida have already started warning customers looking for repairs to prepare for a dramatic leap in the addition of gas that provides coolant in air conditioners. Compared to a year ago, the price for putting freon in a residential or commercial air conditioner will be drastically higher.
The price increase affects air conditioners which were mainly manufactured before 2010.
“What this means is that they have tripled to quadruple their price on Freon for a service call,” said Tom Karol, service technician at Don’s Air Conditioning in Jacksonville. “It’s a hell of a expense.”
The rising cost of Freon is the result of a US Environmental Protection Agency directive implemented this year. The EPA is phasing out production of the old freon, known as R-22. This is because the coolant contained hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which are the gases believed to erode the earth’s ozone layer. Instead, the EPA requires air conditioning manufacturers to use R-410A Freon, which is a cleaner gas.
This means that the price of the older type of Freon has dropped from around $ 40 per pound to around $ 90 per pound. A freon refill in an air conditioning unit typically takes around 5 to 10 pounds of gas.
“These are the direct costs that we pay to purchase this refrigerant and we have no choice but to pass them on to the consumer,” said Ed Miller, president of Snyder Heating and Air Conditioning in Jacksonville.
Most of the high cost of Freon to customers is almost entirely related to repairs to existing air conditioning units in homes and businesses. Vehicles are unaffected, Miller said, because environmentally hazardous Freon was phased out from vehicles a long time ago.
But since the new freon was introduced and the old style of freon production was ordered by the EPA to be reduced, the old tactics of maintaining an air conditioner, such as simply filling a room leaking refrigerant gas, are no longer financially feasible, Miller said.
Miller said a single repair cost has dropped from around $ 100 to $ 400.
“Sometimes they [air conditioning units] have small pinhole leaks that scare them away. … Repairing and fixing the refrigerant leak is no longer necessary now because of the high price of refrigerant, ”Miller said.
A slow leak in the past has simply been recharged by many owners of air conditioning units, Miller said. But recharges are so expensive that it is better to repair the device or replace it rather than just recharge it.
“Now you have to replace the whole thing or the compressor,” Karol said. “When we explain it to people, they’re a little taken aback and they don’t know what to do. They’re trying to do nothing right now because it’s not that hot or that cold right now.”
The rising cost of freon comes on top of a new Florida regulation that requires air conditioning contractors to complete an energy calculation study of a structure before installing a system. This went into effect on March 15 and adds another cost of around $ 100 to $ 300 owed to contractors for inspection work.
But as summer approaches and warmer temperatures approach, Karol said there would be less R-22 Freon and anyone delaying air conditioning repairs would pay a hefty price.
“When that starts to take effect, the R-22 freon reductions, it’s going to really hit people hard,” Karol said. “I’m looking for freon over $ 500 for a 28-pound tank.”
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