LENEXA, Kan. — The price of staying cool during a long, hot summer is going up for people repairing or replacing their air conditioners. Cooling contractors say a government mandate is to blame for sharply higher prices.
Many homeowners call for service when their air conditioner stops blowing cool air. The most common gas used in air conditioners costs 50 percent more now compared to 2011.
After 18 years of service, the air conditioner at a metro home stopped working and needs to be replaced. The new unit being installed costs thousands more than the one it’s replacing. That’s because it uses a new environmentally friendly refrigerant. The refrigerant doesn’t deplete the ozone but requires a lot more work.
“Outdoor unit, indoor cooling coil, typically the lines with refrigerant that connects the two, it has to be replaced as well,” said Steve Burbridge. “So, it’s not just replacing an outside unit anymore, which takes 4 – 6 hours, now it’s a whole system.”
The EPA has ordered manufacture of R-22 to stop. It’s the most common gas used in home air conditioners. The agency says R-22 has the potential to destroy the earth’s protective ozone layer. As availability of R-22 is limited, the price is skyrocketing making even a simple A/C recharge cost prohibitive for some homeowners.
The homeowner where the air conditioner is being replaced told FOX 4 she could’ve gotten a new A/C that uses the old refrigerant and saved some money. She said she decided to bite the bullet and buy a new system with new refrigerant because she likes the idea of it being safer for the environment.
“It does get costly to fill up a system now,” Burbridge said. “If it’s an older system, I say that if it’s out of warranty or older than 10 years or so, there is a known bad leak in the system. It probably should be replaced, otherwise you’re putting a lot of money into something with very diminishing returns.”
The new systems with ozone friendly refrigerant uses high pressure lines and are much more expensive. Burbridge said they top out at $20,000 depending on the home.
In addition to being good for the earth, Burbridge said the silver lining to the higher costs are the lower utility bills homeowners can expect with the new, energy-efficient systems.
On Jan. 1, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed a ban on the manufacture of new air conditioners using R-22, a refrigerant more commonly known as Freon(R), because of its ozone depleting effects. The use of R-22 was not banned, but allowances were dictated on its future manufacture and in order to service existing home air conditioners.
Then on Jan. 4 of this year, the EPA proposed a rule that, if adopted, would significantly reduce production and distribution of Freon(R) by as much as 50 percent. This has significantly increased, and in many cases, more than doubled the price of Freon(R) in recent weeks, according to the CHSCA.
"The majority of the time our industry repairs an existing air conditioning system, R-22 is involved in that repair," Jeff Powell, chairman of the CHSCA, said. "That means the cost of repairing air conditioners has gone up significantly. However, because home service contracts cover service and repair to existing systems, and providers have generally not increased the price of those contracts, the value to consumers has increased."
Home service contracts generally provide service, repair or replacement for items such as dishwashers, ovens, disposers, electrical and plumbing systems -- and most importantly, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Many home service contract providers also offer a menu of optional items such as pool and spa equipment, well pumps, and free standing appliances such as refrigerators and clothing washers and dryers for an additional fee. Contracts do not cover pre-existing conditions, but provide service, repair or replacement for failures arising due to normal wear and tear during the contract period.
To learn more about home service contracts and providers in California, please visit http://www.homeservicecontract.org/california.htm .
Members of the new CHSCA, which provide approximately 95 percent of all home service contracts in California, include 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, American Home Shield Corporation, BPG Home Warranty, Fidelity National Home Warranty Company, First American Home Buyers Protection, HMS National/Cross Country Home Services, Inc., Home Security of America, Inc., Home Warranty of America, Inc. and Old Republic Home Protection Co., Inc.
About the National Home Service Contract Association
The NHSCA is a non-profit 501((C)) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. To learn more about the NHSCA and to find answers to the most common questions regarding the purchase of home service contracts, visit www.homeservicecontract.org .
SOURCE: California Home Service Contract Association
For California Home Service Contract Association Jeff Powell, 818-374-7477 Art Ansoorian, 805-653-1648