Cost of Keeping Cool: Freon Phase-out Leads to Expensive A/C Repairs

A/C repair
A/C repair
Posted at 9:10 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 09:47:30-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Major sticker shock for homeowners as prices to repair some air conditioning units skyrocket.

With temperatures expected to push past 90 degrees this week, most of us already have our A/C up and running.

"It started picking up in March and it's been steady since then," said Al Barineau, General Manager of E & B Heating and Air Conditioning. Barineau says E & B is not only staying busy with repairs, they're charging more to do some of those repairs.

That's because the EPA is phasing out the refrigerant R-22, often known by its brand name Freon. At one point, it was the most common type of coolant, but the government now says R-22 depletes the ozone. As R-22 is becoming harder to find, the price is going way, way up.

Over the last few decades, the cost of R-22 has gone up so much, companies now have to worry about the product getting stolen. 

"There have been thefts where large quantities of refrigerant have been stolen to be put on the black market," said Barineau. "30 years ago it was about $20 a pound. Now it's anywhere from $60 to $125 a pound."

That skyrocketing cost has more homeowners now opting to completely replace older units instead of paying hundreds to refill the R-22.

"I feel sorry for some of the customers when the bill gets real expensive like that but there ain't much we can do about it," said Archie Chambers, an HVAC Tech at E & B Heating and Air Conditioning. 

The EPA plans to completely stop making R-22 by the year 2020.

Experts say to avoid costly repairs, make sure you schedule regular maintenance checks on your A/C unit and never hire contractors that use off-brand, unapproved refrigerants.