A small-business owner friend of mine alerted me to this story, after the air-conditioner repairman hit her with a bill four times higher than her last service call:
As temperatures increase with the onset of spring, so, too, will the cost for repairing and refilling air conditioners with the coolant gas known as Freon.
Northeast Florida air-conditioning contractors have already started to warn customers seeking repairs to brace for a dramatic jump in adding the gas that provides the coolant in air conditioners. Compared to a year ago, the price for putting Freon in a residential or commercial air conditioner will be radically more expensive.
The price jump affects air conditioners that were mainly manufactured before 2010.
“What it means is they have tripled to quadrupled their price on Freon for a service call,” said Tom Karol, a service technician at Don’s Air Conditioning in Jacksonville. “That’s a hell of an expense.”
The jump in Freon costs is the result of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directive implemented this year. The EPA is phasing out production of the old Freon, known as R-22. That’s because the coolant contained hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which are the gases believed to be eroding the earth’s ozone layer. Instead, the EPA is requiring air conditioning manufacturers to use Freon R-410A, which is a cleaner gas.
That means the price of the old type of Freon has jumped from about $40 per pound to about $90 per pound. A refill of Freon in an air conditioning unit usually takes about 5 to 10 pounds of the gas.
“These are direct costs that we are paying to buy this refrigerant and we have no choice but to pass this along to the consumer” said Ed Miller, president of Snyder Heating and Air Conditioning in Jacksonville.
The bulk of the high cost in Freon to customers is almost entirely linked to repairs to existing air conditioning units in homes and businesses. Vehicles are not affected, Miller said, because the environmentally-threatening Freon was eliminated from use in vehicles long ago.
But since the new Freon was introduced and the old style of Freon’s production was ordered by the EPA to be reduced, old tactics for maintaining an air conditioner, such as simply refilling a leaky refrigerant gas chamber, are no longer financially feasible, Miller said.
Miller said a single repair cost has jumped from about $100 to $400.