Expect to pay for more air conditioner repair this summer

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --It's no secret, summer always means a spike in air conditioner repairs.

"Now that it's reaching higher temperatures and higher humidity things are picking up," said David Zellers, an area service technician for Alpha Energy Solutions.

Just as calls for service have increased, so too have prices.

Alpha handles commercial and industrial repairs, but we chatted with Zellers about residential.

He said customers shouldn't expect a break in costs anytime soon.

"They probably went up I would say at least 75%, maybe 80%. "

Zellers is talking about the price of R-22, the refrigerant most folks refer to by the brand name Freon.

It's being phased out because of ozone depletion and by 2020, government regulations say no new R-22 or imports will be allowed in the country.

So, as the product becomes scarce, but still needed in older units, consumers are paying a higher price.

Zellers said when he started in the business more than 20 years ago, his cost for R-22 was less than a dollar a pound.

These days, Zellers said supplier quotes fluctuate daily.

"You're looking at anywhere from $80 to $100 per pound, depending on the contractor, depending on the situation," explained Zellers regarding the customer cost.

That means repairing a leak will cost a lot.

Zellers added, "You could be looking at $1,000 easy."

The alternative is even more expensive.

Because 2020 is just four years away, Zellers said lots of companies are discouraging the idea of adding R-22 all together.

"The technician's going to say 'hey, you need to replace your system.'"

Those newer systems use ozone friendly refrigerant, but according to Zellers, can run anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000.

WREG asked, "How do I know as a customer though, that I'm not being sucked into something I don't need?"

Zellers said, "I would say get multiple quotes."

When deciding whether to repair or replace, some experts suggest using the 'rule of 5,000.'

Multiply the age of the equipment by the repair cost, if the number is more than $5,000, consider replacement.

For example, a 10-year-old unit with a $350 repair equals $3500, so in that case, it`s okay to repair.

Something else to keep in mind is that even the common replacement for R-22, R-410-A, might eventually be phased out as well.

An EPA spokesperson confirmed the following with WREG:

"The United States and other countries are seeking a global phase down of all HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. That proposed action includes R-410A, made from a blend of HFCs with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP)."

Zellers said customers purchasing a new system should specifically ask what type of refrigerant will be used.

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