Cost of air conditioner refrigerant skyrockets

Dick Uliano,

WASHINGTON – Hot and humid weather means it’s time to turn on the air conditioner. But homeowners could get sticker shock if their air conditioner needs to be repaired and the coolant known as Freon needs to be added.

The price for the stuff is up as much as 400 percent and the industry is blaming the Environmental Protection Agency.

Many air conditioners, particularly ones installed more than 10 years ago, use R- 22 refrigerant. R-22 refrigerant, commonly called Freon, is being phased out worldwide and replaced with a refrigerant that doesn’t damage the atmosphere.

But earlier this year the EPA, which controls the production and import of Freon, raised the possibility of speeding up the phase out and also failed to set allocations for manufacturers this year.

That move sowed confusion in the refrigerant market, according to Charlie McCrudden of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

“We know we’re facing a phase out, but how much further is the EPA going to accelerate that phase out,” McCrudden said.

The change, he says, “caused a little bit of frenzy in the marketplace.”

Supply has shrunk, demand has grown in the hot weather and the price is through the roof.

“I think consumers who are facing servicing should just be prepared because their contractor has to pass along these costs. They’re forced to pay much more for this basic element of the refrigeration system,” he said.

The EPA is expected to set Freon production limits later this summer which could help ease prices.

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