Angie’s List: Beat The Heat With A New AC

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During this year’s heat wave, homeowners find themselves sweating in their home, because of a broken AC. But before making the call to get it fixed, Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks suggests that homeowners should consider a replacement for their old AC.

““What many people don’t realize that your heating and cooling expensive represent about 50 percent of your energy bills, so if your air conditioner is getting a little on the old side, maybe it’s seven, eight, nine years old and you’ve got a repair you want to make sure repairing it is the best move,” Hicks said.

Older AC models are using Freon as coolant, which not only becomes more expensive within the next years, but also might be unavailable in the near future, due to federal regulations.

“For a homeowner who for many years may have a small leak in their systems and just have us come out in the spring or summer and top it off with a pound or two- well back in the day that might have run them a couple of hundred dollars,” HVAC contractor Larry Howald said. “And with today’s prices of R22, it may be $500 to $600.”

Angie’s List offers affected homeowners tips to make the right move regarding their broken AC.

•    The reason for the cost increase can actually be traced back to action taken by the federal government 25 years ago.
•    In 1987, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the phasing out of certain ozone-depleting refrigerants as part of the Montreal Protocol. The act calls for 90 percent of R-22 coolant, commonly called “Freon,” to be phased out by 2015 and to be virtually obsolete by 2020.
•    Most air conditioners manufactured before 2010 use the coolant. The new EPA-approved coolant, known as R-410A, does not work with the R-22 equipment.
•    Refrigerant leaks are a common problem with air conditioners. Over a couple of years, most units will lose a pound or two of the eight pounds of coolant typically needed to keep the machine pumping chilled air throughout your home.

Angie’s List Tips: Options for homeowners
•    The rate increase is sure to pose issues for homeowners with older, leaky equipment. Many are faced with the prospect of continuing to invest in higher repair costs for older equipment, or taking the plunge and replacing the equipment with a newer, more efficient system that uses the new coolant.
•    Having a conversation about your options with a licensed and qualified heating and cooling company can help homeowners determine if they should repair existing equipment or replace it. Any technician who handles refrigerant must be certified by the EPA to work with the coolant.
•    Homeowner opting for repair should be prepared to also pay additional costs to cover service, labor and any other parts necessary.
•    For homeowners who don’t want to invest in an entirely new system but also don’t want to keep investing in repairs, some manufacturers have circumvented the EPA guidelines, which called for an end to production of A/C units “charged”, or filled, with R-22, by producing units that use the old coolant but don’t come charged with it. These are often called “dry” units. Though these units generally cost less than a whole new system, consumers will still have to fill them with the old refrigerant, which is only likely to only get more expensive in the years to come.

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