Homeowners See Rising Costs for New Air Conditioners

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LENEXA, Kan. -- The price of staying cool during a long, hot summer is going up for people repairing or replacing their air conditioners. Cooling contractors say a government mandate is to blame for sharply higher prices.

Many homeowners call for service when their air conditioner stops blowing cool air. The most common gas used in air conditioners costs 50 percent more now compared to 2011.

After 18 years of service, the air conditioner at a metro home stopped working and needs to be replaced. The new unit being installed costs thousands more than the one it's replacing. That's because it uses a new environmentally friendly refrigerant. The refrigerant doesn't deplete the ozone but requires a lot more work.

"Outdoor unit, indoor cooling coil, typically the lines with refrigerant that connects the two, it has to be replaced as well," said Steve Burbridge. "So, it's not just replacing an outside unit anymore, which takes 4 - 6 hours, now it's a whole system."

The EPA has ordered manufacture of R-22 to stop. It's the most common gas used in home air conditioners. The agency says R-22 has the potential to destroy the earth's protective ozone layer. As availability of R-22 is limited, the price is skyrocketing making even a simple A/C recharge cost prohibitive for some homeowners.

The homeowner where the air conditioner is being replaced told FOX 4 she could've gotten a new A/C that uses the old refrigerant and saved some money. She said she decided to bite the bullet and buy a new system with new refrigerant because she likes the idea of it being safer for the environment.

"It does get costly to fill up a system now," Burbridge said. "If it's an older system, I say that if it's out of warranty or older than 10 years or so, there is a known bad leak in the system. It probably should be replaced, otherwise you're putting a lot of money into something with very diminishing returns."

The new systems with ozone friendly refrigerant uses high pressure lines and are much more expensive. Burbridge said they top out at $20,000 depending on the home.

In addition to being good for the earth, Burbridge said the silver lining to the higher costs are the lower utility bills homeowners can expect with the new, energy-efficient systems.

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