HVAC Service Times Extending… And what about R-22 Refrigerant?

By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services.

Summer might not officially be here on the calendar but her temperatures have arrived this week in full force!

The first few weeks of extended hot temps always result in more air conditioning maintenance calls.

I’m one who waits until I can’t stand it any longer before I commit to turning on the air. When you turn it on and nothing happens, the heat suddenly seems less bearable. After the extreme freeze we had in February, where many people were without running water due to frozen pipes, I made an interesting observation: people are more patient with no running water or no heat than they are with no air conditioning.

R-22 Refrigerant

This summer, we have a different type of challenge. What’s life without a few monkey wrenches, right? R-22 is her name and refrigerating is her game. R-22 is a type of coolant used in air conditioners. Coolant, or Freon, is the magical liquid that makes the cooling happen. The life blood of the air conditioner, if you will.

Unfortunately, R-22 contains HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), which have a nasty habit of depleting the ozone layer. As such, the manufacturing and import of this chemical have now been outlawed in the United States. How does that affect you if your rental has a system using R-22? I’m glad you asked. 

First, that nasty term I learned in Econ 101: Supply and demand. As the supply of R-22 has declined, the demand goes up and so does the price. Remember the Beanie Baby craze? The more people who wanted them, the higher the prices went. I mean, I heard this from friends. I know nothing of the coveted Princess Diana bear or the excitement of scoring one. 

We’re currently seeing the cost of R-22 about $180/pound. Compare that to about $110/pound for other coolants. 

Are the air conditioner police going to come after you because your AC system uses R-22? The good news is, you’re not going to HVAC jail. Only the production, not the usage, of R-22 has been phased out. While the system is functioning properly, you are good to stay the course. I’m a big fan of not fixing what isn’t broken. 

When any major system fails, as consumers, we have to make the decision to repair or replace it. We look at the cost comparisons of both options as well as the age of the unit. When the HVAC tech finds a system to be 3 or more pounds low on R-22 the cost to make that repair becomes cringe worthy. When they find something bigger like a bad coil, the cost for repair actually rivals the replacement of the AC system. We also want to look at the long term effectiveness of “topping off” the R-22 coolant. If the system has a slow leak, you will find yourself low on coolant again down the road. We have no way of knowing when the stockpiles of R-22 will be depleted. As those supplies dwindle, the prices will continue to rise. 

HVAC Company Response Times Are Lengthening

I’ve sent out at least half a dozen estimates for HVAC replacements this week alone for the very reasons described above. As the summer progresses, we expect to see more. With the increase of full system installs, the usual 1-2 days to get a new system in has increased to 5-7 days. Getting the approval back to the vendor as quickly as possible helps do our best to reduce the renters’ downtime without air conditioning. As I mentioned, people get extra cranky when they’re hot.

Cates Service Company offers our clients an annual HVAC tune up for $99/year. They come out in the spring to check the AC and in the fall to check the furnace. It’s a great way to help make sure the system is operating correctly before an issue arises. They also check the furnace filter to make sure it’s being changed as needed.

If you’re one of our clients and haven’t opted for this program and would like to sign up, send us an email at propertymanagers@home4rent.com.