Staying cool this summer could cost more if your A/C unit is older


AUSTIN (KXAN) — During the summer — especially in Texas — keeping your home cool is of utmost importance. But this year, the cooling chemical used in older A/C units is being phased out for its harmful effects on the environment. 

Scientists think that chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) used in freon for air conditioners are having a negative effect on the ozone layer.  

CFCs have circulated for decades in the troposphere, the layer of atmosphere closest to Earth. When they reached the upper stratosphere, ultraviolet light caused CFCs to break apart and release chlorine — which causes ozone destruction. 

Now that the transition is underway, it could cost you when it’s time to make necessary repairs. 

“Ongoing preventative maintenance is probably the most important thing you can do,” said Tela Mange, with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. 

Austin art collector Troy Campa remembers when he was having A/C issues in his home. He had to replace his unit last year to keep his masterpieces in mint condition.  

“Shelled out and got a new unit, new compressor, the whole thing,” Campa recalled.  

With the month of July forecasted to be hotter than normal, you may face something similar. 

“Refrigerant is pretty expensive,” said Bill Weatherly, the program chief for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. 

The refrigerant used in old machines is only getting more pricey. A new coolant will be manufactured from 2020 on. It’s cheaper on the consumer but can’t work in your old unit. 

“You’ll need to replace it and it will be more efficient as well,” Weatherly said. 

Weatherly said if the repairs cost more than $5,000 or your A/C unit is more than 10 years old, it’s probably best to just go ahead and replace it. 

So your options: keep patching your A/C with temporary and more costly fixes, or just shell out to get it up and running for the long haul with the new coolant.

While every situation is different, Weatherly said the average cost to replace a full A/C unit hovers somewhere around $6,000 to $8,000. 

Something else you need to watch out for when getting your A/C serviced or replaced is making sure the contractor is licensed. 

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation said it recently did a sting operation in San Antonio. It opened up nearly 50 cases on unlicensed contractors responding to A/C work. 

At the same time, TDLR conducted surprise inspections on job sites from San Marcos all the way to Waco, checking on electricians’ licenses. 

“We want people to be as safe as they can. And if you have someone who is not licensed, working on your home, working on your business, then if they do something wrong, if they hook something up the wrong way, they can burn your house down,” said Tela Mange, the public information officer for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. 

You can call up TDLR and they will help you check whether the contractor you are using is up to date on their license. 

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