Posted: 5:34 p.m. Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Target 11 investigates recharging of old air conditioning systems

By Robin Taylor

PITTSBURGH —

If your air conditioner is on the fritz, you're going to get a rude awakening. The cost of coolant has nearly tripled. Target 11 consumer investigatorRobin Taylor looked into why and what you can do about it.

The Environmental Protection Agency is phasing out a refrigerant that's bad for the environment. The problem is that an awful lot of us have air conditioners that use that coolant.

So you're faced with a dilemma, pay incredibly high prices now to recharge the unit, or go out and buy a whole new system.

We met up with Rocco Florio, the president of Air Pro Heating & Cooling, as a home in Highland Park.

The family that lives that there was faced with that choice and decided to buy a new air conditioner. Their old one was shot, and fixing it, just wasn't worth it.

The EPA is phasing out a coolant called R22, which depletes the ozone.

Last year, a bottle of R22 cost about $125. Today's price is between $300 and $400.

"There are some systems that are having leak problems after five to six years. If you have to put the R22 in it's a costly endeavor," said Florio.

For example, if you have to recharge your air conditioner with R22, it's going to cost about $300. Chances are you've got a leak. Replacing the condenser is another $2,000,bringing the total $2,300.

If you replace the old air conditioner with a new one, using the environmentally friendly refrigerant 410A, it's going to cost about $2,800. That's $500 more, but it may save you money in the long run because the new coolant is much cheaper.

"That $600 today could turn into $1,600 to $2,000 in five or six years from now," said Florio, because the cost of new air conditioning systems is going up.

Manufacturers knew R22 was being phased out but they continued to make air conditioners using it as late as 2009.

Eventually, those units are going to have to be replaced because R22 won't be available.

"So you're either going to spend it now, or spend a lot more later," said Florio.

New air conditioning systems can be financed for as little as $50 a month, making that hefty price tag seems as if it's a little more affordable.

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