DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The price to stay cool just went through the roof. But it's not the energy bill, it's the coolant used in air conditioning units. The cost of freon has tripled in the past six months. "A lot of people are really surprised. They're used to paying around $30 a pound. And now, it's about $80. So, people are very surprised. Very shocked," said Jeff Stewart, Reliant Air Conditioning's VP Consumer Operations Manager. "The industry was expected to make a certain amount. And when that was cut off, our cost has more than tripled. So, unfortunately, we have to pass that on to the customer."
Newer air conditioners run on a type of refrigerant called 410A. R-22 freon is for air conditioners two years and older. The government is phasing it out over the next 18 years. "It's ozone depleting. So, it's not environmentally friendly," explained Todd Day, a VP at Standard Supply in Irving. Their warehouse still has plenty of pallets of R-22. But the company is saving them for their loyal customers, he said.
Day's company was put in a bind at the beginning of the year when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed an 11 percent to 47 percent reduction in R-22 production for 2012. That could mean 55 million pounds of R-22 available for customers who need them in 2012.
Suppliers are expecting a shortage because customers used 80 million pounds of R-22 in 2011. "Since we're unsure how much R-22 that we can buy, we limit how much we can sell to our customers," Day said.
With demand high and supply low, R-22 has become liquid gold, retailers say. The price of a pallet is $96,000. Last year, it was $36,000. The cost is passed down to the customer. "So, what's happened is, the basic service call has gotten about $150 to $200 more expensive than last year," Stewart said.
Someone who needed 12 pounds of R-22 for their air conditioning unit on a warm day ended up with a bill for $648.
Freddie Trevino of Irving fared much better. "Luckily, it was only a small wire. But it's nice to know. We'll be prepared," he said.
Consumers have to pay the higher refrigerant price. The only other choice would be to buy a new air conditioner, which would, of course, cost thousands of dollars more.
Vehicles went through a similar process in the mid-'90s.
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