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Freon: It’s Far From Free

Air conditioner and the price of freonSo, a few weeks back, my air conditioner decided it was due for a little time off, and it failed to give me any notice. One day it was on and the next day it was just… OFF. Painfully off, as the temps were soaring and in two days time it was to hit 100 degrees here in Chicago. Nice timing, A/C!

So, I called a local A/C repair shop and they sent someone over the next day. The repair guy must have heard the desperation in my voice (and it was hard to ignore the sweat on my brow) and recognized an opportunity, because he quickly indicated that I had a leak in the system “somewhere” and it would be cheaper to just replace the WHOLE A/C system than to find said leak. “Uh, ok… um, about how much is that going to cost me??” I asked, fearfully. Let’s just say my use of the word “cheap” above was highly inappropriate in this context. He mentioned something about a few thousand dollars, and then — much like my air conditioner — my brain just shut off at that point. Turns out that I don’t have piles of dollar bills lying around to throw at A/C repairmen (un-clothed or otherwise).

I immediately sent him packing, and got on the horn to track down another A/C guy. The next guy shows up, does a thorough check and relays that my Freon is indeed low and that while there may indeed be a leak, it does not necessarily require a whole system replacement (yet). “FAAA-YOOOOOO!” I exclaimed. (Also known as “phew.”) So we — me and my new best friend, repair guy #2 — decided to just replace the Freon… since I’m not, uh, rich. And we lived happily ever after.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. I can’t say I’m blissfully happy. The Freon was far from cheap in its own right. In fact, it was pretty darn pricey compared to previous years. A few hundred dollars pricey. All that for a few chlorofluorocarbons.

Well, after a little research (I am a fact-finder, after all), I discovered that the price of Freon has recently increased. How lucky for me — and you! Here’s the deal: A certain type of Freon used in older A/C models (mine’s from 1996!) is being phased out, hence, less of that type of Freon is being made. Lower supply = higher price. Ultimately, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to phase out 90% of Freon by 2015, and by 2020 it will be finito. Bye bye, Freon. So, that means if you have an older unit (2010 or prior), it may be more cost-effective to just bite the bullet and invest in a new unit if yours breaks down –- painful as that may be, particularly when you hand over your credit card.

The perk is that the new more energy-efficient air conditioners can reduce your electricity use by up to 50% — saving you some serious $$$. When you couple that with switching to an lower cost electricity supplier, you may be pleasantly surprised when you receive your electric bill next month. You might even be blissfully happy.


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