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Why Texas AC repairs now take twice as long, cost 25% more

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Jerry Cline of Total Heating and Cooling works on an air conditioner unit in this file photo.

The Wichita Eagle

Dallas-Fort Worth will sweat out this week some of the hottest days so far this year.

Better hope your air conditioner holds out.

Inflation, supply chain issues and worker shortages are hitting the air conditioning industry. You’re likely to pay more than usual and wait longer for your AC unit to be fixed or replaced.

Aaron Spears, an HVAC manager at ABC Home and Commercial Services of DFW, said that the company started getting an influx of air conditioning calls in the middle of April. With the heat arriving so early this year, the technicians are now even busier and working later shifts every day to keep up.

Spears says he goes to seven to nine houses each day to fix air conditioners, whereas he would usually do about four or five house calls.

Prices of air conditioner parts have gone up about 25% since 2020, Spears said. ABC primarily buys equipment from Richardson-based Lennox Industries, which announced price hikes four times since 2021 “due to persistent cost inflation.”

Just this year, the company announced a 13% increase on commercial equipment and another 9% increase on both residential and commercial equipment. That’s affected prices of indoor and outdoor A/C units, evaporator coils, thermostats and control boards, Spears said.

“We’ve had to raise our prices, which has made a lot of customers upset,” Spears says. “We’ve gone up at least 20% on our tickets for residential equipment, just because we have to stay in front of the manufacturers’ rises. We try to cut costs in other areas to compensate it, but we can only cut so much costs without cutting corners on the jobs. So we have to raise prices, it’s the only way to stay in business.”

Why are manufacturers raising prices in the first place?

Raw materials used to make air conditioners like aluminum, stainless steel and copper are in short supply. On top of that, some factories that manufacture parts were shut down for over a year, so less equipment was being made. With those factories now being reopened, there are high costs for getting workers retrained and getting everything back up and running.

“There’s a myriad of different things that were made scarce because raw materials just weren’t around,” Spears said.

On average, orders of AC parts take three to five business days to arrive, Spears says. Before the supply chain issues, they would take one or two business days.

Shortage of AC repair workers

A shortage of workers, Spears said, has meant that they have to work more hours, and customers sometimes have to wait longer for service. They’re “pretty desperate” to fill about four positions, he says.

“There’s a lot of guys that learn how to do this industry in school and that work in the field for a couple of months, and they just don’t like it. It’s a very, very demanding job physically, you have to put yourself in environments that most people would not spend more than a couple minutes in,” Spears says. “Anytime you’re in those types of environments, the stress levels go way up and your focus levels go way down, so it’s a difficult job to do and I think it turns a lot of guys off.”

Tips for using/maintaining AC during heat waves

Keeping your air conditioner in tiptop shape before it gets even hotter can ensure that you’re ready for late spring and summer temperatures. Here are ways to make sure you and your family will stay cool through the heat.

  • Routine maintenance is the No. 1 way to avoid high prices and wait times, Spears says. Get on a maintenance plan for your air conditioner, where a technician checks out your AC a few times a year.
  • Watch to see whether the indoors temperature stays at what the thermostat is set to. If you set your thermostat at 72, but the house is 76 and won’t go lower, that may mean an issue with the unit.
  • Capacitors tend to pop because of the extreme heat and cause the air conditioner to stop functioning, Spears said, which makes up the majority of calls that they’re getting. To help prevent that issue, make sure that you’re cleaning the air conditioner coils that get dirty and can pop the capacitor. And make sure the capacitor is running at its full capacity.
  • Pay attention to whether drain lines are clogged, because that could be interfering with how well your air conditioner works. Make sure that you clean air conditioner filters and flow the drains out.
  • To make sure you’re electric bill isn’t killing your bank account, try not to set your air conditioner below 75 degrees.

This story was originally published May 13, 2022 12:13 PM.

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Dalia Faheid is a reporter on the Star-Telegram’s service journalism team. She is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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