Broken AC? Industry experts say you could be stuck in the heat for a while

As temperatures soar and the U.S. enters what are considered the "dog days" of summer, some people are finding out that getting their air conditioning fixed isn’t as simple as just getting a repair appointment.

Industry experts say several factors are leading to a slowdown of installations and repairs across the country.

A combination of a lack of parts and technicians to do the work are two of the main roadblocks that could keep some from beating the heat.

"We do have supply chain issues, and that continues throughout the industry. It could be the system or just a component has gone down, and some components come from the Asia-Pacific region. If there are hiccups in transport, it delays the production of the unit," said David Kesterton, chief executive officer of Mingledorff’s Inc., an Atlanta-based HVAC distributor.

When parts are in stock, finding a technician could be another part of the battle.

Kesterton said fewer technicians are entering the industry, which means the voids created by retiring workers aren’t being filled at a rate that keeps up with the demand.

"Companies are probably booked 2 to 3 weeks because of all the heat we’ve had," Kesterton said.

Gregg D’Attile, president and chief extensive officer of Art Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electric in South Florida, said his company hasn’t been hit as hard by the summer demand but expects the run on crucial parts could get worse.

"We’re expecting a tremendous equipment shortage during the next three months, D’Attile said.

The South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association vice president said his company has worked with homeowners to provide temporary fixes until repair parts arrive to keep homes bearable during the heat.

In some cases, technicians are able to slow leaks and install window units until replacement parts arrive and get the AC units buzzing again.

After parts are installed, consumers might be in for a sticker shock after looking over the repair bill.

Both industry experts warn the cost of refrigerant has skyrocketed, thanks to government restrictions on production and a move towards what are considered to be more eco-friendly alternatives.

D’Attile said refrigerants can sell for between $90 to $150 a pound, and many residential units require several pounds to keep the air cool.

Many potential problems with AC units can be found by technicians during maintenance ahead of the busy cooling and heating seasons.

"Maintenance gets the equipment to run better. Units need at least two visits a year to keep the system clean," D’attile said.

The U.S. Department of Energy says proper upkeep will help keep your home cooler and save you as much as 15 percent on energy consumption.

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