Extreme heat across the US has strained air conditioners. HVAC technicians report repairs are delayed because of a nationwide part and labor shortage.
Steve Stewart, the owner of Southern Comfort Mechanical Heating and A/C Specialists in Dallas County, Texas, told NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth that the entire HVAC industry is dealing with a shortage of all sorts of parts for HVAC systems due to lockdowns in China and bottlenecks at ports.
"So part of the challenge is trying to figure out what's gone on backorder. It's varied and moved from week to week on what the items are that are tight," said Stewart.
He said freon, the non-combustible gas used as a refrigerant in air conditioning, is in limited supply.
"410A, which is the current refrigerant that things are supplied with, has gone through price increases probably weekly. It's steadily gone up just due to supply chain shortages.
The other item is R22 which is in older systems. At times of the year, this has been in tight supply so this is in phase out at the moment. It's getting more expensive by the week. The availability of it is getting tighter and tighter. So potentially at end of this year, it'll be very difficult to get hold of."
He said parts for the condenser, the outdoor unit of the HVAC system that releases hot air, are in short supply and have taken longer than normal to procure because of backorders. He noted response times for a technician to come out to homes are much longer due to a labor shortage.
The HVAC part shortage is widespread. Mark Gooding, the owner of Samson and Son's Heating and Cooling in Tucson, Arizona, told local news KOLD that part shortages began when people working from their homes during the pandemic rushed to upgrade their older units.
"There was a huge boom in our business because everyone was working from home. They started upgrading things in their houses, ACs, you know home projects just went through the roof," Gooding said.
In Las Vegas, local HVAC technician Chris Wiley told KLAS News that a part shortage had delayed customer repair work.
"It's not like it was about five years ago where you could go pick up units and know they would be there," Wiley said. "I've had several suppliers out of units for over a month."
He said many items he needs to complete his work are on backorder. He added that the even more challenging part is relaying that message to his clients.
"This is the situation, and you're going to have to wait. That's all you can do," he said.
Las Vegas resident Michael Furman said it's pure hell when your cooling system shuts down during a heatwave:
"Having air conditioning isn't a luxury, but a necessity," Furman said. "When it's this hot, even putting on the fan won't help. It will drop the temperature from the 90s to the 80s but it's still too uncomfortable."
It's been an extremely hot summer this year, and having an HVAC unit go bust won't be fun for homeowners who might have to wait weeks for repair because of a part shortage.