According to HVAC professionals, bottlenecks at ports and the lockdowns in China are leading to a shortage in a broad range of parts. While it can be challenging to predict which parts technicians will be unable to obtain from week to week, there are a few major refrigerants that consistently have been in short supply.
For example, the popular modern refrigerant 410A is dealing with severe supply chain shortages, which has caused its price to rise on a near-weekly basis. R22, a refrigerant found in older systems, is also often in tight supply and experiencing price hikes.
It’s not just refrigerants that are in short supply, however. Condensers, the outdoor units of HVAC systems responsible for releasing hot air, are also taking significantly longer than usual to obtain due to backorders.
At the same time, a labor shortage is forcing customers to sweat it out while waiting for a technician to come out to their home. Many technicians have been reaching retirement age recently, and trade schools have not been supplying the industry with enough skilled workers.
It’s all coming against the backdrop of a higher demand for HVAC services, spurred not only by the summer heat but also the influx of people working from home. The owner of Samson and Son’s Heating and Cooling in Tucson, Mark Gooding, told CBS affiliate KOLD that his business saw a significant boom during the pandemic as everyone worked from home and started taking on home projects.
For Las Vegas HVAC technician Chris Wiley, one of the hardest parts of the situation has been having to break the news to customers that they will simply have to wait for repairs because of backorders on supplies.
"It's not like it was about five years ago where you could go pick up units and know they would be there. I've had several suppliers out of units for over a month," he told KLAS News.
HVAC technicians are advising customers not to wait to call professionals if they are having problems as delays of a couple of days are normal thanks to the labor supply – and those days can feel like weeks in the extreme summer heat. And that’s just to get a technician to come out; some families are facing waits of weeks or even months until their units can be repaired due to the lack of available parts.
The owner of Southern Comfort Mechanical Heating and A/C Specialists in Texas, Steve Stewart, noted: "Typically we see people wait about three days before they call in. Day one, you maybe think you’ve got an issue and shrug it off. On day two, you maybe start playing with the thermostat or do something to try and fix it. And then by day three, you realize you have an issue – then you start calling but you may have to wait to get a technician there."
Some HVAC businesses may be able to lend portable units to homeowners to give those who are facing a long wait some relief.
Unfortunately, it looks like the problem is here to stay, with some industry leaders predicting these supply issues could persist through 2024 or even 2025. With this shortage showing no signs of letting up, experts say that homeowners can significantly reduce their chances of running into air conditioning issues by cleaning their air filters every three months to avoid clogging up the system and causing problems.
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