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You should know this if your A/C is struggling to keep up this summer…

The things you should know if you need a repair, a replacement, or a tune-up for your air conditioning system.

TEXAS, USA — Sure, we can handle that brutal Texas summer out there…until the cold air blowing inside starts to feel just a little less cool. The average HVAC system lasts about 15 to 20 years.   

Recently, one viewer with an old A/C system wondered if they should just keep having it filled with a discontinued refrigerant called R-22. It’s bad for the environment and was phased out in 2020 but it's still being reclaimed from older systems and re-used

But it’s more scarce now…which means it’s also more expensive. Angi estimates that filling a typical HVAC system with R-22 will cost you between $400 and $600. On top of that, the site says you can expect to pay an average of $170 to $590 to repair whatever is letting your refrigerant out. That can be a lot of money for an old unit.

New A/C systems aren’t cheap, either

The common advice (if you are able to) is to avoid replacing your HVAC right now, because it may be much quicker and less expensive in the fall or the spring, when HVAC companies aren’t as overwhelmed.  

Whenever you do it, look for rebates from your transmission utility. A few examples: Centerpoint in the Houston area offers up to $3,000 if you upgrade your HVAC. In the DFW area, Oncor offers between $300 and $2,800 back. 

To get those incentives, you have to choose from their list of HVAC companies. Just make sure you get competing estimates, including (in writing!) how much your rebate would be. 

Many installers also offer financing. That could be helpful for many consumers, because to qualify for those hefty rebates, you have to buy at least a 16 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) system. According to HomeAdvisor, a system with that level of efficiency costs between $3,700 to $9,000 to be installed. 

A new system should also help you on your electric bill. About half the power we use is for heating and cooling. And a new A/C should use 20% to 40% less electricity

If you can’t afford a new system, you should at least get yours regularly tuned up. One estimate says that can improve its cooling output and efficiency by up to 27%.  

Help for low-income Texans

If you are low-income, there is help called the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program. It offers help with utility bills — and in some cases even covers the cost of repairing or replacing your broken A/C system if you are at 150% of the poverty level. 

This table from Benefits.gov shows the allowable income by household size to be considered at 150% of the poverty level. Eligible households would have income under the following amounts:

Credit: Benefits.gov

If you are eligible for the program, you can find the local office you need to contact for help by going to this site, clicking on the dot next to “Utility Bill Payment Help”, entering your city or county at the bottom of the page, and clicking the “Find Help” button. Additionally, you can use the contact information provided at the bottom of this page.

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