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This AC Scam Targeting Fort Myers Homeowners Can Cost You Hundreds

May 25, 2017

Using your AC in the summer is already expensive enough, but you know what can make it worse? Falling for a scam that could cost you $750 or more...

Here’s the scam: An AC technician investigates your air conditioner and says that needs more refrigerant...and does not talk about refrigerant leaks.

Trust us, that’s BIG deal.

In this article, we’ll explain…

  • Why that’s a scam

  • How you can prevent this scam from happening to you

But first, what’s this refrigerant stuff, anyways?

What’s refrigerant?

Refrigerant is a liquid/gas that’s used to cool your home’s air. So it’s an an essential part of your AC system. If you don’t have enough refrigerant, your air conditioner won’t be able to cool your home properly.

Why you usually don’t need more refrigerant

If an AC repair person tells you that you’re low on refrigerant, and they don’t mention anything about leaks, you should automatically be wary of a scam. 

Here’s why: It’s rare to have low refrigerant without a leak. Your air conditioner is a sealed system, meaning that your refrigerant shouldn’t escape unless there’s a leak.

In other words, your AC does not “use up” refrigerant like a car uses up gas.

You’ll know if you’re actually low on refrigerant if you see these signs:

  • AC is putting out warm or lukewarm air

  • You see ice forming on the refrigerant line.

  • You hear a bubbling or hissing noise coming from the AC unit (that’s the refrigerant escaping)

Why the refrigerant scam can cost you

The reason a scammy contractor won’t bring up leaks is because they want you to be dependent on them. They want to continue adding more refrigerant to your system. 

You see, refilling refrigerant is expensive—especially if your system uses R-22 (Freon). Freon could cost as much as $100 per pound, which means you could be shelling out anywhere from $500–$1,500 (ACs require 5–15 pounds of refrigerant depending on their size).

That’s a lot of dough!

Now, let’s look at how you can detect a refrigerant scam...

How to detect a refrigerant scam

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Did the repair person just show up unsolicited? Or did you contact them?

If they just showed up to your home and you didn’t call them, be wary of a potential scam—even if they dress and speak professionally.

2. Did the AC technician come under the pretense of a “free maintenance/tune-up visit,” then say you’re low on refrigerant?

If the answer is “yes,” that’s a sign that it’s a scam. Some companies use a bait-and-switch approach, where they hook you with a free visit, but then charge you for expensive problems like refilling refrigerant.

3. Did the repair person even check for refrigerant leaks?

If the answer is “no,” they’re scamming you. Even if your AC isn’t working properly, there could be many possible causes; refrigerant leaks aren't the only problem that can cause your AC to cool poorly. If the repair person assumes the problem is a refrigerant leak without actually checking it, you know it’s a scam.

What an honest technician SHOULD do if you have a refrigerant leak

An honest technician will find the source of the leak, consult you, and then repair the leak

To reliably check for leaks, AC professionals use electronic halogen leak detectors. The refrigerant passes through the detector where it’s translated to an electrical signal. The signal is then amplified, and you should hear a “beep” or see an indication on the screen if there’s a leak.

Now, if your AC technician can prove you have a leak, he or she will recommend 2 options:

  • Fixing the leak

  • Replacing the AC

Fixing a refrigerant leak is expensive (ranges from $225–$1600), and replacing your AC is even more expensive. However, in the long run, it’s better for your safety and budget to fix the leaks and not waste money refilling refrigerant.

When you should fix a leak: If you have a new air conditioner (1–5 years old) that uses R-410A, it’s probably most cost-effective to just fix the leak, since presumably your AC is still in good health.

When you may need a whole new AC: If you have an older AC that uses R-22, and you have a severe leak, it’s probably best to replace your system. Since R-22 is being phased out and you have an older system, it could be more cost-effective to replace the whole AC. Newer air conditioners are generally more energy-efficient, so you’ll recoup some of the high install cost with lower energy bills.

Learn about other AC service scams in the Fort Myers area and how you can beat them.

Think you have a refrigerant leak?

Contact Advanced Air to schedule an appointment with one of our AC experts. We’ll inspect your system for any refrigerant leaks, explain your options clearly and honestly, and repair any issues in a timely manner. 

We have thousands of satisfied customers in the Fort Myers area.

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