The Skyrocketing Cost of Staying Cool This Summer — and Future Ones

EPA and, if the Senate approves, U.N. regulations are increasing the costs of refrigerants used in air conditioning.

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Add air conditioning to the long list of items experiencing inflation under the Biden administration. Whether it is fixing your home’s existing system or buying a brand new one, costs are moving higher due to environmental regulations. The same is true for the electricity needed to run our AC. Unless Washington reverses course, staying cool will only get more expensive in future summers.

Repair costs have been hit the hardest. The EPA is restricting supplies of a class of refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in most air-conditioning and refrigeration systems, pursuant to a law passed in the last Congress targeting these compounds as contributors to (what else?) climate change. As a result, wholesale prices have increased 400 percent for compounds like HFC-410a — the refrigerant used in most residential air conditioners. Service technicians say that replacing refrigerant lost from a leak now costs upwards of $800, about double what it did a year ago. Moreover, EPA’s HFC quotas tighten in the years ahead, so the ratchet will keep turning, surely causing homeowners’ bills to increase further still.

These rules don’t just affect home air conditioners. Vehicle air conditioners and home refrigerators use a refrigerant called HFC-134a which is also becoming more expensive, though to a lesser extent.

Want to avoid higher repair costs by replacing your air conditioner? The price of a new residential system is also climbing and could get a whole lot worse. Manufacturers have joined environmentalists in petitioning the EPA to outlaw the most affordable types of central air conditioners in favor of supposedly climate-friendlier systems. The agency has granted these petitions and will finalize regulations within two years. Right now, the installation cost of a typical, new central air conditioner averages around $5,000. Who knows how much the new, supposedly “greener” systems will cost, especially if the government creates a captive market by mandating them?

It’s not hard to understand why manufacturers have supported this effort. Under the guise of being “environmentally friendly,” they are supporting measures that will skew the market towards more expensive systems. In addition to the equipment-makers, refrigerant producers Honeywell and Chemours, both of which have patented a number of substitutes for HFCs that carry a hefty price premium, have also supported the measures. Little wonder they were happy to work closely with environmentalists in lobbying for these restrictions.

Is it worth it? Despite descriptions of HFCs as “super-pollutants,” even the EPA calculates that these and other fluorinated gases constitute only 3 percent of current greenhouse-gas emissions.

Congress and the Biden administration have brought on this mess, and they can make it even worse. The Senate may soon vote on a United Nations climate-change treaty called the Kigali Amendment that would add yet another layer of costly red tape to air conditioning. The last thing we should do is put U.N. bureaucrats in charge of our AC.

Instead of more red tape, Congress should acknowledge the mistakes that have led to the current cost hikes and consider changes to the law to cushion the future consumer impact. But Washington is thus far ignoring its culpability in the rising cost of staying cool.

At the same time, Green New Deal–style measures are boosting the cost of the electricity needed to run this equipment. In particular, the war on affordable and reliable fossil fuels in favor of intermittent wind and solar is having a noticeable impact. Electricity costs are 15.2 percent higher this summer than last. Since an average, central air conditioner uses nearly $300 of electricity each cooling season, the current run-up will probably tack on another $45 or so in 2022 alone. Expect electricity bills to continue rising in future summers.

While skyrocketing gasoline and food prices have deservedly attracted most of the public’s attention in 2022, something as fundamental as owning and operating a home air conditioner is also becoming more expensive and will continue to do so.

Read the full article at National Review.