Why Are HVAC Parts So Expensive? An Expert's Insight

HVAC technicians must be highly specialized in their profession, and this means that repairing an air conditioner with high-tech parts requires more expertise, and thus the contractor must charge more for air conditioner repairs. Demand for air conditioning parts, new units, and repairs tends to increase during the summer months, and the industry is used to receiving price increases from manufacturers every year. However, this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm that is making HVAC parts and equipment more expensive than usual.The pandemic has reduced the supply of raw materials and created labor shortages in the factories that manufacture the parts and equipment we need. The cost of diesel fuel, which is needed to transport HVAC trucks to repair or replace air conditioners, has also been high.

Larger vehicles are needed to transport HVAC units and supplies when they need to be replaced, and diesel vehicles allow us to carry more weight with better fuel consumption. Some HVAC companies may start to reduce the size of their service areas, which can also mean that travel rates increase. The raw materials used to manufacture HVAC parts and equipment are in short supply and are also becoming more expensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics monitors the prices of products manufactured in the United States by month, so you can see the average prices as they change over time. The NASDAQ also documents commodity prices, and you can see the upward trend in prices over the past year. Another way to know that prices are high is when we recycle used HVAC equipment parts.

Demand during the pandemic was low because factories weren't operating at full capacity, meaning prices were low. That has changed in recent months. Fortunately, healthy air conditioning systems shouldn't need additional refrigerant. This is why a fully charged system shouldn't need to be “recharged”; if so, it means that it has a leak, which needs to be repaired. Semiconductor chips are found inside higher-efficiency HVAC systems, such as variable-speed HVAC units, multi-speed central air units, heat pumps, and mini-divisions.

Consumers love them because they are efficient, quiet and increase indoor comfort. However, Newsweek reports that the chip shortage is affecting the manufacture of new cars, smartphones, and computers. They also expect the chip shortage to extend to air conditioning systems. This means that we could see a lower supply of high-end, optimally efficient HVAC units and parts. PC boards, the minicomputers that make them so efficient, can be harder to get and more expensive if you need a repair or replacement. The shortage of labor due to the pandemic has been added to delays and equipment shortages.

That's why when you see the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index (PPI) for HVAC equipment going up (as shown in the chart below), HVAC service companies and consumers can also expect higher prices on air conditioners, heat pumps, and parts. The “Producer Price Index” measures the average change over time in sales prices received by domestic producers of goods and services. Staying informed allows customers to better understand why supplies of air conditioners and heat pump parts may be limited and why prices are higher than usual this time of year. A variety of factors contribute to the increase in demand and decline in supply of HVAC equipment; not just hot weather. The inflation rate is trending higher than it has been in some time according to government statistics. This means that the value of a dollar is lower which means that consumers may have to pay more for the same item. Understanding all of these market forces at play can help you plan ahead and be patient if it takes longer than usual to supply an air conditioner repair part.

Homeowners who know that their air conditioner may not last through summer or fall could start thinking about replacing it now so they have more time to decide what type of system they want and what features are essential. Most people keep a central air conditioner for 12-17 years so it's worth buying what you want because you might have it for a long time. Starting the HVAC replacement process before it becomes an emergency gives you additional time to make a decision and explore funding if you want. Facing an expensive repair or replacement when temperatures reach 80°F or higher is not ideal; starting that process earlier puts you in control and can reduce stress for everyone involved. An air conditioner malfunction when it's hot can be stressful which is why regular maintenance is advocated as well as keeping abreast of market conditions. This gives savvy customers options to stay comfortable when the weather is hot. We want customers to understand what is causing the rise in prices for air conditioning systems; cost of parts & materials is rising, everything is taking longer to arrive & it's getting more expensive to install, service & maintain heating & air conditioning systems. A clogged air filter can restrict airflow causing the HVAC system to work harder & consume more energy; there are some inexpensive HVAC parts that if ignored can end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. We've seen price increases from many of the manufacturers of HVAC parts & equipment including Carrier, Trane, Lennox, Daikin & Ruud among others.

The new SEER-2 test procedures for manufacturers as required by the Department of Energy will more accurately measure energy efficiency & will likely result in higher costs for consumers. Starting early on your research & planning process gives you additional time to make a decision & explore funding if needed; facing an expensive repair or replacement when temperatures reach 80°F or higher is not ideal & starting that process earlier puts you in control & can reduce stress for everyone involved.

Carlos Bardney
Carlos Bardney

Infuriatingly humble zombie practitioner. Wannabe zombie maven. Devoted beer aficionado. Certified bacon geek. Total zombie junkie. Proud burrito enthusiast.

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