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A/C parts shortage bearing down on Southwest Louisiana

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 7:32 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Nearly a year and a half later, and the burdens of COVID-19 are still disrupting the supply chain.

The pandemic has triggered a number of shortages across the world, including computer chips, lumber and even housing. A Nationwide shortage of air conditioning parts and units is creating headaches for businesses and homeowners in Southwest Louisiana struggling to keep up with the early onset of scorching summer temperatures.

Air conditioning contractors have been feeling the heat lately when it comes to securing certain parts like copper, steel and ductwork.

Matthew Ryan has helped run his family business, Deep South Mechanical, for most of his life before taking over as a managing partner. He said until the pandemic, he’d never seen a shortage like this in the industry.

”So, it’s not even, ‘hey, well, three weeks from now, we can get you back going.’' Ryan said, “It’s ‘we don’t even know when this will be available again.’”

Deep South Mechanical is a family-owned business based in Westlake that has been operating for decades.

”It’s different than it ever has been to tell you the truth,” Ryan said.

He said his company started feeling the shortage around mid-winter of last year. As the summer heat is pushing air conditioners to the limits, his biggest worry is availability.

”There are no raw materials, the copper is in scarcity. Just the manufacturing process is taking longer because of the labor shortage in these industries.”

Right now, wait times for parts like copper and sheet metal are taking days, if not weeks, from being fulfilled - ductwork taking the longest at 25 weeks.

Experts say many of the factories producing A/C units and components had to shut down or slow production during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, like many professions, they’re dealing with labor shortages.

“That’s so hard for us to anticipate and prepare for as construction jobs become ready for us, because ductwork is the backbone of what we do,” Ryan said.

He said our area is feeling the burn of the shortage a little more being that so many businesses and homes are still recovering from the hurricanes.

”Two years ago, we just needed ductwork for new houses and the occasional, you know, update to homes,” Ryan said. “Now, two houses a day we go in to replace all the ductwork due to storm damage.”

Besides availability, price is another issue with units reportedly selling 20% higher than 2020.

”Everything from Freon to the metal parts and components to the actual equipment has increased in price dramatically over 12 months.”

Ryan said his techs try to repair units if at all possible, but he said some customers inevitably end up needing to buy a whole new setup.

If you do want to avoid being without A/C on a hot day, HVAC experts say it’s best to make sure you’re getting those regular tune-ups on your system.

Ryan said distributors are telling him that it will probably be early 2022 before supplies of parts and units are back to their normal levels.

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