Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

DIY air-conditioning fix illegal, group warns

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Think you can top up your air-conditioning unit at home or in your car? Think again.

Dealers in refrigerants rolled out a campaign Thursday to warn consumers if they try a cheap fix for their faltering AC unit, they're probably breaking the law.

Manitoba's environment laws are strict when it comes to ozone protection, and at the top of the restricted list is refrigerants.

"Under Manitoba law, the improper handling, mixing or release of regulated refrigerants, even by accident, carries penalties of up to $50,000 or six months' imprisonment for a first offence," warned a new poster released by the Manitoba Ozone Protection Industry Association.

The industry association, which is appointed by the government to act as advisers to the province, issued its warning Thursday after learning big-box retailers routinely sell do-it-yourself air-conditioning repair kits.

"It's relatively new," association executive director Mark Miller said.

"The kits range from $50 to $110, and it's cheaper than calling an air-conditioning company." And that's the problem.

Under the province's regulations, only certified AC technicians have the authority to recover refrigerant, repair equipment and recharge air-conditioning systems with new refrigerants.

"Normally, when an air-conditioning (unit) isn't cooling properly, the majority of the time, it's because the refrigerant is leaking out and (the kit) fixes it but the refrigerant continues to leak out," Miller said.

"Our problem isn't the refrigerant in them; it's good-quality. It's the consumer who could be damaging the equipment and harming the environment," he said.

The poster also warns mixing refrigerants can be dangerous and damage the equipment. Propane and ammonia, for instance, are toxic and flammable and even if they don't combust, releasing them can damage the environment.

The destruction of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere is caused by chemicals, including certain chlorine- and bromine-containing compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons or halon. Ozone forms a protective layer against deadly ultraviolet radiation.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 16, 2013 B1

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