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Celebrating Women in Construction Week


Written by Amy McClure, Owner of A&M Mechanical LLC

As a woman in the male-dominated HVAC industry, specifically 51% owner/operator of A&M Mechanical (with my husband Mark), I have tried to learn the trade so I can effectively communicate with everyone I interact with daily and help achieve productive results. Customers want to know you can professionally solve their HVAC problem, technicians want the tools to succeed at their job and a safe workplace, manufacturers want to know their equipment is serviced and installed correctly, and suppliers want to know you are timely buying the right parts. Spending most of my career previously in Corporate America in Finance and Accounting, I was able to bring in my “business sense” and enhance it with the specifics of the HVAC trade by simply jumping into all aspects at 150%! This has helped me combat challenges along the way from those who perceive I may not have the understanding or specific answers. I have been able to earn the respect of most along the way. For those few who cannot grasp the fact that a woman can honestly succeed in this business, I consistently respond in the most effective and professional manner possible. Not letting those few distract or discourage me, my steadfast focus is to always be at the top of my game and appreciate those great relationships made along the way and the respect me and my team have earned throughout the industry and community!


First things first, you should NEVER have to add refrigerant to a system…and if you do then there is a leak, or perhaps another problem altogether (e.g. restriction) that will not be fixed by adding refrigerant!

Refrigerant runs thru your HVAC system, similar to oil in the car engine, or blood in the arteries and veins.  Folks may also refer to it as freon (the legacy refrigerant), or coolant.  Whatever you wish to call it, be wary if you’re told you need it.  If a leak is present, it can be a costly repair and should be discussed with a trusted licensed HVAC contractor to help you make the best repair vs. replacement decision.

Leaks typically occur within the indoor (evaporator) coil or outdoor coil, and are typically internal and not repairable, so the entire coil should be replaced.  This makes sense if the coil is still under warranty, as the remaining repair costs for labor, refrigerant, etc. are costly!  However, if the system is out of warranty, or if there have been a slew of prior issues, it may make sense to replace the entire system because repairs are cost-prohibitive.

There is a “new” refrigerant coming out in 2025, so the ‘phase-down’ of the current R410a refrigerant is causing price to rise.  In addition, a coil replacement is a labor-intensive task to ensure it is done correctly and you aren’t left with a contaminated system and more problems.  These factors must be considered when determining if it’s worth getting a new coil, or putting all that investment toward a new system.

In the Phoenix climate, the average useful life for a heat pump (all electric heating & cooling) is 12-15 years.  A system with gas heat yields about 15-18 years.  Certainly systems can last longer, but become less efficient and repairs can become more frequent and costly.  Replacing a 15-20 year old system can save 15-20% in annual heating and cooling costs, or even more if installing a higher-efficient, multi-stage system.

What about a sealant…is that a possibility to buy some time?  Sure, if the leak is small in size and/or number, it’s a chance worth taking, but it is a ‘chance’!  Also keep in mind, that a system that is even 8oz low may go unnoticed by the homeowner, however the system will work harder and possibly cause damage to the compressor over time.  It’s similar to running a car low on engine oil!  Also, a coil will freeze up when low on refrigerant, and that can cause additional fractures and leaks.

The best approach to monitoring refrigerant levels and overall health of the HVAC system is to have it routinely maintained by a licensed HVAC contractor, where a comparison of year over year system health takes place.  Small issues can be caught early, helping to prevent large and expensive repairs.  If the system struggles in the heat of the Summer, or perhaps some rooms are not as comfortable, it’s very possible a refrigerant issue exists and should be explored further.  A&M Mechanical would be happy to perform a full checkup for you once or twice a year as you desire, and we provided detailed invoices and take pictures too…all to properly report system health and keep you informed along the way, making plans along the way as needed for aging or struggling systems.