PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) - There is a shortage of air conditioners, and for customers who can find replacement units, they will likely cost more, 3 On Your Side has learned. Before Mike Donley's team at Donley AC and Plumbing can sell any new air conditioning unit, they have to call the manufacturer and distributor to make sure there's actually one in stock.

"I've been in this business for 31 years. I've never seen anything like it," Donley told 3 On Your Side.

Donley says there's a severe shortage of air conditioners, and though small shipments are trickling in, he says those units are often sold within a day or two.

"Right now, I'm afraid that air conditioning units and parts are going to be like toilet paper and paper towels were last year," Donley said.

Last summer, at the height of the pandemic, HVAC units and appliances were in short supply because COVID-19 forced plants to shut down or slow down production. Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, says manufacturers who are still trying to play catch up are also struggling to buy materials, and prices are soaring.

"Copper futures recently set an all-time high," Simonson said. "Many steel price indexes are also at record levels, and those are important components for HVAC units."

Aluminum and plastics prices have also spiked, and according to Simonson, transportation costs are up, too.

"We're not going to see prices return to where they were before the pandemic or even what they were six months ago," he said. "I think we're in for a sustained period of high prices."

Donley already had to raise prices on HVAC units. He says they currently cost about 10 to 15 percent more than they did last year.

"The most important thing is to turn it on this weekend, let it run for the day. Go out and listen to it. Is it purring along like it's supposed to, or is it making any kind of noise?" Donley said. "It's more important than ever this summer to get your unit looked at, tuned up, catch small problems before they become big ones because you could be out days, weeks, or months without an air conditioner."

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