Need Help in Responding to Failing A/C Situation

So we installed a new central AC system two years ago. I noticed in the last few weeks that the temperature in the unit was not reaching the set temperature. So the temperature was set by the guest for 71 and the temperature was 74, for example. There were no complaints. I just happened to notice this.

I called the AC company that installed it. They gave it a freon charge but also said that the system was reducing temperature by 14 or so degrees from outside, and that was pretty good. I called another AC company that said the system was wired with a ‘white wire’ that they found to be temperamental, and would recommend re-wiring the system, a two day job that would take weeks to get on calendar. I started that process.

Today, for the first time we have a guest saying that they’d like it cooler. Outside was 92; inside 78. Tonight they are using fans in one of the three bedrooms that does not also have a ceiling fan. They are nice about it, but I surmise not delighted.

So, I ask this forum what I should do. As as aside, we are booked every day in July, most days in August. [Any turnover days are on weekend and HVAC will not work on weekend.]

  1. Current guest. Do I:
    a) Offer a penalty-free cancelation?
    b) Offer some kind of refund?
    c) Other?
    I am not concerned with the lost revenue but I wonder what realistic alternatives this group of six have?
  2. Next Guest (also party of six) checks in Monday next week. The HVAC company can rewire next week but toward end of stay. Rewiring will cause loss of all AC for at least one day, likely two days. I don’t know if the system will maintain its 14 degree cooling power between now and then, or after. That HVAC firm has offered one portable bedroom sized AC, but we have six people in three bedrooms.
    a) What do I say to next guest?
    b) Do I give them option not to allow repair? If so, I wouldn’t want to give them any refund because I will then face this situation with every guest until Sept., potentially facing a series of bad reviews and refund requests.

It seems to me that I am best off either a): canceling the next guest and taking one ‘hit’ rather than taking hit from each guest through end of August, or – better – b) explaining situation to next guest, not giving them an option to say ‘no’ to the repair, offering a free cancellation, and in alternative or in addition offering some kind of partial refund. The daily rate is $170 and with add’l guest fee $290/night. So, I could waive two days fees if the loss of AC is for two days. That seems more than fair to me, but guest might not care about the money much, just want the AC.

What do you think I should do:

A) Current Guest
B) Next Guest

I think I should (preliminary thinking):

A) Current Guest: Offer free cancellation for rest of stay. If AC situation continues I’m not sure if I should offer more but I think I have to offer something.
B) Next Guest; Apprise situation; offer free cancellation and two free days while AC being repaired.

I think you should talk to the guests. Some guests might be fine about it, some not. We have no idea about that. This seems like the kind of thing that’s somewhat out of your control. All across the US and Europe systems are being strained in unprecedented ways against capacity.

It might be worth it to buy 2 more of the portable units if you can find any? I have one in my living area and I’m surprised at how effective it is. As an aside I’m surprised that a refrigerated system is only good for 14 degrees of cooling. I have a new respect for my evaporative cooler.

In other words, I know you want to control this and have it all settled to present to the guests but I think you should talk to them and offer discount or cancellation.


I absolutely agree that I should talk to them.

For me the question is what I offer them.

It seems to me I should offer each a free cancellation, and then some amount of refund.

I’ll explore getting access to two more air conditioners. My concern is that I don’t really want to buy them and have them lying around. I need to explore rentals. Thank you for suggesting exploring that.

I think it’s reasonable to offer guests cancellation with no charge for unstayed nights if they want to leave or the future guests decide it’s a deal breaker. I wouldn’t give anyone the choice of saying no to a repair during their stay. If it isn’t acceptable to them to have it repaired when they are there, they should cancel. If they are okay with it, offer them something to offset that inconvenience- pay for their lunch or an activity outside the home while it is being repaired.

One thing I would really like to see hosts stop doing is referring to giving guests a financial break for an issue a “refund”. It should be referred to as a discount. Just like if you buy something in a store that is flawed in some way, it is worthy of a discount. You don’t get to keep the item and also get a refund. (akin to a guest staying, but being offered a “refund”).

This terminology sets the wrong attitude with guests, who seem to think a refund is due every time something is amiss. Let’s call it what it is- a discount for an inconvenience. If they choose to leave because of something that is the host’s responsibility, that’s when they get a refund.


And if a guest chooses to stay in spite of an inconvenience, I really don’t think they should ever be fully refunded. Just because they found that the temperature wasn’t comfortable because the AC wasn’t functioning well, or were without hot water for half a day, etc, if they choose to stay in spite of that, there is no reason why they should be offered a full refund for the days they stayed, even if there was an inconvenient situation. They are costing the host money- using utilities, amenities, creating laundry- that should not come for free just because everything wasn’t perfect. A discount for inconvenience should be a percentage, calculated as to how inconvenient it really was. No hot water for a few hours might warrant a bottle of wine, no hot water for 2 days might warrant a 25% discount for those days. Hotels certainly don’t throw money at guests just because something isn’t working right.


I don’t know why a “white wire” would cause the capacity of the system to deteriorate unless it was a gimmick by the installer to ensure future service calls.

If your system will only handle a 4 degree temp difference it’s undersized for the area it needs to cool. Did anyone make sure that the coils and fins on the compressor are clean? Is it in the shade? Texans frequently put up shades to keep compressors out of the sun which makes the much more efficient.

If it was me, and I had money to do it, I would have an energy auditor take a look at your whole place and recommend measures to reduce energy costs, especially for cooling. Insulating, caulking, and improving efficiency and capacity. You need to do that soon, because summers like this will become more and more routine. Some climate folks think that we may be sliding down a real hot hole already.


Can you tell me what brand you purchased. I’ve been looking at these but always wonder if they really work. Love a recommendation.

I think that you have the right idea. I would do whatever gets you a permanent solution the quickest. Given the heat extremes, it might be tough to find more window units even though that is a good temporary solution. You could also probably resell them quickly afterwards given the ongoing heat. You might also put out feelers to friends and family to borrow any easily moved window or free standing units that are sitting in unused rooms to provide for a few days of relief. Pessimistically the increased demand for cooling will be testing all power grids. If any hosts lose the ability to cool due to the loss of power we will have another set of questions.

I would explain to them that it would take two days to repair the a/c and offer to contact Airbnb to have them relocated.

I have done that twice and in both cases the guests said they preferred to stay and volunteered their time to wait for repair service. I don’t think they wanted us hanging out at the property waiting for the service person.

I refunded the night stay in one case and in the other refunded two nights because the repair service didn’t arrive till two days later.

Neither group left me a review, which is good. I’m sure they were not pleased but knew that I tried to resolve the issue. In addition, they chose to stay. No review is better than a bad review.


If possible try to get the guest to suggest the amount of the refund they want first, before you offer a number.

This is standard negotiating technique. I’m the kind of person who might well say, “give me $50 and we’re fine. So long as there is some a/c plus the fans, we should be comfortable enough.”

I would definitely accept the portable a/c unit. They must be vented out a window but they work great. If you could borrow two more that might help, if your house wiring can handle it.

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Thanks for your response.

The temp difference is 14 degrees, not four. Do you still feel it’s undersized?

I don’t know about the ‘white eire’ thing, whether that is a gimmick. The installer is a Diamond installer for Mitsubishi, which is supposedly a legitimate credential.

We had an energy auditor out a few years ago. I called again this year to repeat but they said it would not be meaningful to do that.

The compressor is clean, but it’s in the sun, not the shade.

Mine is a 12,000 BTU Idylis which is made by Danby. I got it from either Home Depot or Lowe’s and I’ve had it several years. I only use it a few months a year. I’m very pleased. It is in my open plan living/dining/kitchen area which is about 600 sf.

A couple of things about using it here compared to in MA. It’s generally dry here compared to there. These condense water inside their cabinet and have to be periodically drained or a hose can be connected to drain it outside. Also mine supplements my evaporative cooler. So if it’s 105 and 60% humidity, my cooler will only get it down to 80-85 in the house. Then the refrigerated units (window in my bedroom and this in the living area) will get it down to 70-75. I can’t speak to how this unit will do if it’s 97 degrees, 60% humidity and it’s the only thing you have.

They aren’t elegant. That 6 inch hose venting out a window isn’t attractive or convenient. Luckily I have a place to put this where it’s not in my way and it vents out a secure window that doesn’t disturb my enjoyment of the outdoors. There are many windows in my home I wouldn’t want to vent it out of. A vent like a dryer vent to the outside could be installed in some homes. Since my exterior is brick that’s not a good option for me.

That said, it can be moved easily on it’s wheels in my one story home. Once you get it upstairs you won’t want to lug it up and down stairs.

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I agree, you need to contact another installer. If it will only reduce the temp 14 degrees, it is undersized. If it was just a wiring issue, they should be able to bypass the thermostat and kick it on manually and keep your house cool.

Mine is currently cooling over 20’ and doing it easily (compressor is in full sun). There is a cost/benefit question… is it worth X dollars to get the extra cooling capacity needed. But, you also need to factor in, an A/C unit that is being driven over capacity will wear out a lot quicker.

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Talk to the guests, explain the situation and give them the chance to cancel if they want. If they want to keep the booking, it’s on them then. I went through this last summer and thankfully they were able to accommodate me in a few days.

There are things you can do if you haven’t done them already. I speak from expensive experience on most of these.

  • Is your outside AC unit free of growth? We keep ours religiously trimmed out a couple inches around the outside unit.
  • Change filters on your unit every three months like clockwork. More if your house is dusty.
  • Any room that can accommodate a ceiling fan needs a ceiling fan. Even if you have to ask guests if they mind if you enter the unit wen they’re gone to put one up.
  • Free popsicles, ice cream bars, whatever. Keep the freezer stocked as a gesture of good will. (I haven’t tried this one, but people love free stuff, especially good popsicles) Boozy popsicles if they’re all of drinking age. (2 cups juice, lemonade, whatever to 3 oz vodka. Buy Frozip popsicle bags from Amazon and freeze on a cookie sheet, makes 5 popsicles, I perfected this last summer, the bit of vodka gives them the right texture but won’t get you buzzed unless you eat several at one sitting.)
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As noted in some posts, the capacity of the unit is almost more critical than the brand. Check on what your electrical system can handle and then get the best matched capacity (or a little higher) that you can afford. Others may have strong feelings about brand, but I look at energy efficiency and ease of operation too.

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I think that my location near the coast of Boston that it probably isn’t great idea.

You know me. I’m so reluctant to mention brands, @Lynick4442 !

It’s Mitsubishi.

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My 12,000 BTU is a standard 120 v plug and not on it’s own circuit. I’m not sure what else is on that circuit but it’s never tripped the breaker. My 6000 BTU window unit in the Airbnb room is on it’s own circuit so I don’t have to worry about the guest tripping it.

There are window AC units available at Home Depot and Lowes in your area right now (we are only 40 miles apart from one another). The AC in my tenant’s bedroom died yesterday morning so I did a lot of AC shopping yesterday.

You could buy two or three and then return them when you’re done with them (90 days at HD or 30 days at Lowes). Or you could donate them or perhaps have a couple laying around, for situations like this. I recommend returning them, it’s not as if you aren’t already paying for that generous return policy.

  1. Current Guests: Buy and install some window ACs and give them a couple of floor fans. Drop of a gift basket with chilled wine and/or popsicles, maybe a new pool floatie, etc.

  2. Next Guest: It is going back down to the mid-80s (like nawwwmal) starting Monday next week, which means that your HVAC will take the temperature down to 70 or the high 60s so I wouldn’t mention anything to the next guest. But you could leave the floor fans and the window ACs installed for them if it gave you peace of mind. Buy from HD because you have 90 days to return. And in 90 days we’ll be wearing sweaters anyway.

I think you should wait for the HVAC service to be done when you have an open day, not during a guest stay. Avoid that. That’s what I would worry about the most. Just wait on that. Wait until a day you have open in August. Or wait until sometime before next summer if needed.

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I wish. The wisdom here in central Florida is the weather won’t drop to a real feel of below 90F until Oct 15th. That wisdom was bang on the last three years. There are some years we never pull out the sweaters.

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