NBC 6 investigator Tony Pipitone investigates the nightmares that often come with air conditioning repair.
Last year, Anna and Gabriel DeSabatino called Air Care Solutions to check a stuck thermostat in their Coral Springs home.
But after the technician got to their house, he insisted they had far bigger problems.
“The first thing he said, without even coming into my house, ‘what a terrible smell’,’ said Anna, 82. “We’re going to check everything.”
The minor service call ended with the DeSabatinos paying thousands of dollars for a new AC unit the couple didn’t need.
“He said the air condition pump is not working. I said can you fix it?” said Gabriel, 91. “He said no. You’d think at my age, I’d know better.”
Anna called her son, Robert DeSabatino, who arrived before the workers could haul away the unit.
“I told them to stop working,” Robert said. “They wouldn’t give me their names. I told them to leave.”
The workers didn’t get the air conditioner but they did get DeSabatino’s money – nearly $7,000 from credit cards they swiped on the spot. The air conditioning is in good condition and fully functioning. Another company re-installed it and says it didn’t need a single repair.
In three years, Air Care Solutions, which has several offices in Florida, has been the subject of nearly 300 complaints, earning the company the BBB’s lowest rating of F. The BBB also issued an alert recently saying the company has a pattern of recommending a new AC even when the old “system does not need to be replaced.” And it “upsells services.”
What’s more, Air Care Solutions, located at 6244 Miramar Parkway in Hollywood, has been sued at least 7 times in South Florida during the past two years.
Team 6 Investigators decided to find out what would happen if we called Air Care Solutions for a check-up as part of a hidden camera investigation.
Before that, we asked Michael Pounds, who teaches air conditioning maintenance at the Fortis School in Fort Lauderdale, to verify the condition of the AC.
Pounds checked the entire system and didn’t find any problems with the AC unit.
Two days later, Chris, the technician working for Air Care Solutions, arrives to the home as our hidden cameras documented every move and he is greeted by a Team 6 Investigators producer. First out back he hooks up the gauges and checks the Freon. Next he points areas of concern as he looked at the unit inside the house. Then, Chris sums up his findings.
“What you need is micro ban sanitizing,” Chris said. “What it does, it eliminates all bacteria in the duct work as well as the unit. It can be done right now, it will only take an hour at the longest. You’ll notice a difference immediately in their quality.”
The cost $400, and according to Chris, well worth it since it will stave off a myriad of health problems.
“You won’t take up with a sore throat, stuffy nose,” Chris noted. “You won’t have to worry about random headaches or chest pains because that’s what that stuff will cause if it continues to grow.” Chris did not ask our producer if she had any of these conditions.
Chris also tries to sell the producer an Ozone UV Light.
“What that’s going to do is guarantee this stuff won’t come back. That’s $450. No tax,” Chris said.
And he doesn’t stop there. Chris says his gauges showed the unit needs Freon too.
“There’s supposed to be 40 degrees and you are right at 33 or 34, which is a sign that you are three and a half pounds low,” Chris explains. “That’s $89 a pound. The first pound is free so it’s like $180.”
The grand total: $1,030.
Out of sight was until the technician had completed his assessment was Team 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone. When he asked Chris to get his gauges from his van and show him the Freon readings, Chris agreed, but once outside, he got into the company’s van and sped away.
A few days later, Michael Pounds, our expert, tested the unit again.
“It’s right within its range,” Pounds said. “If it were short in refrigerant, we would have a warmer house. Definitely, a warmer house.”
Biniamin Ram, one of the company’s owners, said he didn’t think the volume of complaints was large. Ram said: “Compared to the jobs we do, I don’t think it’s a lot. We stand by our jobs 100 percent.”
NBC 6 Investigators also asked two air conditioning companies with A-plus ratings from the BBB to check the AC unit too. Both Aloha and Weathershield companies confirmed our expert’s findings – the unit was working fine. They also said that unless we have allergies, the sanitizing and UV light would be a waste of money.
As for the Freon, they said at most, the AC could use just a small amount, but nothing close to the three and half pounds Chris from Air Care Solutions claimed we needed.
Pounds said the company was trying to push something we didn’t need.
The DeSabatinos can relate to that.
After the incident, the couple sued Air Care Solutions. The company agreed to give back their money, $6,723.
“If it weren’t for my sister and I, it would have been so simple for these people to strip them of $7,000,” said Robert, who helped his parents with the suit. “They wouldn’t have lost a night’s sleep over it. They need to be put out of business.”
Anna DeSabatino has one short message for Air Care Solutions.
“Go to hell!”