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Leaking A/C Replacement

Hi, long time reader of this blog, first post here. I had an ArcoAire A/C unit installed about 5 years ago buy a contractor that I thought was competent. From day one it was a mess and I have fixed several air leak in the duct work (I think I have a great example of what not to do). Now fast forward to my annual service where we found once again it is still leaking freon (it leaked out 4lbs since last year)...I know there is no point to keep adding it. The service company is saying the leak was caused by solder the joints vs brazing (its a 410a system). They say the most cost effective way to resolve this is to replace the unit. My question is, is this true (no leak test has been performed), or is more cost effective to find the leak and replace the damaged parts and redo the line set? I don't want to waste money trying to fix a problem that will result in a shorter life span for the unit. I am located in the Delco PA area.

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 3,986
    I see no reason to replace a 5 year old unit but the cost of labor is high. If they say it's more cost effective to replace the unit have them quote the job both ways. In a typical unit piped with soft tubing their is usually only a couple of joints on both ends. If the joints leak from soldering you can usually braze right over the solder
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Member Posts: 1,218
    We usually pump down into a vacuum and add Leak Freeze and a dye. If the leak is small it will seal, if not, the dye will show.
    More cost effective than a nitro isolation test.
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 1,524
    4# a year is a pretty big leak, and dyes make an awful mess. Use an electronic leak detector to locate the leak, then pump down the unit to make repairs.

    Is there a reason why the original installer isn't correcting his substandard work?

  • RPMRPM Member Posts: 7
    Honestly, I am not sure. The contractor I used is a small local guy. Just an owner and two helpers. He came highly recommend by a few of my friends and neighbors. When we had issues with the install he was very apologetic and worked to resolve them. The following cooling season I called with an issue, never got a returned call, called several times no call back. That is why I switched to a larger local owned service company. They did put leak stop in two years ago and that held, then this year we needed more Freon. To be honest, given the guy screwed it up, I really don't have any trust that he can resolve the issue. I am trying to find the best solution right now for my issue.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 273
    Locating and repairing the leak MUST be done, operating a system low on refrigerant damages the equipment!
    Contractor #1 installed it then he should have fixed it. If hes not answering the calls then hes done.
    Contractor #2 adding leak stop is in my opinion a mistake on a fairly new system. Nothing belongs in that system except refrigerant and oil!

    Time to find another contractor that will do the job properly, easier said then done. Ask neighbors, friends, Coworkers. Word of mouth is the best advertising there is.

    Once you do find someone and you'll probably go thru a few more hold on to them.
  • RPMRPM Member Posts: 7
    The leak stop concerns me if there will be any long term impact on the system. Can that be flushed out if the leak is repaired?
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 273
    Whats there is there.

    Change the oil and refrigerant but that's a lot of work for little results.

    The other problem is its masking the leak that will show up later.
  • RPMRPM Member Posts: 7
    Good point, maybe the best I can hope for is a leak in the A-Coil and get it replaced under warranty.
  • newagedawnnewagedawn Member Posts: 549
    usually leaks are found where the braze joints are, look for signs of oil , and sometimes its in the unit condenser or a coil, again look for signs of oil on the pipes thats usually a sign of where the leak is
    "The bitter taste of a poor install lasts far longer than the JOY of the lowest price"
  • DZoroDZoro Member Posts: 312
    About the time frame of your system, ICP (owner of Arcoaire), I was selling/installing those systems. There seemed to be a issue with the A-coils, developing very small leaks after a year or so. Manufacturer would never confirm, but some contractors and their salesman, seemed well aware of issues. ICP/Carrier seemed to keep it under tight lip. If it were mine I'd suggest changing out the A coil. At least take a good ,hard look at the coil, the leaks were very hard to locate if at all.
    That company seems to keep a lot of secrets so they don't have to deal with recalls/warranty issues, Just let it fall in the dealers hands.
    D
  • unclejohnunclejohn Member Posts: 1,276
    You must find the leak. If the leak is in the connecting piping replacing the equipment won't do a thing. Any good electronic leak detector should find a leak that size. You can pump the system down and pressurize the tubing and coil up to about 300psig with nitrogen and check again with the leak detector. Heck you may be able to hear it. Find it fix it evacuate it replace the dryer and all done.
  • GBartGBart Member Posts: 390
    Most 410 units have a statement in the manual like this - "All outdoor unit and evaporator coil connections are copper-to-copper and should be brazed with a phosphorous-copper alloy material such as Silfos-5 or equivalent. DO NOT use soft solder."

    ArcoAire only states to braze - " Braze joints using a Sil−Fos or Phos−copper alloy."

    Which means not to soft solder. They can braze right over it, to do it right they are going to have to pump the system down and/or recover and keep a flow of nitrogen in the pipes at 0PSIG, there should only be a few joints on a residential system.

  • RPMRPM Member Posts: 7
    Thanks for all the comments, I have a leak test scheduled this week. I will keep you posted where this goes.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 3,986
    Soft solder versus brazing is a controversy. I was always a braze guy but if you do the research Harris says that a solder joint is stronger because it does not anneal (soften) the tubing.

    Other than that the real reason for brazing as I understand it it to protect the firemen if the building burns.

    The solder joints melt around 500 and you will get phosgene gas where the brazing is good for 1000.

    Strength of the joint isn't the issue.

    I agree with the others, no dye, no stop leak. The system should have refrigerant and oil only
  • RPMRPM Member Posts: 7
    The leak has been found, it is actually in the outside coil, once it was filled with nitrogen you could hear the hiss. Waiting to hear what the cost will be since it is under warranty. They are going to try to get it repaired under the no hassle warranty, but that expired about 3 months ago. Hopefully there could be a good will replacement from ICP, but I am not holding my breath.
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 1,524
    Good find!

    If they've been out for the same issue before, I would expect everyone involved to honor the warranty, but I'm just some dude on the internet.

  • GBartGBart Member Posts: 390
    Aye if the leak was reported before but not found you have history.
  • RPMRPM Member Posts: 7
    Thanks for the help, what I have found out from trying to do a Warranty claim is the ICP warrant is a joke. Secondly, what I have learned from this whole process the installer is key, if you installer that will stand behind the product you are good to go.

    I was given two options from my service company (not the installer), 1) Get the part free under warranty and pay for labor and recharge , only get a 1 year warranty and ICP will not provide another coil if this one leaks, or 2) have new outside unit installed at cost which was about $1K difference from the replacement coil and get a 10Y warranty. I am going for the total replacement, I am happy with that solution and I think provides the most value.
  • LeonardLeonard Member Posts: 363
    edited June 14
    In past I recharged a car with R-12 and it leaked down all ~ 2.5 # in about a week. Later found out it previously had been in a crash. Found the leak with soap solution, bubbled a lot but no hiss.

    If you can hear the leak it likely leaked down that 4 # in about a day or so. So the leak must have been rather new. Mice??

    Couple days ago I found a squirrel had gnawed aluminum sheet metal top of my cab for a 60's Jeep. He thinned the thick metal down to aluminum foil thickness and fully thru in some spots. On BOTH sides. ~ 8 feet total !! But just the 3/4 inch edge where it was rivoted to the sides.

    I put garden hot pepper wax spray on it ( from super hot habinarow pepper) and suddenly he stopped trying to eat it. Then trapped and relocated them.

  • dennispalmerdennispalmer Member Posts: 19
    I would recommend to call HVAC expert to detect the leakage in your system and fix it instead of replacement.
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