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new system, or are refrigerant leaks worth finding?

Folks, It seems wasteful to replace both inside & outside components of my heat pump/AC system because of a refrigerant leak, but that's what I'm being told (ie sold). It's a 9 year old Trane system. Two out of two contractors have said a combination of, "Nah, leaks are hard to find, can't find, expensive to find them (time & equip) and even if you find the leak they can't always be fixed/repaired." I could understand a complete replacement if the refrigerant was different or if I had a no-name system with unknown specs, but this is a new-ish Trane R410 system and I have a proposal to replace it with a Goodman R410 system.

One of the contractors I called was listed on the Trane website; shouldn't a Trane service guy be WILLING to find the leak in a Trane system and go forward from there? Oddly, the Trane guy is quoting me the Goodman, though he knows this is a rental - maybe he is just trying to keep my cost down.

And I would think 9 years would be considered an early failure, no? I know the previous system was R22 and the 2010 install order said, "R11 flush for R410 system," could the line set flush (instead of line set replacement) be the cause of early failure? If I do a full system replacement should I ask them to replace the line set, too?

As always, I appreciate your thoughts.
Boon
DIY'er ... ripped out a perfectly good forced-air furnace and replaced it with hot water & radiators.

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,802Member
    That is rediculous. You need to find a technician that knows what he is doing. The leak could be in the old R-22 line set and the equipment could be fine. Any good technician should be able to locate the leak fairly quickly. It's possible it can't be fixed but until someone that know what he is doing looks you won't know.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 5,041Member
    edited May 5
    Dave,
    Contact me if you want info or help with this.

    To me, it sounds like he's lazy (wont look for a leak) and greedy (just wants to sell new equipment).

    If it was 15+ years old, I could better understand his reasoning.
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Posts: 762Member
    How often and how much refrigerant is lost
  • BoonBoon Posts: 237Member
    Dang. The lazy part of me was hoping y'all would say, "just replace it," because then I could make a phone call and be done with it.

    @Ironman thanks I'll take you up on the call if my questions become too clunky or too narrow to benefit other forum readers. If you had some interest in visiting Northern Virginia, you're hired!

    @pecmsg I think a 3 pound fill lasted about 4-6 months. Last week, the second fill, another 3 pounds.

    After that first fill there were doubts if it was a genuine leak as opposed to some valve/cap being loosely tightened [where gauges connect, or something like that]. Now I'm wondering if the tech I had been using even owns gauges.
    DIY'er ... ripped out a perfectly good forced-air furnace and replaced it with hot water & radiators.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 5,041Member
    I'd recommend that you call Dan Foley of Foley Mechanical in Lorton.
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 5,041Member
    Normally, leaks aren't hard to find if you have a good leak detector and know how to use it. If you don't see an obvious oily spot, it could be the indoor coil leaking from "formicary corrosion". That's the boogeyman that the manufactureres created when they went to r410a (which has about twice the pressure of r22), but made the tubing in the coils thinner.
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • GWGW Posts: 3,406Member
    That’s a big leak, normally not hard to find. Keep calling people. 9 year old ductless well sure, but a unitary ac leaking that much juice: should be able to at least find the leak and quote

    One small problem, R22 is very expensive. The repair company will make it extremely clear that the warranty on the repair is not normal.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    www.wilsonph.com
    [email protected]
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Posts: 2,183Member
    edited May 5
    This subject has been the bane of my existence for the past six years. I have my own refrigerant leak detector. The shop has gone through dye jobs, triple isolation (nitro pressurize the evap, condenser and line set separately), bubble test, Leak Freeze and other brands which IMO does serve some specific purposes. And they do work when a leak cant be found. At a lot of our accounts the condensers are 100 ft away from the house. The line sets are buried, though interior chases, etc. Sid Harvey's offers one that can be injected under pressure in series though the gauges. I wouldn't use it on anything newer than 5 years or banning manuf. warranty.
    Anyway they finally shut me up last fall and gave all the guys refrigerant sniffers. Much more cost effective for both sides.
    That aside, a leak test/repair can get costly regardless. Pump down (if applicable), reclaim, nitro charge, repair, nitro charge, triple vac, hold. How many lbs. virgin R410A is needed? Is that the only leak? How far do you let it go before you say "F it, gimme a new one"?
    And they have come a long way in 9 years. IMO though, Amana/Goodman isn't terrible equipment, it's the cabinets that kill me. Tin foil. Furnaces, A/H's, condensers, stripped and missing screws everywhere.
    Dont take the doors off a horizontal A/H, they're the only thing holding it square.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 5,041Member
    GW said:

    That’s a big leak, normally not hard to find. Keep calling people. 9 year old ductless well sure, but a unitary ac leaking that much juice: should be able to at least find the leak and quote



    One small problem, R22 is very expensive. The repair company will make it extremely clear that the warranty on the repair is not normal.

    It's r410a, GW.

    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • clammyclammy Posts: 2,227Member
    As a rule I always replace r22 line sets w new I really don’t see the reasoning in re using a line set I only see future issues that of course will be expensive . When I work as a sub which I do a lot it’s not my problem if they say replace I do if they say re use I re use it’s not my headache .i m not a big fan of flushing r 22 line set and hooking up and then pressure testing if your gonna re use u better pressure test and be really sure . With a good dectector and soap and bubbles a leak usually isn’t the end of the world to find check the normal suspects like outside and inside equipment connections and then indoor coil and expansion valve . Find yourself some willing to locate it and either repair or replace if it cannot be repaired .kinda sucks only 9 years old then it’s time to replace .i would have the line set replaced .peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,802Member
    Unfortunately they are just too lazy to look for leaks. The world is full of "Gas & Go" mechanics. They go hand in hand with the "parts changers"
  • BoonBoon Posts: 237Member
    @HVACNUT: leak test/repair can get costly regardless ... reclaim, nitro charge, repair, nitro charge, triple vac, hold... Is that the only leak? How far do you let it go before you say "F it, gimme a new one"?
    I can totally see some kind of unexpected scenario, like two leaks, playing out, or another leak showing up in the next so-many months. I guess I'm willing to take that chance. I'd prefer rewarding a company that will go through a little trial & error and attempt to fix my system than toss good components into a landfill.

    When I think back to the system's fall check-up - the check-up that happened between the two refrigerant charges - it occurs to me that tech probably never even hooked up gauges else he would've known there was a leak.
    @GW said: That’s a big leak, normally not hard to find.

    I googled 410 refrigerant leak detector and found this SRL8 Fieldpiece, relatively inexpensive refrigerant leak detector at supplyhouse.com. Usage seems straight forward. I'd still need to find someone willing to deal with it, but at least I'd know if they were lying to me about where the leak is located. When I'm done with it, I could donate it to the one company that didn't own a leak detector.

    @clammy I'll definitely request the line set be replaced if/when we get this system replaced. I'm not sure it is worth replacing if we get the current system fixed, though. If it were currently contaminated, I'm assuming the whole system is contaminated... crikey, typing that makes me think I should replace the whole system.
    DIY'er ... ripped out a perfectly good forced-air furnace and replaced it with hot water & radiators.
  • GWGW Posts: 3,406Member
    Ok I may have mis spoke. The inside coil can be a pain to get at. If you have an uncased coil, super bummer

    When we can- we set up line sets so the entire coil can be removed without disconnecting the lines. It’s not frequent but at times we can do it
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    www.wilsonph.com
    [email protected]
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,722Member
    Wouldn't a leak carry oil with it? Would looking for wet / dusty spots be useful without using a leak detector?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • mikeg2015mikeg2015 Posts: 795Member
    ChrisJ said:

    Wouldn't a leak carry oil with it? Would looking for wet / dusty spots be useful without using a leak detector?

    Yes, if the leak is big enough.

  • clammyclammy Posts: 2,227Member
    Do you know if the indoor coil was original a 22 coil and had the expansion valve changed too 410 .i ve run into a few leakers that where at the expansion valve from crappy soft solder connection . When contacted about ac not working they dump more Freon espically 22 they never bothered to undo the layers of patch and duct tape to check .ended up both units had leaky expansion valve installation .i found them first visit other suggested replacing lucky they where recp compressors pumped down and repaired new dryer and charged them up . Of course they where rentals and it was a hard time getting paid being he was used to the 100 dollar service and installs ,I got paid finally and removed him from further service of any type . Some truly deserve the garbage service and installs they get ,in some cases there’s nothing I can do or desire to get involved with because usually there’s no real short fix except to start over Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,722Member
    @clammy -5 points for using the name "Freon". :p
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • BoonBoon Posts: 237Member
    I don't think I know enough to say anything about expansion valves. I know that back in 2010 the R22 system was replaced with a 410 system and the work order/invoice says that the line set was flushed instead of replaced.

    I was thinking I could look for an oily spot but I also saw an opportunity to buy something kinda cool and maybe learn a little bit. It's a 3 hour drive to this condo and I didn't want to make the drive unless I was really prepared to dig in.
    DIY'er ... ripped out a perfectly good forced-air furnace and replaced it with hot water & radiators.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Posts: 762Member
    Can the old line set be reused...Yes. Personally I don't flush the lines just blow out with N2 but that's another debate.

    At the least a 600# pressure test should have been performed for 24 hours to insure the integratory of the old line set!

    Worst case isolate the
    evaporator
    line set
    condensing unit

    N2 pressure test to find which component is the culprit!
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Posts: 2,183Member
    > @ChrisJ said:
    > @clammy -5 points for using the name "Freon". :p

    I think Dupont will be happy they were thought of as well.
    I cant tell you how many customers call it "Freez-own".
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 5,041Member
    Did you find anyone?
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • aircooled81aircooled81 Posts: 194Member
    I'm pretty sure POE and Mineral oil can mix in small quantities and not have ill affects on a split system.
    The rational to flush the system was if POE oil got wet, you really dont dehydrate POE oil it just turns to sludge. Mineral oil wasn't like that so it's really not harmful if the system was always sealed and you have like what, a fraction of a pint floating around inside the lineset.

    I'm just sayin thats why I was never a fan of the R-11 flush regarding Linesets used with R-22. And the pipe and joints have atleast 30 years if not damaged.
  • BoonBoon Posts: 237Member
    Bob, I'm feeling super lucky that Dan Foley is available for this! Now we're just waiting for the tenants to provide availability.
    DIY'er ... ripped out a perfectly good forced-air furnace and replaced it with hot water & radiators.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 5,041Member
    How did it turn out?
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • BoonBoon Posts: 237Member
    we Find out tomorrow!
    DIY'er ... ripped out a perfectly good forced-air furnace and replaced it with hot water & radiators.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Posts: 762Member

    I'm pretty sure POE and Mineral oil can mix in small quantities and not have ill affects on a split system.
    The rational to flush the system was if POE oil got wet, you really dont dehydrate POE oil it just turns to sludge. Mineral oil wasn't like that so it's really not harmful if the system was always sealed and you have like what, a fraction of a pint floating around inside the lineset.

    I'm just sayin thats why I was never a fan of the R-11 flush regarding Linesets used with R-22. And the pipe and joints have atleast 30 years if not damaged.

    No issues with MO and POE mixing. Even mixtures as high as 50% operate fine. You still should shoot for as low a level of MO as possible.
  • BoonBoon Posts: 237Member
    I really appreciation everyone's thoughts on this, especially @Ironman 's push to call Dan Foley. I originally made the mistake of assuming that Dan only worked the really big jobs like the photos he posts here but that is, apparently and thankfully, incorrect. One of Dan’s guys found multiple leaks on the indoor coil within minutes of showing up. Since the outdoor unit is still in good shape and just under 10 years old we will have the coil replaced.

    Regarding the company that wanted to simply sell a new system, I understand that every business targets specific customers, has their own operating policies, goals & strategies, etc, and that my specific scenario - guy wants leaking HVAC fixed - was obviously not part of their play book. If that company didn't want to fix a leaking system, well, they got what they asked for! It is confusing, though, because I don't understand how it helped them. If that first company would have spent 10 minutes with a leak detector, they would have been the ones who got the business to replace the coil, got a good review, got good word-of-mouth, got more maintenance calls from me, including my other property, and when the time comes they'd likely have gotten the sale on a new system. Instead of playing that long term game, they made some good, short-term money on the re-charge. I predict their profit on the recharge won't be enough to make up for the not-so-good word-of-mouth 'advertising' that I will continue to deliver for months/years to come or the message I send to the condo association owners group; if they don't want to fix a system that leaks I guess I'm doing them a favor.
    DIY'er ... ripped out a perfectly good forced-air furnace and replaced it with hot water & radiators.
  • GWGW Posts: 3,406Member
    Boon it’s all good, no two companies are the same, and this company that ducked out may have had some bad experiences with some difficult leaks. If the lame company was always lame they would vanish. If the good company was super awesome (no glitches, ever) they would dominate. There’s a pro and a con to most everything when it comes to trades-related commerce. As long as they didn’t put you in a head lock to buy a new system, you’re good! I’m glad you’re on track to get things running.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    www.wilsonph.com
    [email protected]
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