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Elderly lady being led down the path. . .

schreib
schreib Member Posts: 130
My sister-in-law down in Illinois, near Alton, found her AC is not working so she called in a service call. I suppose it is typical that they do a quick check and leave after giving the "new" customer a bill and a quote for new equipment, but this seems a bit over the top.
Data: Freon R22 is gone from the unit, no pressure gauge reading?.
Bill: $1XX to check that, no leak check, replaced the furnace filter and condensate drain checked.
Quote: $1X,XXX for new furnace and variable speed condensor AC system-- the whole shebang. I assume existing 21 year old unit is a single stage compressor. Waiting to see images of nameplate on furnace and condensor.
Can you folks offer some things to have done to better understand the problem?
My initial thoughts are:
-- Find another supplier and ask them to actually do a leak check, fix it, and restart if possible.
-- ask this contractor to supply gauge pressures found, amount of freon to fill, price /lb of freon to refill, and pressure expected to see, and if other electrical problems.

Please suggest her "next" move. Thanks!

Comments

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,508
    Please edit to remove pricing. you can figure out some way to say it is outrageous for what they need. We are not allowed to discuss pricing directly here.

    Do not call that company back, find someone competent and honest. It may need replacement, it may just need minor repair. What it doesn't need is the Cadillac AC system in illinois.
    schreib
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,988
    @schreib

    A lot of contractors see a 21 year old unit that has lost it's charge and they condemn the whole system.

    Yes, searching for leaks can be time consuming and replacement refrigerant for R-22 is not cheap.

    On the other hand it's not uncommon for an ac system to outlive the "normal" 20 year life span and last 30-40 years. Furnaces are more likely to fail first.

    If the leak is in the condenser coil or evaporator coil it may not be worth saving the system.


    What should be done is an evaluation of the furnace and the furnace heat exchanger and leak checking the ac system with nitrogen and a trace amount of refrigerant to locate the leak.

    Based on the leak location (repairable or not?) and the furnace condition then a recommendation can be made on weather to scrap or save the system.

    Finding the right person to do that can be the problem
    schreib
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,282
    To be fair, this young man has been led down the path too! It isn't limited to elderly ladies anymore!
    STEVEusaPA
  • schreib
    schreib Member Posts: 130
    mattmia2 said:

    Please edit to remove pricing.
    What it doesn't need is the Cadillac AC system in illinois.

    I tried twice to edit / save but it must have gotten hung up for "being approved" or something.
  • schreib
    schreib Member Posts: 130

    @schreib

    A lot of contractors see a 21 year old unit that has lost it's charge and they condemn the whole system.

    Yes, searching for leaks can be time consuming and replacement refrigerant for R-22 is not cheap.

    On the other hand it's not uncommon for an ac system to outlive the "normal" 20 year life span and last 30-40 years. Furnaces are more likely to fail first.

    If the leak is in the condenser coil or evaporator coil it may not be worth saving the system.


    What should be done is an evaluation of the furnace and the furnace heat exchanger and leak checking the ac system with nitrogen and a trace amount of refrigerant to locate the leak.

    Based on the leak location (repairable or not?) and the furnace condition then a recommendation can be made on weather to scrap or save the system.

    Finding the right person to do that can be the problem

    excellent THAT is just the type of unique information I was looking for! thanks.
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,173
    I personally wouldn't spend any time looking for a leak on a 20yo R22 system. You got your moneys worth out of the unit (it's well past its expected lifetime), the cost of R22 is astronomical, and with a flat system it's certainly contaminated with moisture & therefor only a matter of time before something else (compressor) fails with the result that you're spending even more than the leak check/repair.
    HVACNUTIronman
  • schreib
    schreib Member Posts: 130
    edited May 20
    ratio said:

    I personally wouldn't spend any time looking for a leak on a 20yo R22 system. You got your moneys worth out of the unit (it's well past its expected lifetime), the cost of R22 is astronomical, and with a flat system it's certainly contaminated with moisture & therefor only a matter of time before something else (compressor) fails with the result that you're spending even more than the leak check/repair.

    Wow. That is a shame. There is no way, I assume, to re-charge with a newer refrigerant / pump and start over then? What about Bluon, TDX20, R22 replacement. . .?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,508
    assuming it actually is empty or even low
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,173
    Once the system is open to the atmosphere (by definition, leaking) and the internal pressure drops to zero, moisture will migrate in. Once that happens, things start to corrode/rust internally. The oils used have a tendency to absorb water as well (although, to be fair, it can more or less be removed from the oil commonly used in a 22 system by proper evac procedures). It all adds up to a coin toss how long it will last. If it were my house, yeah I'd probably fix it, because I know who'll be making the next repairs too. If it were Grandma's house, she'd be getting a new unit. For the same reason. :smiley:

    That said, and without commenting on any prices, your SIL doesn't need the most expensive system they sell. Variable speed, stages, all those things are nice but not all that often necessary.

    And of course, assuming that the whole thing wasn't a con. I mostly take these sort of things at face value, because I'm loath to think that bad about someone I've never even met.

    Larry Weingarten
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,508
    the fact that they quoted the most expensive system possible makes me very suspicious of if there is anything wrong with the sealed system at all.
    pecmsg
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,880
    Get a second and possibly third opinion.

    If it is in fact OUT of refrigerant which is extremely rare the leak will be easy to find. If it is low of refrigerant the leak can still be found. Worse case get a window shaker or 2 too buy you time.

    Sad to say 70 - 80% of the contractors out there are only salesmen!
  • mrhemi
    mrhemi Member Posts: 18
    mattmia2 said:

    assuming it actually is empty or even low

    Reminds me of the time my own AC quit at my house years ago. Unit ran but no cold. I checked the freon pressure with my gauges and found the system charged but no delta across the compressor. This system was in the house when I bought it and I found receipts from the initial install indicating that it was approx. 10 years old and that the compressor had a 10 year warranty. So I called the original installation contractor to assess and hope for a warranty application. When the dubious HVAC tech showed up he proceeded to check the system pressure and inform me that all the freon had leaked out and he would have to recharge the system and check for leaks, at an exorbitant rate. At that point I pulled out my gauges and said "why don't we check those pressures again?". He packed up and left, never to be seen or heard from again.

    I did replace the whole system at the time instead of just the compressor. Obviously from a different supplier.
    Licensed Steamfitter.
    Licensed Instrumentation & Control Technician.
    EdTheHeaterManmattmia2reggi
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,868
    If the system is out of refrigerant, and if it ran for any time, air is drawn in and with that comes moisture. This will cause a chemical reaction with the oil and any refrigerant remaining in the system. Acid and green slime can then be the result contaminating the entire refrigerant circuit. This necessitates replacing everything (outdoor unit, lineset, indoor coil).

    Considering the age of the unit and the possible cost to repair, I think replacement is the prudent choice.

    You certainly don't have to go with the most expensive option, but be aware that we'er experiencing equipment shortages and prices are constantly going up. Ive seen about a 35% increase in one year and my Trane rep said to expect at least a 60% increase when the units with the new refrigerant are phased in in 2025.

    We've all got to start looking at things differently from what they were 2 years ago.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    GGrossSTEVEusaPA
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,508
    pecmsg said:

    Get a second and possibly third opinion.

    If it is in fact OUT of refrigerant which is extremely rare the leak will be easy to find. If it is low of refrigerant the leak can still be found. Worse case get a window shaker or 2 too buy you time.

    Sad to say 70 - 80% of the contractors out there are only salesmen!

    Or if it is empty you find that the contractor that installed it didn't tighten down the caps on the service valves and the access valves.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 16,286
    Why not get additional bids before throwing the first guy under the bus?  Could be he wisely determined that old of an R22 system is not worth repairs?
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    IronmanGGross
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,868
    And he’s entitled to be compensated for his service call to come out and diagnose it.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    pecmsgGGross
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 16,286
    Ironman said:
    And he’s entitled to be compensated for his service call to come out and diagnose it.
    Agree, everyone should walk a mile in the contractors shoes before they assume he is at fault. Without any of us being there, it is impossible to determine if fix or replace is in the owners best interest
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    GGross
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 289
    Ironman said:

    This necessitates replacing everything (outdoor unit, lineset, indoor coil).

    Hijacking a bit, but by lineset you mean the plumbing between the outdoor compressors and the evaporators, yes? For me anyway, this begs a question. My central AC is 30 years old, and while both upper and lower floors are working normally, I realize I'm on bonus time with both of them. Since my system is R22, will I be able to replace my system to something other than R22 and use the lines that are currently installed? My first floor wouldn't be a problem to swap out everything since the lines are plumbed in the unfinished basement where the lower air handler is, but my second floor air handler is in the attic, and the lines are going through the walls of two finished floors (and there's no common chase anywhere between floors). Will I have to externalize the lines for the second floor if I change from my R22 to something more modern?

  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,868
    edited May 22
    MaxMercy said:
    This necessitates replacing everything (outdoor unit, lineset, indoor coil).
    Hijacking a bit, but by lineset you mean the plumbing between the outdoor compressors and the evaporators, yes? For me anyway, this begs a question. My central AC is 30 years old, and while both upper and lower floors are working normally, I realize I'm on bonus time with both of them. Since my system is R22, will I be able to replace my system to something other than R22 and use the lines that are currently installed? My first floor wouldn't be a problem to swap out everything since the lines are plumbed in the unfinished basement where the lower air handler is, but my second floor air handler is in the attic, and the lines are going through the walls of two finished floors (and there's no common chase anywhere between floors). Will I have to externalize the lines for the second floor if I change from my R22 to something more modern?
    Please notice the context of my statement about replacing the line set: if the system was contaminated with green slime, then the line and the entire refrigerant circuit would be. There’s virtually no reasonable way to get it out of the system, hence, replacement of all refrigerant components.

    If your line set is not presently leaking, it can be flushed to remove the mineral oil.

    Or, you can get one of these:

    https://youtu.be/uyjniIfvvPQ
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,880
    edited May 22
    As long as the line set is the proper size and NOT leaking or green slime it can be reused. I pressurize to 60#’s for 24 hours. If it holds it’s good. 550# or less replace it. 
    No need for flushing it. Just blow out with N2. 
    schreib
  • schreib
    schreib Member Posts: 130
    edited May 27
    pecmsg said:

    As long as the line set is the proper size and NOT leaking or green slime it can be reused. I pressurize to 60#’s for 24 hours. If it holds it’s good. 550# or less replace it. 

    No need for flushing it. Just blow out with N2. 
    Thanks, sounds like great advice. . . . SO, guys, here is what happened:
    I found out my SIL still had phone access to the old HVAC she used to have whom she nearly trusts with her life. I suggested she call him, ask his opinion on the matter, and for an alternative contractor. She did, and a new contractor showed up the next day. Despite my suggestion to have the new tech CALL ME, she did not and jumped at the opportunity to pay him "ONLY" $900 to re-charge with R22-- 7 pounds worth for a 3 ton system. Sounds excessive but I am ONLY an engineer, not a frig-tech.

    I don't understand why NO ONE here has addressed the Bluon TDX20 refrigerant solution-- which apparently works. Maybe nearly no one here has tried it. According to Manufacturer it has better refrigerant properties than R22 and directly replaces and is a fraction of the price.

    I have no idea if the guy evacuated the system, actually located and stopped a leak, looked for the smoking gun called "green slime", held at 60 psi for a day, or whatever since I never was able to talk to him. Oh well. I tried. She appears happy and, who knows, maybe it will last a year or two!
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,173
    7 lbs sounds plausible, FWIW.