Stop Gap for heat pump freon leak was a mistake?

essdanaJuly 23, 2009

My 10 yr old heat pump coils iced up pretty bad and the compressor fan stopped spinning. one company said there was a leak, the system was old and should be replaced at a cost of $9k plus $1000 to hire a crane to hoist the compressor to the roof (and not take away old compressor).

Of course I freaked.

Another company chipped away all the ice on the coils and the compressor fan started to spin. I watched; he did nothing else to get the compressor to start working again. He said the coil inside the air handler had a leak but that it could be so small that he recommended using stop gap and adding freon. He said in his experience the stop gap always solved the problem. I know now from reading this forum that I should've made him find leak and try to repair it.

The heat pump cooled very well for the past 6 wks; in fact it was freezing. Now, at the same temperature, it is running less cool; instead of freezing, it is comfortably cool. Cool air is still coming from the vent/register.

I'm assuming the freon is leaking b/c the stop gap didn't work. Is it possible that there is another reason?

Can a leak still be found and repaired if stop gap has already been applied? If the repair man discovers freon is leaking, how can I be sure he is telling me the truth?

Should I buy another heat pump? I really can't afford it and don't want to buy it on credit. I have excellent credit but the only debt I have is my mortgage and I want to keep it that way.

Also should be noted that I can cool the house comfortably with portable a/c units that I already possess. If I stop using the heat pump now, will the freon stop leaking so that I can make it through the upcoming winter, at which time my finances should allow me to purchase a new one (only if really, truly necessary - I'm currently unemployed, living on savings and renting out rooms in my house).

You all seem really knowledgable; I appreciate any advice!

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Also I should note that I'm not familiar with the equipment and their names so I'll describe. The ice was on coils that are on the unit that is inside the house. The blower in that unit was intermittingly working when the first repairman (the one who recommended another unit)but working fine when the second repairman came out.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 9:41AM
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can't figure out way to add to a message after it's been posted; sorry if reading my comments this is annoying.

This problem seems to have been going on for a long time. This past winter the auxilary heat was constantly on. The honeywell thermosat help line rep didn't think that was a problem. I didn't know that the problem was the heat pump and not the thermosat. There was tons of ice on the inside coils when water started appearing around the inside unit. Hope this information can help with any advice you can give.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 9:58AM
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i would find a company that is willing to pressure test the system and find/repair the leak.. You do not need a new HP.. The refrigerant will not stop leaking if you do not run the unit, it MAY leak a little slower when the unit is off. worse case you may need a new a-coil(the part that was iced) depending on where the leak is. The leak could be anywhere in the system.

Your system iced up due to low refrigerant charge cuased by the leak. The indoor fan was probably overheating because the coils was iced and could not flow any air, once thawed the fan is ok. If your aux heat was running alot last winter that was due to the HP's reduced capacity also due to low refrigerant levels.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 1:33PM
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I would get that crud leak stop out of my system! It hardens with oxygen and if there is any non-condensables in the system such as moisture (which contains oxygen) the stuff will harden and clog any metering device. This will result in very expensive repairs or replacements!!
The leak can be found with a good detector which the hvac company obviously didn't have- so don't call them back.
Find a company willing to locate and repair the leak or replace the part that's leaking.
If this is not a good option, replacing the system is the next step.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 3:02PM
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Thanks so much for the advice! The stop leak has been in the system for some time now. How does one get it out of the system?

Also, how can I independently confirm that freon is indeed leaking? Couldn't a tech just tell me HP is leaking, even if it's not?

If it is leaking, it's doing so very slowly because the house is still comfortable; it's just not as ice cold as it was when the stop leak was first applied and freon added. Is it normal for the HP to overcool immediately after freeon is added and then shift into a comfortable range several weeks out? Should I wait and see if the house gets noticably warmer, thus proving there is a leak (and not having to rely on a tech's say-so that there's a leak)? If I wait, am I running the risk of further damaging the system? Lots of questions I know, but I appreciate the advice.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 8:22PM
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