Frozen/locked up compressor - what questions should I ask?

morgang48July 16, 2011

My A/C worked fairly well until a plastic bag blew under, got sucked up and wrapped around a fan, I guess, causing the A/C to not turn on, although heat and house fan work fine. HVAC field repair guy said compressor is frozen or locked up, meaning not burned up, but trips the breaker when turned on, and is shot. The estimate guy is supposed to come to do a detailed estimate. Field guy said the A/C unit was probably put in in the 60's or 70's, although furnace (Bryant) is much newer. He said replacing the compressor (just the outside unit) would probably be somewhere around $2000.

Questions: (house info follows)

1. Is the whole outside box called the compressor, or is that one of more parts inside of that box? The box is about 2.5' square.

2. Is there a separate motor? I think he said the motor did not burn up and should be ok.

3. Retired, fixed income, not a lot of savings. Options:

-- a. fix just this compressor

-- b. replace whole A/C system & make it powerful enough to go upstairs too

-- c. Cheapest? Forget the central A/C and use 3 window units, front and back of downstairs plus one upstairs. I have 4 ceiling fans downstairs, plus others to circulate the air. Plus the furnace system fan works fine too. I currently have a 5000 btu in a downstairs window comfortably cooling about half the space, would probably replace it with a 8000 + 2 5000 units for bedroom and upstairs.

4. What questions do I need to ask when getting estimates? I have no experience with this.

HOUSE INFO: House is about 1400 sq ft total, although the current system only handles the main floor, about 850 sq ft. The upstairs (refinished attic) has a couple small vents some guy tried to duct off the system but the system was not powerful enough to get heat/cool up there. A window A/C and electric heater are good enough for the upstairs area, I don't want to do a lot of expensive more stuff in this old house. Location - Nebraska, summer heat in 90-100's, very humid much of the time.

Thanks in advance for any help and comments.

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Without being there and checking the unit myself, I can only answer your replacement questions directly. I have several questions I would ask the tech. A stuck compressor can be restarted. I don't want to question the tech's ability and obviously can't at this distance. I'm going to do my best not to throw a lot of technical lingo at you.

Considering the age of the unit, it would be best advice to replace it. I say that because it's age indicates other things have the possibility of going up over time and it will become a money pit. That's not always the case but it has the potential.

The whole outside unit is called "the condensing unit" which contains the compressor, a fan, a condensing coil and a few electrical devices.

The question you have regarding the attic area is a tough one to call from a long distance because consideration would have to be given to the size of the duct work, whether there are returns and the amount of insulation involved.

I would suggest you get 3 estimates for replacement if you can. You would want each of those who look at replacing your unit to do a heat load calculation to determine what size unit you need. This will take into consideration what your house is made of, insulation values, windows, number of people in the home as well as a lot of technical data. The size of the unit will also have to take into consideration you duct work system (supply and return).

After you get that information, why not post back here with it. There are a number of us here who can then help you determine what real questions you can ask, once we see what the techs are recommending.

As for the window units, if you are running them all at the same time, you will be better off getting a central unit that does the whole house IF THEY CAN DO IT. I say if, because you might need all new duct work, maybe insulation, etc. and as you see, the costs may add up to an amount you may not want to spend. I don't mean to alarm you but I do think you need to see the reality you may be facing. I hope it is not that elaborate for you.

I'm not familiar with the power companies in your area but maybe this suggestion might help with costs. Some power companies offer installation of equipment and add a payment plan onto your utility bill, making it a bit easier to deal with.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 11:16PM
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