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After the freon leak repair

Posted by otmsheffield (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 12, 07 at 18:01

We needed the upstairs A/C over the weekend for the first time since buying our new (builder spec) house a few months ago. The fan ran but the air didn't cool. A tech from the builder's HVAC sub came out today and found a nail had punctured a copper pipe, causing all of the freon to leak out into the wall cavity (& presumably down to the basement - or up to the attic?)

The odor was pretty strong when the tech cut open the drywall, but I thought it would disappear once he replaced that section of pipe. I just duct taped over the holes in the walls (it took a few tries to find the right location), and around the place where the pipe is patched & soldered there remains a pretty intense odor. There's also a faint sound akin to rushing air. Before the builder sends out his sheetrock guy & painter, does this need to be checked again? I also noticed a stain on the drywall behind the pipe which the tech said is from oil. That drywall is covered by wainscotting on the other side. Should it be cut out & replaced?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: After the freon leak repair

Freon is relatively odorless so I could only guess at what your smelling. And don't worry about it leaking into and out of the wall cavity. It isn't poisen or toxic. Maybe the tech scorched the timber or insulation when he was soldering in that tight area and that what you smell. The rushing air sound is more then likely liquid refrigerant just running through the small copper line. It moves at a pretty high velocity so a little sound is normal. Depending on how much oil was lost with the charge, (its usually negligible) it may in time seep its way through where it can be noticed. It isn't the responsibility of the A/C contractor to take care of any issues with the sheetrock, waisncotting or anything else other then the refrigeration line repair though. He isn't the one who drove a nail where it doesn't belong. Unless of course he neglected to use nailer plates where necessary.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

"It isn't the responsibility of the A/C contractor to take care of any issues with the sheetrock, waisncotting or anything else other then the refrigeration line repair though. He isn't the one who drove a nail where it doesn't belong. Unless of course he neglected to use nailer plates where necessary. "

Yes, I understand, and the HVAC installer did indeed install nailer plates to avoid puncture where the baseboard is installed. I've never seen wainscotting installed which such large nails and wouldn't expect the HVAC installer to have foreseen that. He was also upset about the length of screws used on some shelving, as they nearly hit some other pipes. I was asking about where the oil had seeped into the sheetrock in case it posed some health threat. If so, I'll request that the builder have that portion of sheetrock replaced and maybe the wainscotting over it as well.

The odor was evident before the tech made the repair, as soon as he opened the wall, so it doesn't seem to have anything to do with his repair work. He mentioned something about oil, and I didn't know if a lubricant was used on the copper pipe or what. I also wasn't sure if an additive is typically used to help trace freon leaks, the way natural gas has a compound added to give it a foul odor. I've had a massive headache this afternoon, which is very unusual for me, and was concerned since my dh is highly sensitive to chemical odors & has respiratory problems.

The tech was pretty emphatic that I call the local gas co. to come check for possible leaks as well. An inspector from the gas company came while the tech was here and found no problems.

At any rate, there was no freon in that unit at all, so it took a while for the tech to do a full charge of the system once he repaired the damaged pipe. He checked the other two units and said they're fine.

Thanks for your reply.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

otmsheffield,the refrigerant oil has a strong smell,that is probably what you are smelling.Once they replace the sturated sheetrock it will go away.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

Not a problem, just to put you at ease though, there is really nothing in normal working air conditioning systems that will do any harm if a leak develops such as was the case with you. We can thank the EPA for the scare tactic but the simple fact of the matter is most older technicians have probably gulped many cubic feet of the stuff over the years with no long term side effects at all.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

" Freon is relatively oderless ". WRONG." I can tell you the difference between R12 and R22 by the smell or how much of a " buzz " there is.( R22 is the better buzz). Otmsheffield. What you are smelling is the combination of refrigerant and oil mix. It will last a long time. " There's a faint sound akin to rushing air ". What's that all about ? If this is the sound you hear in the "new" pipes in the "new" install there is a problem. It's called flash gas. More info is needed.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

"There's a faint sound akin to rushing air ". What's that all about ?"
IMO it's probably that when he cut out the section of tubing with the nail hole he probably didn't bother to ream the two ends. So when he sweated in the coupling or sweage or however he did it he just reduced the tubing ID. Result when it hits that fitting,,,, noise. But then again it could be flashing. Won't know fer sure till the hot weather arrives I guess.
Oh and my vote for the best all time buzz, that beautiful orange jug,,,, go old R11. Used to use it to clean out lines after a burn and degrease tools.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

Thanks, guys. I will definitely ask the builder to replace the section of sheetrock that has refrigerant oil on it. Since he has to get someone in to patch the other holes, one more patch shouldn't matter.

This "flash gas" or "flashing" that y'all referred to, is that something I should be concerned about? It's supposed to be warm enough here tomorrow that the A/C will surely kick on.

There's another HVAC tech coming later in the week (who does not work for guy who built this house - he actually corrected problems at a previous house for us) who was already scheduled for a pre-season checkup. Is it okay (as in "safe") to wait a couple of days for him to check things out? Should I shut off the A/C that had the leak until he comes? Or am I just borrowing trouble?

Thanks again.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

If I were the contractor, I would probably Kiltz the offending dry wall. (Kiltz is a sealer paint used for sealing stains.

The sound of running water in the pipes, suggest not enough charge, or a kink in the line. If the carpenter caused one hole, have the HVAC checked again a couple of days later. Look for a second leak. It is common to hear line noise at both ends of the line. While the condition is not ideal, it can happen.

K, I never noticed the difference between 12 and 22, or if I did it has long passed from my memory. I worked with both in Dry Cleaning maint. You have a keen nose.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

R12 and R22 have much the same smell but R22 has a much more harsh alcohal, solvent smell and gives the old nose tubes and throat a bigger bite. When doing the old smell test you had better not have a light cigarette in your mouth. Freon comes with a small amount of oil in saturation
so don't get too close. It'll do a job on your lungs. Before they brought in recovery equipment myself and the
other techs. doing auto A.C. recharges were guarantied
to get pneumonia before July.


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RE: After the freon leak repair

otmsheffield, just mention to the other tech coming out what happened and ask him to check the charge according to what the manufacturer specifies. There is a charging chart on the inside or the access cover of the condenser.


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