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A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

Posted by hoovb (My Page) on
Mon, Aug 27, 12 at 18:38

I know nothing about HVAC, so pardon my dumb questions. We have 2 units, one for upstairs, one for down. This August we turned on the A/C for upstairs, and it did not cool the air down at all. The machine ran fine, but only warm air. A call to an A/C company, the man thought the Freon had leaked out of the system, and that he was going to look for where it had leaked. He said he isolated each part of the system and put valves on each of the four sections of the system, which (I gather) is:

1 the pipe that goes upstairs to the evaporator in the attic.
2. the pipe that goes back down to the condenser outside
3. the evaporator
4. the condenser

He said #2 and #3 were fine, but that was a leak in the pipe that goes upstairs to the evaporator. He said it did not hold any pressure at all (he used nitrogen? to pressurize it and then looked at pressure gages attached). He said there was also a slow leak in the condenser, it was losing a few lbs a day. (He pressurized it and came back 3 days later and it had lost 10 lbs). So, he said I should get a new pipe, because there was a leak somewhere in it, and a whole new air conditioner, because you cannot replace a condenser without replacing the corresponding evaporator. Actually he wants to replace the heater as well, because it is attached to the evaporator, or does the heater machine run the evaporator too? Is that right?

We only use our A/C about 5-10 days per year. We only use our heater maybe 3-5 days per year. It's mild weather here mostly and the house is well-insulated. We did not even use the A/C last year because it wasn't particularly hot. We might have only used it 1 or 2 days the previous year. I did notice last year that there was some oily stuff by the A/C unit, and wondered what it was, but with being so busy I forgot all about it. The system is Carrier and was installed in 1999. Should it have lasted longer than that? Did it break because we don't use it enough?

This is all very expensive, so I want to know if this sounds legit? Would one of the copper pipes just break? They are inside the stucco wall, so nothing can really get at them except pressure from the A/C unit. Would the pressure have spiked breaking the pipe? The company is reputable but I know nothing at all about this stuff.

We have to replace the A/C even if we don't use it much. Most of the neighbors use theirs a lot. We just tolerate heat a little more, maybe.

Can we just replace the condenser and the broken pipe and put new coolant in? Do we need a whole new machine? Is a whole new system the only alternative? Is there a less expensive alternative to $8,000 for something we use 5 days a year? $8,000 is just a lot of money, you know?

Thanks for your thoughts.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

What is age of system?

Post mdl numbers and brand of outside condenser and inside air handler or furnace?

Is this an AC or HP condenser?

All lines are exposed and easily accessible and not hidden within walls?

Post back.

IMO


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

The less expensive alternate is to buy some window units. If it is true you only use the AC 5 days a year then why spend the money to repair the lineset?

If you do change the outside condenser, then you also need to change the indoor coil. It sounds like your lineset is inside the wall of your house. There may have been a poor connection which failed after many years. Someone hammared a nail into the wall and punctured the line. A big part your expense will be running a new lineset up to the upper floor on the exterior wall of the house.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

Thank you for your comments, I appreciate you taking the time to do that.

The less expensive alternate is to buy some window units.
Understood.
If it is true you only use the AC 5 days a year then why spend the money to repair the lineset?
For eventual resale of the home. It was build with upstairs A/C...I think we have to be consistent with what was there and what is expected for the neighborhood.

Poor connection or puncture, perhaps that was it.

What is age of system?
13 years

Post mdl numbers and brand of outside condenser and inside air handler or furnace?
Carrier 38CKC048300

Is this an AC or HP condenser?
Umm...I don't know what the difference is, but...AC?

All lines are exposed and easily accessible and not hidden within walls?
No. The lines are inside the walls. They plan to punch a hole in the wall and run a line on the outside of the wall and put a protective cover over it.

Thinking and thinking, there was a small modification to the drywall in a spot that may indeed have caused a puncture to the pipe in the wall. It is exactly on the area where the line comes down to emerge on the outside where the condenser is located. If the specific point of damage is known, is it worthwhile to open up the wall and repair that spot?


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here's the label on the broken machine

Photobucket


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

If you can isolate the point of the leak, you may be able to have a plumber come out and repair it. Your HVAC might do it but in general plumbers are better at making joins in copper.

Honestly, at 13+ years of age, it's probably just about at the end of its useful life. It's not so much use as it is the summer heating/winter cooling that puts stress on internal components, causing AC to fail over time.

Another word of advice, if you do decide to fix it, make them rerun the lines inside the wall. I've seen the "protective cover" - it's some aluminum eaves trough screwed to the side of your house over the line. BUTT UGLY!!

If you're going to spend this kind of money for resale - do it right.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

If you think there is a chance the drywall modification may have caused the problem, then it is worth opening up the wall to investigate. A 13 year old AC is not that old considering the amount of hours you use it each year. If the linset is damaged, then an HVAC tech needs to fix it. They are supposed to use techniques when making this connection which plumbers do not have the equipment to do.

I don't think it is possible to fish a cooper lineset through a interior wall without making several holes. The outside cover can be colored match to your house to make it less noticeable.

I understand about not having central AC and how it affects the resale value. You could wait until the fall or next spring to do this work when HVAC season is not as busy.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

Line set insdie a wall leaking is very rare unless you put a nail to it. so open up the wall and check it out, if you did not damage the line set, call another AC tech, this guy just want that $8000. AC in your area should run at least 20 years. You said oil stuff next to the AC, that may be the leak area, could be something real minor...Big company has too much overhead, they have to have big income to survive. many times, a small family run firm is much better.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

Perhaps a second opinion is indicated.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

Most helpeful comments from everyone, I want to say thank you to you all, because I really appreciate all the good information and different points of view.

I have someone else coming out Thursday morning, and will see what other options I have. I will try to post an update as to what I found out.

Thanks again!


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

who did sheetrock modification? you or did you pay someone to do it? if you damaged it than your homeowners insurance covers self inflicted damage. that would be interesting to track down source of lineset leak if there really is one.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

Had another guy come out. He said they can put 1500 psi through the feed and listen at the wall with a stethoscope and hear hiss from broken line. He's going to email me a quote. He was very knowledgeable.

The guys who did the drywall were the guys who did the drywall when the house was built. Did a beautiful drywall job, too bad they (theoretically) hit that line...


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

In my opinion, rarely run A/C will break it, due to the fact that there is oil in the system that need to be lubricated once in a while. Without running it for a long time and just turn it on for 4,5 days actually damage the unit more.

I recommend to run it at least one day at beginning of summer season and one last day of summer season.

My hvac run continuously 24/7 for each year whole summer season and still run after 16 years.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

Thanks for the comment, overdoze, the 2nd a/c guy said that as well, run it at least for a few minutes at every change of season.

I plan to do that from now on!


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How it turned out

After getting a couple more quotes, all about the same ($6,000-$10,000) with no one willing to consider repair instead of replacement, my across-the-street neighbors recommended the HVAC guy who takes care of their business property.

He cut open the drywall, found the leak in the line (the drywall guys had pounded a 16 penny nail through a steel protective plate and hit the line), fixed the line, reconnected everything, cleaned everything. He also retested the condenser and found no leak.

It's running again fine and dandy, all for less than $500. $6,000 or $8,000 or $10,000 vs. $500. Sheesh! I have to get the small hole he made in the drywall repaired, but that ain't going to cost $5,500.

It pays to shop around. It pays to shop around. It pays to shop around. It pays to shop around...and awesome neighbors help too.

Again thanks to all for the helpful comments.


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RE: A/C is broken, is repair not possible?

"Your HVAC might do it but in general plumbers are better at making joins in copper."

Refrigeration lines are brazed, not soldered like plumbing lines.
The only thing plumbers usually have to braze are joints in copper gas lines.


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