HVAC Experts... New Condenser?

snoopy7548

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Earlier this season my central air wasn't cooling well - it would bring the house down from ~78F to my setpoint (74F), but after cycling off/on it would stay on indefinitely and just barely maintain 74F - at which point I'd find the evaporator coil frozen over. The unit is the same age as the house - six years old. It's an Amana ASX13 3-ton unit which still has the 10-year warranty.

I had a local company (best reviews in the area) come out and the tech determined there was a pressure drop in the condenser coil, indicating a leak. I got a call back today from them and they said that the ballpark estimate to find and repair the leak would be $900-1200.

He gave me a quote for a brand new comparable unit (likely Goodman, as they sell Goodman and York units) for $2450, which includes labor/installation and taxes. I didn't ask him details as I was sort of trying to process everything; when I follow up I'll ask about a few things.

I'm thinking I should get somebody else out to check it out. Am I being taken for a ride?
 

bbhaag

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Jul 2, 2011
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The compressor on our Goodman unit went out about 4 years ago. It was cheaper to replace the compressor under warranty then buy a new unit. Goodman replaced the compressor for free and the installation was around $400.
I think you need to shop around. $900-$1200 seems high but replacing the condenser might be more involved then a compressor. It's always a good idea to get a couple of quotes anyway for stuff like this.
 

snoopy7548

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Thanks. I'm probably going to call another HVAC company today and hope they can come out by tomorrow to take a look. It's going to be in the 80s through the weekend and next week, with Monday being in the mid 90s.
 

Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
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I don't see how a leak would make the unit freeze. It's sounds like a control valve issue to me.
 

snoopy7548

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Yeah, I don't know. I'm planning on selling the house within a year so maybe just repairing it would be better. I called another HVAC place and they're booked until next month, and another can't come out until next week. I'm waiting on a quote/opinion on repair or replacement from another place.

The original HVAC company said when they talked to Amana/Goodman about the warranty, they can't just send back the condenser coil for a replacement; they need to figure out where it's leaking before getting a replacement, so no matter what I have to at least cover the labor cost of finding the leak and putting in the new coil if I need one.
 

Raizinman

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A leak or being low on refrigerant will cause your system to not cool correctly and also cause it to freeze up. If it were me, I would find someone to add some refrigerant to keep the house cool until I decide on which way to repair. Often you can find a tech who can leak check, repair the leak and refill with refrigerant, but others want to go the easier route and just replace the whole condenser for quicker and higher profit, especially in these hot days where they are backed up for weeks. These are the days that A/C technicians have been waiting for all year to make their profits. Have you tried finding a HVAC repair technician on Craigslist? Often much cheaper.
 

snoopy7548

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A leak or being low on refrigerant will cause your system to not cool correctly and also cause it to freeze up. If it were me, I would find someone to add some refrigerant to keep the house cool until I decide on which way to repair. Often you can find a tech who can leak check, repair the leak and refill with refrigerant, but others want to go the easier route and just replace the whole condenser for quicker and higher profit, especially in these hot days where they are backed up for weeks. These are the days that A/C technicians have been waiting for all year to make their profits. Have you tried finding a HVAC repair technician on Craigslist? Often much cheaper.

Thanks for the Craigslist suggestion. I'm looking now and I've found a couple of techs who seem pretty good. I'll contact them today and see what they can do. Also a good suggestion about topping off the refrigerant for now
 

Raizinman

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Keep in mind that licensed AC technicians know that 'topping off' is not allowed, as it contributes to the ozone depletion. Technically before they can top off, they are obligated to find and fix the leak first. Again, many Craigslist repair people (I hesitate calling them technicians) will gladly just put their gauges on your system and add some refrigerant (top off). I would estimate $100 - $150 for parts and labor should get your house cold again. How long the top off lasts is dependant on the size of the leak.
 

snoopy7548

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Keep in mind that licensed AC technicians know that 'topping off' is not allowed, as it contributes to the ozone depletion. Technically before they can top off, they are obligated to find and fix the leak first. Again, many Craigslist repair people (I hesitate calling them technicians) will gladly just put their gauges on your system and add some refrigerant (top off). I would estimate $100 - $150 for parts and labor should get your house cold again. How long the top off lasts is dependant on the size of the leak.

Just realized I didn't post the replacement unit suggested. They want to install a Goodman GSX13 for $2450, turnkey pricing. I also had them give me a quote for a GSX16, and they came back with ~3k installed. I could get a rebate from my electric company for $250 for going with the 16-SEER model, bringing the price down to $2750. Not terrible I guess.

I signed up on Thumbtack but I'm still waiting to get quotes. I was looking at the postings but not many (or any, I think) had any licenses listed, though a bunch of them had really good reviews. I may contact one or two of the companies/people I saw on there that looked good just for a quote.

I e-mailed a guy on Craigslist that seemed really good - experience with commercial systems and has a refrigeration license. No word back yet, but it's Friday...

This morning I spoke to the HVAC guy who services all the systems in our company's building. He seems really good and he said he would help me out if he has time next week. He gave me some advice on checking for leaks myself, and said the replacement quote I got sounded too high, and that Goodman is basic builder-grade junk.

I got a call back from the second HVAC company and they told me the quote from the first company for the replacement condenser unit ($2450) sounded good. I was leaning towards just doing it, but after some research I really don't think I want to replace my Amana (with a scroll compressor) to a Goodman (with a rotary compressor). It'd be a downgrade. I'll see if the first HVAC place can order Amana units or if their supplier only provides Goodman, and I'll call around on Monday and get quotes for a direct replacement (Amana ASX13) from what I have now. A quick Google search shows an install cost of $2260 for the ASX13, which I would pay right now, but I'm also seeing $3100 for the Goodman GSX13, so I can't really trust that.

In the meantime, tomorrow I'm going to Wal-Mart and buying a 12-15k BTU window unit. They have a 30-day return policy on window units, so I'll take advantage of that. I figure if I install it in my dining room, it should keep my first floor somewhat cool. Not sure what I'm gonna do about the top floor, but I only sleep up there. At least the nights will be in the 60s.
 

snoopy7548

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It's a parts-only warranty, and Amana will only honor it if the defect can be found. I was quoted $900-1200 just to find the leak, and on top of that I'd have to pay the labor cost of having the new part installed. The first company thinks it's in the condenser coil.

I am trying to get some techs out next week to give it a second look, but I don't want to spend weeks calling around and taking time off work. I can almost see the sense in just replacing the whole condenser unit.
 

drnickriviera

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Jan 30, 2001
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I'm trying to figure out what that 'pressure drop in the coil' is. If they have the gauges hooked up and can actually see the pressure dropping when it is isolated from the rest of the system, then i'd say that is a massive leak. I think they are just guessing and want to do the fastest and highest profit work they can do. It would be a very simple matter to sniff the outside unit for a leak. Hour tops. Could be something as simple as a leaking schrader valve. Don't know what to tell you to do though. Good techs are hard to find much less this time of year.

A side story to Raizinman's post. Was doing siding work on my house. House behind us was being sold and a company was replacing the condenser unit. Wasn't paying much attention till i hear the sawzall running, then a loud psssssssssst. f'ers vented the entire system to atmo, so wanted to call the epa on them.
 

snoopy7548

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I'm trying to figure out what that 'pressure drop in the coil' is. If they have the gauges hooked up and can actually see the pressure dropping when it is isolated from the rest of the system, then i'd say that is a massive leak. I think they are just guessing and want to do the fastest and highest profit work they can do. It would be a very simple matter to sniff the outside unit for a leak. Hour tops. Could be something as simple as a leaking schrader valve. Don't know what to tell you to do though. Good techs are hard to find much less this time of year.

A side story to Raizinman's post. Was doing siding work on my house. House behind us was being sold and a company was replacing the condenser unit. Wasn't paying much attention till i hear the sawzall running, then a loud psssssssssst. f'ers vented the entire system to atmo, so wanted to call the epa on them.

Haha, what a mess. A neighbor had an HVAC company (the one who did the installations for our development) out to take a look at their system and they ended up melting their sprinkler line with a blowtorch and flooding the basement. Needless to say, I'm not calling them.

The parts guy told me he would rather replace the whole unit than search for the leak because they have a lot of work at the moment. He was saying how he'd have to bring the condenser to the shop because they can't locate the leak here, which I kind of thought was BS. I also mentioned to him that my unit tends to cool the house pretty quickly and doesn't seem to remove the humidity as well as it should; I've got a 3-ton unit in a 1560 sq. ft. home with good insulation (built in 2012) in the Northeast. I asked him about doing a manual-j and he said they wouldn't want to do one and would rather just replace my unit with one of the same capacity I have now because that's what was originally designed for the house.

The guy from Craigslist got back to me last night. He said he could replace the condenser unit with the one I was quoted for a much cheaper price than $2450, or with a better quality/higher efficiency unit for the same price. He said if the leak is in the coil and he can find it, he can likely repair it as it is copper tubing. I told him that all sounded great, and I'm just waiting to hear back on when he can come by. Seems like a legit dude.
 

boomerang

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Jun 19, 2000
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I asked him about doing a manual-j and he said they wouldn't want to do one and would rather just replace my unit with one of the same capacity I have now
If you end up replacing it, go with somebody that is willing to put in the legwork. You've figured it out, your components are oversized and replacing like with like is a mistake. Removing the humidity is huge when it comes to AC. We're in SW Florida and I can keep our place at 45% humidity if I wish. That means I can set the temp high and still be comfortable.

The AC companies take their jobs pretty seriously down here. I never saw such extensive yearly checkups until we moved here. Pressure checks in the plenum, amp probing of wiring, etc. Up north it was throw a set of gauges on it and call it good. Here, they don't put gauges on they measure the temperature differential on discharge air compared to ambient outside temp. But with temperatures as high as they are here, they can do it that way.
 

snoopy7548

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If you end up replacing it, go with somebody that is willing to put in the legwork. You've figured it out, your components are oversized and replacing like with like is a mistake. Removing the humidity is huge when it comes to AC. We're in SW Florida and I can keep our place at 45% humidity if I wish. That means I can set the temp high and still be comfortable.

The AC companies take their jobs pretty seriously down here. I never saw such extensive yearly checkups until we moved here. Pressure checks in the plenum, amp probing of wiring, etc. Up north it was throw a set of gauges on it and call it good. Here, they don't put gauges on they measure the temperature differential on discharge air compared to ambient outside temp. But with temperatures as high as they are here, they can do it that way.

45% isn't bad. It seems to keep the house right around there (I'd prefer closer to 40%), but after hitting the setpoint and when it starts to cycle, it tends to only stay on for <10 minutes even on the hottest days. Keeping the house at 76 makes it feel pretty warm, 74 is OK, and 72 gives good dehumidification but feels too cold.

Got a response from the tech. He's coming out tomorrow morning. Charging $150 to find the leak (will knock it off the price of a new unit if I need one), $125-200 to fix it depending on difficulty, and $34/lb for R410a.
 

drnickriviera

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Jan 30, 2001
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Yeah, 1st company feeding you some BS. They should have a handheld leak detector. Just run it over everything and it will start beeping like crazy when it finds something. CL tech should get the job done.
 

Raizinman

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Two things:

Purchasing a dehumidifier will help with the efficiency of the air conditioner and also make it feel much more comfortable in your home. You can get a 50 pint Frigidare dehumidifier at Walmart for $191 and just let it run all summer over a basement drain.

Secondly, to find a leak, most shops should inject a colored dye (visable with a black light) into the system and then see where it leaks out. Then repair the leak. Electronic leak detectors are good, but if you believe the leak is in the condenser tubes or hidden in some back elbow with a fan running it makes using a leak detector pretty useless, which is why I often use both detection methods.

We don't ever remove the complete condenser unit to take to the shop to look for a leak. Once someone takes your condenser unit, you are pretty much stuck to deal with that shop as nobody else can repair it and any labor number they choose, you are pretty obligated for. I would not do that.
 

snoopy7548

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Two things:

Purchasing a dehumidifier will help with the efficiency of the air conditioner and also make it feel much more comfortable in your home. You can get a 50 pint Frigidare dehumidifier at Walmart for $191 and just let it run all summer over a basement drain.

Secondly, to find a leak, most shops should inject a colored dye (visable with a black light) into the system and then see where it leaks out. Then repair the leak. Electronic leak detectors are good, but if you believe the leak is in the condenser tubes or hidden in some back elbow with a fan running it makes using a leak detector pretty useless, which is why I often use both detection methods.

We don't ever remove the complete condenser unit to take to the shop to look for a leak. Once someone takes your condenser unit, you are pretty much stuck to deal with that shop as nobody else can repair it and any labor number they choose, you are pretty obligated for. I would not do that.

The tech found the leak. It's at the factory weld right where the liquid line connects to the compressor, and it looks like it was blown out - there's a metal shard sticking out. You could see refrigerant bubbling when the system was off. He said he has no idea how that could have happened, but he's going to call Amana and it should definitely be covered under the parts warranty, so I'll only have to pay for labor to replace the compressor. Because of the location, he can't just repair it. He also felt a sort of solder ball/pool underneath where the larger pipe mates to the compressor, which he said is strange since it should come from the factory nice and clean.

He saw the same compressor just go up on a supply site, so he's going to look into getting that, and hopefully get the new compressor installed early this week, but he may be able to do it as soon as late Monday afternoon. If it's not covered under warranty for some reason, he'll give me quotes for a replacement condenser as it may be worthwhile to replace the whole thing.

No comparison to the other HVAC company. Thanks for the Craigslist suggestion!
 

13Gigatons

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Apr 19, 2005
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Central Air is such a money pit. Expensive parts, expensive labor.

On the other hand our A/C has been chugging away for years...we keep meaning to call someone for a check up but are afraid they will just purposely break something to pad the bill.
 

mindless1

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Aug 11, 2001
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Two things:

Purchasing a dehumidifier will help with the efficiency of the air conditioner and also make it feel much more comfortable in your home. You can get a 50 pint Frigidare dehumidifier at Walmart for $191 and just let it run all summer over a basement drain.

That is a bad idea. The A/C already acts as a dehumidifier but in doing so, moves heat outside. Adding an additional dehumidifier, it's a second refrigeration system very similar to A/C except that instead of removing heat, it INCREASES heat. All power it uses is converted to heat, just like a space heater.

Now you could duct its exhaust outside, but inherently it is going to be less efficient than the central air, so overall cost goes up. You wouldn't even do that, you would just get a normal room air conditioner and put it in the room the dehumidifier would be in. It will remove the same water per KWH but not dump heat into the house.

That could make sense if in particular the need was to keep one room more hospitable while the thermostat for the central air was turned up, but it will be less efficient overall than letting the central air keep all rooms comfortable if there is not an imbalance or special need in that one particular room.

A modern central A/C achieves the highest efficiency always running. Powering a space heater to dehumidify and cause it to cycle off more often, is madness except for that one situation mentioned above, if only ONE room needs to be more comfortable. Plus, now you have two systems to maintain and repair, with the dehumidifier tending to have a lot shorter lifespan if running the same, no it would be a greater, # of hours if it running is supposed to decrease the time the central air is running.
 
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Raizinman

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Air conditioning naturally lowers humidity because it cycles air through the evaporator coil. Conditioned air is naturally lower in humidity, regardless of what’s going on outside. So, if it is hot outside and humid, an air conditioner alone is very effective. On the other hand, a dehumidifier is very useful when the temperature isn’t that high but the humidity is.

A dehumidifier not only lowers the relative humidity in your home, it reduces the need for cooling because you will feel more comfortable. A dehumidifier costs significantly less to run. So, when the temperature outside isn’t that high, there is no need to use thousands of watts per day of electricity just to stay comfortable. This also reduces the overall wear on your air conditioner. Since it doesn’t need to run 24 hours a day to reduce humidity, wear and tear on the device is reduced and you save a tremendous amount of money on repairs and eventual replacement costs.

The Department of Energy recommends setting your air conditioner to 76-78 degrees and using a combination of a dehumidifier and fans to stay cool. If the temperature rises above that level, the air conditioner will turn on and supplement your dehumidifier. Consider too that a dehumidifier will reduce the burden placed on your air conditioner to pull humidity from the air. Humid air takes more energy to cool than dry air. Despite the fact that dehumidifiers will often raise the air temperature by about 1 degree, they save energy and make you more comfortable.

So, if you’re looking for a way to reduce your energy bill, improve your indoor air quality, and enhance the longevity of your air conditioner, look no further than a quality dehumidifier.
 

mindless1

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^ You (or whoever suggested this and led you astray) must be talking about a pretty poorly sealed home or one where the inhabitants have very bad habits about filling the home with moisture, or just don't have any concept of science or HVAC. I did work in HVAC years ago with little changing except the efficiency rising.

Otherwise the A/C will drop the humidity level without need to keep running a humidifier, and this "burden" concept is not really true. You could say the same the other way around that the A/C takes the burden off the humidifier but better still, it reduces temperature doing so instead of raising it.

There is no way to assume a humidifier raises temperature only 1 degree except in a specific circumstance with the right variables, while any number of circumstances could be present to result in the dehumidifier just wasting more power and costing more in the long run to do so.

I have my A/C set to 78F and use fans, but no dehumidifier running. I save that power consumption and BOTH my humidifier and my A/C are over 15 years old. To try to state that I'd save money by running the dehumidifier in addition to the A/C would be a math-challenged statement.
 

paperfist

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Man if I ran a dehumidifier it would be going 24/7 to do anything. My A/C runs 10 mins and the place is cooled for the next hour. My upfront costs were probably higher, but my A/C equipment is 15 years old and I'm sure I would have gone through several units by now.
 

snoopy7548

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Just heard back from the tech. You're not gonna believe this...

He met with an Amana/Copeland (compressor mfg.) rep today and told them what he found - the blown-out weld at the liquid line/compressor connection, and the solder/weld lump at the suction line/compressor connection. The rep. said there is absolutely no way the unit would have left the factory that way, so he looked up the model of the compressor and it's actually a 2.5 ton compressor! In a 3 ton condenser unit!

This unit is original to the home (built in 2012) and, as far as I knew at the time, was brand new when installed. I guess the HVAC company swapped compressors themselves and pawned it off on me when I bought the home. Bunch of freaking shady jerks.

He gave me some prices for either a complete replacement, or just replacing the compressor. I think I'm gonna have him replace the compressor, and either try to get Amana to honor the warranty (though he said they probably won't since it was modified from the original build... :mad:), or contact the company that installed the system in my house and make them pay for the full cost of the repair and all other associated costs with this problem.