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Old 07-10-2009, 11:16 PM   #21
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Only one problem with our Rheem units. The original installer didn't solder the joints well enough between the compressor and the furnace...it kept losing the refrigerant. He worked on it a few times and never found the leak.
That's pathetic.

I'll bet the leak was on the low-pressure side and he couldn't find it when it was running because it was sucking air in. And I bet he never ran the leak detector on the system when it was shut off, so he never saw the refrigerant when it was leaking out.

But that's just my experience.
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Old 07-10-2009, 11:23 PM   #22
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July ain't a good time to be looking for a new system! $$$$$

A "dead" A/C system may not be dead at all, just wounded. It can be something as simple as bad contacts on the contactor (the remote switch that applies 240 volts to the compressor and condensor fan in the outside unit); a break in the low-voltage (24 volts AC) pair of wires outside to the contactor (very common due to weathering of wire insulation in sunlight, also weedwhacker hits); a blown compressor start or run capacitor; a blown fan capacitor; a bad compressor start relay, etc. etc. Many of these fixes are relatively cheap.

A fix, even if it's a few hundred bucks, that gets you up and running again allows you to later get a better deal in a slower time of the year.

For central A/C units manufactured after January of 2006, the minimum system SEER is 13. In reality, the manufacturers converted over before that, as distributors didn't want to have "old" units in their inventory.

What are the symptoms of your "dead" system?
Does the compressor fan and compressor outside run when cooling is called for by the thermostat, but it just doesn't cool??
Or does the inside fan run, but nothing outside runs?
Or nothing inside and outside runs?
Or?
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Old 07-10-2009, 11:38 PM   #23
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A common problem around here used to be Fire Ants getting their little nasty bodies (in large numbers, they're soooo sociable) in between the contactor's contacts. Where they would become carbonized. I've had good luck with pushing/pulling a thin piece of carboard, like a piece of index card, back and forth between the contacts to clean and burnish them while pushing down the contactor's armature to push the contacts tight to the card.

With the 240 volt service disconnect "OFF", of course!

I haven't seen that for years now, I think the Fire Ants have wised up.
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Old 07-11-2009, 10:15 AM   #24
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CFB had some good insight on this last year.

air conditioning
Who's CFB?

I can't get the link to work...
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Old 07-11-2009, 10:29 AM   #25
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I can't get the link to work...
Works for me, but I'll quote it for you:
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After jumping through these hoops last year, I have some simple advice:

- Pretty much all the units for sale these days are about the same as far as performance and quality. For a given efficiency rate, choose the cheapest you can get...which is usually a Goodman.
- There has been so much consolidation in the industry that there are only about a half dozen companies making the top 15 brands. For example, carrier, bryant and payne are all made by the same company. American standard and trane are made by the same company and identical except for some cosmetic packaging. Goodman used to make amana, some whirlpool and maytag units but I think they spun those off.
- Dont get sucked into paying a lot extra for more efficiency with fancy cost savings charts. The difference in actual electric usage between a 16 seer air conditioner and a 13 seer isnt that much. If its a $300-500 difference, its worth it. If its $2000, its not.
- Given that you live in FL, consider a heat pump instead of a traditional furnace/air conditioner. Heat pumps both heat AND cool, and a higher efficiency heat pump can be a good investment in a climate that doesnt have severe winters.

To simplify it as much as I can, buy a Goodman, make sure the installer is factory authorized, and make sure their quote includes a transferable ten year factory parts and labor warranty. Every manufacturer sells the latter but the installers all try to sell you some kind of hybrid warranty where the installer does the labor and there is some level of parts warranty that may or may not be transferrable.

You'll pay less, if theres a problem with the install its on the manufacturer to make it right because they authorized the installer, and if anything goes wrong down the road or you come to dislike the company you paid to install it, you can transfer the warranty to another service provider. Everyone services Goodman, parts are readily available, and about the only difference between the Goodman product and everything else is that its a builders product with no marketing and advertising.

Lastly, your house size only has a little bit to do with the sizing of the unit. How high your ceilings are, how much insulation in the walls and attic, and how many windows you have and what type they are have more to do with the unit size needs than square footage. Your contractor can do what is called a "manual J" calculation with all this information plugged into a piece of software to tell you exactly what you need. Too big is not good, your unit will cycle more and be inefficient. Too small is not good since the unit may not adequately cool.

Chances are the unit thats already installed in your house is the right size, providing its doing the job and giving you the right level of comfort.
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Old 07-11-2009, 10:34 AM   #26
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Just to add to my previous discussion about SEER and diminishing returns: while the percentage savings I listed are accurate, in actual energy units saved the diminishing returns are even greater.

If you would use 100 units of energy with 14 SEER (using 14 as a base since that it usually the lower-end "baseline" these days), you'd use:

92.9 units at 15 SEER (7.1 less than 14)
87.5 units at 16 SEER (5.4 less than 15)
82.4 units at 17 SEER (5.1 less than 16)
77.8 units at 18 SEER (4.6 less than 17)
73.7 units at 19 SEER (4.1 less than 18)
70.0 units at 20 SEER (3.7 less than 19)

So again: The higher you go, the higher the cost to get to the "next level" and the lower the savings for doing so. For most people, the payback for anything above about 15 or 16 is way too long to justify the added up-front cost. When I priced them about three years ago, 14 was the "sweet spot" but with tax credits, improving technology and ever-increasing electricity costs, it might be closer to 16 now.
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Old 07-11-2009, 10:47 AM   #27
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Does your condo association explain why they think this makes sense? Have they negotiated some sort of special deal with a particular company? In general, service contracts (like extended warranties and other insurance) are not a way to save money.
I think it is not so much a warranty as having a guy come by and check it out each season and do necessary tweeks. Maybe it covers repairs as well.

Maybe I should just pay a guy to inspect it every couple of seasons and forget the insurance part?
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Old 07-11-2009, 01:44 PM   #28
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I think it is not so much a warranty as having a guy come by and check it out each season and do necessary tweeks. Maybe it covers repairs as well.

Maybe I should just pay a guy to inspect it every couple of seasons and forget the insurance part?
What do they actually do? I have not had my A/C looked at since we moved in 17 years ago, and it was not new then (~12 SEER I think). I still get something in the range of the quoted temperature deltas between incoming outgoing air (~14F delta, IIRC). I replace the furnace filter, brush out the condenser of any leaves etc. Pretty simple/basic.

It may only get used a few weeks a year, 4~6 on average I'd guess, hardly at all last year. With heavy usage, eff and keeping it at peak performance is more important, but do these guys do anything to "tune it up", or do they just check that it isn't running at low eff (which you can do yourself)?

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Old 07-11-2009, 02:08 PM   #29
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ERD50, basically the idea is that they check over the entire A/C system systematically, in the spring, to make sure everything is functioning properly BEFORE it gets hot. Repairs are cheaper in cooler weather, obviously, so it is desirable to detect any incipient problems before the hot weather onset.

While they are doing that, they blow out the vents, top off the coolant if necessary, check your filters, and tweak anything that needs tweaking so that it is operating optimally. It doesn't cost much.

Since you only run your A/C for 4-6 weeks per year, it isn't getting much wear and tear so I am not sure a yearly check would pay off, for you.
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:55 PM   #30
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What do they actually do? I have not had my A/C looked at since we moved in 17 years ago, and it was not new then (~12 SEER I think). I still get something in the range of the quoted temperature deltas between incoming outgoing air (~14F delta, IIRC). I replace the furnace filter, brush out the condenser of any leaves etc. Pretty simple/basic.

It may only get used a few weeks a year, 4~6 on average I'd guess, hardly at all last year. With heavy usage, eff and keeping it at peak performance is more important, but do these guys do anything to "tune it up", or do they just check that it isn't running at low eff (which you can do yourself)?

-ERD50

4 to 6 weeks a year.... and probably only a few hours a day then...

So... 17 yrs X 6 weeks X 7 days X 5 hours.... 3570 hours...


We here have 3 to 4 months were it runs every day... 12 to 18 hours a day.... and another 4 months where it runs say 5 or 6 hours a day...

4 mths X 30 days X 15 = 1800
4 X 30 X 6 = 720 for a total of 2520 hours a year...

3570/2520 = 1.4 years of comparative use... NOT MUCH...

I have an 18 YO air conditioner... 18 X 2520 = or 45,360 hours of use... so yours will need to run over 200 years to get the same hours of use...


All numbers are WAGS... just to show a difference in location....
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:04 PM   #31
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in Canada we run the AC maybe 3 or 4 days PER YEAR! havn't turned it on this year.

the florida condo is always on except when someone is there in the winter, set at 85 I think.

I think the association=the builder is concerned about absentee owners getting mold when AC breaks down unawares, and wanting to avoid finger pointing regarding responsibility

I have a houseminder who is supposed to checking the place. Like another guy mentioned here, it is possible he is renting the place out to europeans in the summer and pocketing the money!
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:24 PM   #32
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All this talk of air conditioners made me run outside to see what the heck I have....an Amana. I bought this place new 5 years ago. No problems with the AC so far but then, it is new, I shouldn't have any. My cousin lives in my place in FL and maintains it. I don't know what the heck I have there either. It is a 25 year old house. Cuz lives there rent free, but maintains it, pays the utilities and the lawn and pool guys. She travels a lot for business. I go down mainly in the winter. Unlike me, she is mechanically oriented but even so, an AC problem would have us calling help quickly.
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:59 PM   #33
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Does your condo association explain why they think this makes sense? Have they negotiated some sort of special deal with a particular company? In general, service contracts (like extended warranties and other insurance) are not a way to save money.

My service contract on my air conditioners have saved me plenty . My Trane unit had several expensive problems that were fixed for free since I had the service contract . The air conditioner in my present house more than paid for my contract several times over with all the repairs it had before I replaced it . Plus you are sure to get fast emergency service and in Florida in the summer that is a necessity .
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Old 07-11-2009, 09:30 PM   #34
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I have an 18 YO air conditioner... 18 X 2520 = or 45,360 hours of use... so yours will need to run over 200 years to get the same hours of use...

All numbers are WAGS... just to show a difference in location....
Oh, I understand the difference in run time. But I was still trying to understand just what they do during a check-up. Seems like the cleaning is easily done by any light DIY'er. Do the freon leaks happen slowly enough that a check pre-season gives some assurance of not running low in the middle of the season (requiring a service call in the busy time)?

I don't know if leaks are related to run time, or just calendar time. IIRC, running more often keeps the seals lubricated and reduces leakage (at least that was always the explanation I heard for running the car A/C in winter a few times, but now they are ted into the defroster).

I'm guessing it's just a money maker for the places during the slow season, but maybe worth it for those not mechanically inclined (or those who prefer not to). Same with the furnace check-ups here - an NG furnace is pretty straightforward - make sure it's clean, nothing blocking anything, flame is the right color, filter replaced, good draft and that's about it. They *might* catch a heat exchanger crack in an inspection, but I do have several CO monitors.

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Old 07-12-2009, 12:48 AM   #35
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Unfortunately, getting your AC replaced right now is going to cost you an arm and a leg because it is so hot.
You can say THAT again. So far, we've had estimates from $10,200 to $14,799.

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Are you sure your present system is really "dead?"
Naw, it's just wounded. We're going to get it patched up and limp along for a few months.
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My air system died last year in late august in Florida . I went with a Comfortmaker air system and it has been great . My electric bills are down by $100 a month . In my old house I had a Trane unit that had several problems even though the house was new .
Moemg--we got a quote on a Comfortmaker from one contractor. I was leery because I haven't heard of Comfortmaker. Good to hear your input.
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A "dead" A/C system may not be dead at all,...
What are the symptoms of your "dead" system?
Does the compressor fan and compressor outside run when cooling is called for by the thermostat, but it just doesn't cool??
Or does the inside fan run, but nothing outside runs?
Or nothing inside and outside runs?
Or?
Telly--weird symptoms. The blower fan will run if on "On", but not if the compressor is running. Hubby said it's the circuit board on the furnace/air handler thingy. A contractor agreed and said the circuit board would be less than $500, so we'll get that fixed and postpone the new system.
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Just to add to my previous discussion about SEER and diminishing returns: while the percentage savings I listed are accurate, in actual energy units saved the diminishing returns are even greater.
Zig--I agree. Though a 16-SEER system is required to get the tax credit, I'm not sure the $$ expended up front would be worth it. I'm thinking a 14 SEER should work well enough for us.
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Old 07-12-2009, 12:49 AM   #36
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ERD...

My 18 yo unit got one check up and IIRC three service calls... I am not sure about the leaks... but mine needed topping up all three times... the last time earlier this year.... cost me almost $300... I need to learn to top it up myself and save a few bucks....

The checkup is supposed to oil the parts that need oil... clean the parts that need cleaning... check the pressure etc... make sure there is nothing 'broke' or rusting...

but... from some of the TV reporters here... some just take a smoke outside and charge you...

My mother one time had them come check her unit... and they found a 'crack' in her heat exchanger... wanted big money to change it out... then she produced the 20 year warranty... some quick calls back to the office and some heated words back and forth (I think they were surprised someone had the info and they got caught).... they did replace the unit, but who knows with what.... I was upset at my mom for allowing them to do it as I knew it was a scam....
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Old 07-12-2009, 12:51 AM   #37
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in Canada we run the AC maybe 3 or 4 days PER YEAR! havn't turned it on this year.
I imagine we operate our a/c 11 months of the year. Many years we are running the air on Christmas. We could probably do without our furnace if we had a good space heater.
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Old 07-12-2009, 01:55 AM   #38
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Most folks in this neck of the woods rely on the Fog brand; it breaks down three or four times a year for about four days. Never thought of checking into a hotel for the duration but that's a great suggestion.
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Old 07-13-2009, 10:41 AM   #39
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If you replace a 14 year old system you'll probably be pleasantly surprised at what the new one will do for your electric bills.

Heck it'll probably pay for itself in 30 years.
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Old 07-13-2009, 02:45 PM   #40
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ditch the air conditioner..get this!

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