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Old 03-28-2018, 12:49 PM   #41
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Right.

Mine went out on a hot day when I had three young kids in my house, so I didn't have the luxury of investigating / root-causing / ordering the part.

After he replaced the capacitor I did the research. I'd feel comfortable doing it myself next time, although if people asked me I would warn them about the capacitor because my understanding is that they are powerful enough to hurt someone badly if discharged accidentally.
Yep. I understand the time pressure. I ordered two and did my second unit when my first went out. We limped for a day on one unit. Lucky.

Capacitors can zap you, no doubt. That's why I'd call this an advanced DYI project, and why I would never say "So easy anybody could do it," because you do have to have some respect for what you are doing and understand how something with a breaker off could still give you a serious jolt.

Same goes for car brakes.
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Old 03-28-2018, 01:20 PM   #42
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We did in the midwest. Probably the biggest value was cleaning out the units. Second biggest was we were on a first name basis with our technician.
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Old 03-28-2018, 02:25 PM   #43
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We bought a 2007 - built 2,000 sq.ft. rental house in 2010 - 2011 when everything was in the tank. Apparently, the long distance owner paid for maintenance when things went wrong. A couple of years after we bought it, I noticed the power bills were pretty high (Texas area) and started looking into the A/C unit. My A/C guy pulled the evaporator coil and found it was plugged from years of tenants not changing (or using) a makeup air filter.

Pay me now ($5 per filter) or pay me later (new evaporator coil - $1000). Before and after pic below.

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Old 03-28-2018, 02:30 PM   #44
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I have never had an annual inspection of any of the units that I have owned. We change filters (furnace) regularly and hose off the coils outside (AC). A Major Manufacturer factory representative told me that annuals are not necessary and to only call for service when you have a problem..
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Old 03-28-2018, 02:50 PM   #45
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We bought a 2007 - built 2,000 sq.ft. rental house in 2010 - 2011 when everything was in the tank. Apparently, the long distance owner paid for maintenance when things went wrong. A couple of years after we bought it, I noticed the power bills were pretty high (Texas area) and started looking into the A/C unit. My A/C guy pulled the evaporator coil and found it was plugged from years of tenants not changing (or using) a makeup air filter.

Pay me now ($5 per filter) or pay me later (new evaporator coil - $1000). Before and after pic below.
A really good example of why an HVAC filter is essential. Now imagine what the outdoor (condenser) coil, which has no filter, looks like if it is not cleaned regularly!

If you wait until the plugging has a noticeable effect on power costs or cooling ability, then you have waited too long.

If a person is not a DIYer, then even $150 per year (once, not twice) is money well spent, PROVIDED they actually clean the outside coil properly. If they don't ask for a water hose and take off part of the outside unit for access to clean from the inside out, then you ARE wasting your money.
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Old 03-28-2018, 03:09 PM   #46
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I didn't read every post, but in scanning, I didn't see any comprehensive list of what constitutes an inspection. It is kind of hard to quantify worthwhile without that. Keeping clean filters in furnaces and cleaning condenser fins in AC units seems to be the majority of maintenance needed. Tightening belts and oiling bearings are long gone.
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Old 03-28-2018, 03:19 PM   #47
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No, inspections will rarely catch faulty parts, they are primarily revenue generators for service companies. I don't see the value in paying for periodic HVAC inspections.
Agree with this. I change my filters and humidifier pad once in a while. Not much else to do. Fan is an electric motor and MTBF is very high and not likely to be impacted by 'inspections'. I don't think much else is going to be caught by inspections either. Agree with smoke and CO detectors. My mother was widowed 14 years ago and lives alone. If she didn't have me around to look at things now and then I guess a service contract might make sense but the truth is that the HVAC people still come out very quickly for any issue as there are many service providers.
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Old 03-28-2018, 04:06 PM   #48
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I guess three things are bugging me...
1. $300 seems like a lot of money. In our area, we pay about $60-70 per inspection.
2. $300 over 12-15 years is REALLY a lot of money, and would go a long way towards totally replacing your system.
3. I am really surprised that your repair was not covered under the original factory warranty.

Our best luck with HVAV people have been local, "Mom and Pop" type shops that depend upon referrals and repeat business-talk to your friends who are DIY types-they will know the good ones. The big "ad on TV" guys always seem to try to sell a new system (the last one suggested a new unit after 7 years! DW told him to hit the road!)
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Old 03-28-2018, 04:25 PM   #49
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In the event that no one has mentioned it, if you are cleaning the coil in the outdoor unit, throw the breaker and direct the hose spray from the inside, pushing crud towards the outside. Do not use a pressure attachment as you will flatten the coils and reduce their efficiency. They do make ‘combs’ to straighten them out if you have accidentally flattened them already. Some coils are hard to reach to clean well and you actually have to remove a shroud and or the fan, a little more involved, but not hard.

And if you live in an area with a lot of cottonwoods, these can be a good addition:
https://www.amazon.com/Product-Group...ing=UTF8&psc=1
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Old 03-28-2018, 04:53 PM   #50
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Inspection vs Maintenance Service...

Our new HVAC system has a full (parts/labor) warranty for 3 yrs. In order to extend that to 10 yrs, the manufacturer REQUIRES a twice a year maintenance service, with specific items to be checked and cleaned. Yes, I can do that myself, however, the manufacturer does not recognize shade tree mechanics (me). So they require documentation from one of their dealers in order to satisfy the 10 yr warranty.

The installer threw in the 1st 2 yrs at the time of the install. They will charge abt $79 for each subsequent year.

So, you can roll the dice and DIY and save $79/yr, but if anything quits after year three it's on your nickel.

This is a bi-annual maintenance function, NOT a season start-up / inspection check, big difference.

_B
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Old 03-28-2018, 05:47 PM   #51
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Inspection vs Maintenance Service...

Our new HVAC system has a full (parts/labor) warranty for 3 yrs. In order to extend that to 10 yrs, the manufacturer REQUIRES a twice a year maintenance service, with specific items to be checked and cleaned. Yes, I can do that myself, however, the manufacturer does not recognize shade tree mechanics (me). So they require documentation from one of their dealers in order to satisfy the 10 yr warranty.

The installer threw in the 1st 2 yrs at the time of the install. They will charge abt $79 for each subsequent year.

So, you can roll the dice and DIY and save $79/yr, but if anything quits after year three it's on your nickel.

This is a bi-annual maintenance function, NOT a season start-up / inspection check, big difference.

_B
Please explain the big difference?

Basically, you paid 8x$79 for a 10 year extended warranty, assuming there was no additional fee for the warranty.

What is the tech going to do different than a typical performance check and inspection?
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Old 03-28-2018, 05:58 PM   #52
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For those that partake in the annual inspections, I would be curious to know what type of refrigerant you are running.

The old systems are R-22 for the most part. The new ones, I believe, are R-410a.

The reason that I bring this up is that I have old R-22 systems. When I had a problem I called the HVAC techs. They refused to actually work on the older R-22 system. They just wanted to sell me a new R-410a system. This is especially relevant when systems leak refrigerant.

My point of all this is to make sure that your techs will be willing to actually service your system that you are dutifully paying them to inspect each year vs just selling you a new system.

-gauss

epilogue - I ended up fixing these systems myself with an R-22 "alternative" refrigerant. Worked out for me.
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:05 PM   #53
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My local HVAC place has an inspection program as well and while I'm happy to have them inspect and clean have found that the most important feature of the program they offer is that if an emergency call is needed on off hours, you pay the standard hourly rate and not overtime. In my own use case the annual fee has more than paid for itself as we've had failures on holiday weekends several times in the past few years.
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:10 PM   #54
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... we've had failures on holiday weekends several times in the past few years.
Those wild parties are tough on those systems, aren't they.
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:12 PM   #55
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For those that partake in the annual inspections, I would be curious to know what type of refrigerant you are running.

The old systems are R-22 for the most part. The new ones, I believe, are R-410a.

The reason that I bring this up is that I have old R-22 systems. When I had a problem I called the HVAC techs. They refused to actually work on the older R-22 system. They just wanted to sell me a new R-410a system. This is especially relevant when systems leak refrigerant.

My point of all this is to make sure that your techs will be willing to actually service your system that you are dutifully paying them to inspect each year vs just selling you a new system.

-gauss

epilogue - I ended up fixing these systems myself with an R-22 "alternative" refrigerant. Worked out for me.
FWIW, R22 is being phased out in a couple of years. For that reason it is becoming more rare, and increasingly expensive. No licensed HVAC tech would, or should, use an R22 "alternative". You, as the owner, accepted the risk that the alternative could cause a system failure. And if you were leaking refrigerant, and no repairs were made, then you are STILL leaking refrigerant. And by the way, removing the existing refrigerant also requires recovery and proper disposal

Most systems cannot be retro fitted to the new refrigerant at a reasonable price, so replacement of major components is required.

All that said, I agree that finding an honest and reliable tech is the most important part of this.
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:22 PM   #56
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Our air conditioner is 16 feet in the air on a platform so neither my SO or I are going up there to service it . We have a contract for $14.99 a month that includes two maintenance visits and free labor and a discount on parts .IMO it is well worth it during summer in Florida .
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Old 03-28-2018, 06:52 PM   #57
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FWIW, R22 is being phased out in a couple of years. For that reason it is becoming more rare, and increasingly expensive. No licensed HVAC tech would, or should, use an R22 "alternative".
I can understand "would not" because the economies of scale would not be present for a professional technician, but I am not sure where "should not" is coming from. Totally legal if done properly (ie observing EPA 608 regulations).


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You, as the owner, accepted the risk that the alternative could cause a system failure.
Well yes, I assume the risk on anything that I work on. Given that the system was already not working and my HVAC company would not work on it because R12 systems were deemed as "money loosers" for the firm, there was not too much downside risk IMHO.

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And if you were leaking refrigerant, and no repairs were made, then you are STILL leaking refrigerant. And by the way, removing the existing refrigerant also requires recovery and proper disposal
I installed a missing cap on the factory service valves and cured the obvious leak. System was flat before I started working on it, as confirmed by the HVAC tech, so no refrigerant was vented during my work.

And yes-I did a proper Evac and refill with vacuum pump /thermocouples / digital psychrometer / refrigeration gages / SuperHeat-SubCooling charts etc.[/QUOTE]

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Most systems cannot be retro fitted to the new refrigerant at a reasonable price, so replacement of major components is required.
Yes - a conversion to R410a is not possible -- hence the use of the alternative blend specifically designed for R22 retrofits.

I looked into getting a Mechanical License from my state so that I could do these conversions legally for $ for others. Seems an undeserved marked IMHO.

If I had to buy all the tools from scratch you may have a point, but I already had the vaccum pump/gages due to my personal auto ac work in the past.

But -- I have seen sub-$100 electric vacuum pumps at Harbor Freight, so this may not be as economically prohibitive as you suggest. Definitely more involved than doing an auto brake job, however. I think I was in for less than $300 including new vacuum pump oil, new tip for my refrigerant leak sensor and 30lbs of the alternative refrigerant.

So now that I have made the case that I am not a hack, I will go back to my original point that if you use an HVAC company, be sure they will actually work on your R12 system if it develops a leak and not just sell you a new system.

I was rather annoyed and caught off guard when they came back with this response.

-gauss

p.s. On a related note, once I line up an acetylene torch, I plan to install a replacement compressor into my residential kitchen refrigerator which has failed. My friends all think I am crazy for working on this too. To each their own.
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Old 03-28-2018, 07:42 PM   #58
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epilogue - I ended up fixing these systems myself with an R-22 "alternative" refrigerant. Worked out for me.
Which alternative did you use?
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Old 03-29-2018, 06:05 AM   #59
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Which alternative did you use?


R427A (Forane)
This came out of the off-the-record discussion with the HVAC guy. Said his buddies had used it successfully on personal jobs.

It is a blend of refrigerants of which I think the largest component is R134a.

-gauss
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Old 03-29-2018, 06:19 AM   #60
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So now that I have made the case that I am not a hack, I will go back to my original point that if you use an HVAC company, be sure they will actually work on your R12 system if it develops a leak and not just sell you a new system.

I was rather annoyed and caught off guard when they came back with this response.

-gauss

p.s. On a related note, once I line up an acetylene torch, I plan to install a replacement compressor into my residential kitchen refrigerator which has failed. My friends all think I am crazy for working on this too. To each their own.
My apologies for being a little too "in your face" with my post. Clearly you have the know how and tools, and in your shoes, with system dead in the water anyway, I might have done the same thing.
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