Here is the step by step methodology known as a/c troubleshooting. How to diagnose your air conditioner or HVAC system in an ordered, methodical and proven way to get the answers you need. If you take some time, get educated, watch the videos at http://www.thermal-medics.com/ that I have made you can save a lot of money. Commission based A/C techs love nothing more than an ignorant consumer. They can sell you anything from a surge protector to float switch to even up to a new unit for a simple run capacitor or burnt wire. Read "the worst a/c story ever" if you need any more encouragement.
Is air blowing from the registers? Yes or no
yes, is it warm (ambient) or a little cool or actually hot (on a demand for cool)?
is the condenser fan motor and compressor also operating?
if all motors are operating and you are getting warm to ambient air than probably a refrigerant issue
that can come in the form of low refrigerant (slow leaks)
leaking reversing valve if a heat pump
clogged metering device (txv, fixed orifice, or capillary tube)
compressor may or may not start back up if run cap on fan motor is popped - it has an internal overload protection that must reset at appx 115 degrees to operate again. I sometimes use bags of ice to cool down the compressor quickly in a pinch - or just have a cold one..
Is there a breath of air at the registers - it may be cool but very low airflow?
no, when you operate the thermostat does any other modes work (i.e. fan to on or heat??)
is there ice on the big copper pipe (suction line) when the outdoor unit (compressor, condenser fan motor) comes on? if yes than shut off the system to avoid adding a 0 to your final repair bill.
No no other modes work and nothing at all comes on - indoor or out - dead as a doornail:
change batteries in t-stat
float switch backed up
5amp fuse in air handler (there is a reason it popped - gotta find out why)
transformer blew (it happens)
main breaker for whole unit
This is just a short list to get you going the right way and keep the dirt bag salesman 'techs' from ripping you a new one on a service call. Call or email me anytime for detailed step-by-step help to get to the root of the matter and often times fix your unit yourself. Read the testamonials - if you give me 10 minutes I can save you hundreds of dollars!!
Great guy called me in to find out the real deal on a possible leak he had. Local 'father and son' company wanted $925 just to get the ball rolling with a blank check on repairs. You guys are too savvy for that sort of game. Dropped by his house and hooked up the dry nitrogen tank. In 5 minutes it was so obvious it made me sick the first tech had a straight face to write up the 'estimate'. Oh well, happens every day out here: Watch and enjoy....
Well, lets go through some of the basics. Of course that dosent answer why they mark them up 300% (there are some legitimate reasons for mark-up but lets keep it real) but just in case you were curious here you go:
r-22 $350 a 30lb jug - retails for $40-80 installed PER POUND!! - they make at least $800 a jug
run capacitors $5-$15 - you pay $80 to $200 installed (yes attaching a couple of wires)
contactors - a personal favorite for all the tune up calls cost $12 and $100 at least installed (more hooking up wires).
transformers - $15 cost and at least $150 installed
indoor coil cleaning $150 - you can get the spray cleaner and soft brush for $10
A/C tune up? endless possibilities here for them to sell you more crap - your cost to do preventative maintenance? $0
5-2-1 compressor savers AKA hard start kits cost $40 installed $150 - three wires to hookup
Ok you have to be comfortable working around your unit. Get educated. Go to thermal-medics.com and watch the videos... the content is out there and it is FREE. CALL OR EMAIL ME, THAT IS WHAT I DO, I HELP YOU!!! You have the power to save money and learn what is going on out there, and trust me, when you do the fix you will actually feel pretty manly!!
Last point: If you don't want to DIY is it worth paying for quality. YES!!!!! Finding the quality is the hard part. Look for my next article about choosing a contractor to do the best work for the money. You may have already read my "low bid is not always the best' and that is true. If you want quality workmanship at fair prices you have to do the legwork. Otherwise you prey
The residents of Phoenix felt nature's wrath on October 5th 2010. Now, thunderstorms and small hail is not uncommon during our monsoon season, but this one was a whopper. We had a very intense group of thunderstorm cells move through the valley and drop an incredible amount of large hail. There is a you tube video from a backyard during the storm.
Now how does this effect your A/C and why are we talking about it? Take a look at some condenser coil fins after the storm:
This created a little 'boom' in the local economy. For up to a year after the storm every man, woman and child was out roaming the streets offering to replace your A/C, roof, car windshield - anything that they could get a claim though the insurance. Some serious crookery went on as high bids came in, adjusters were swamped and homeowners were stoked!!!
Now we are on the other side of this. Many people had some damage but not enough to file a claim. Some didn't even know what happened to their unit and others had units installed but the hackery in some of the jobs left them with a new unit that never operated at full capacity. Now we are past the one year point, most insurance companies will not let homeowners file a claim.
Lets talk about what happens when the condenser coil fins get bent like this. The condenser (in A/C mode) whole purpose in life is to give up or reject the heat that the refrigerant picks up as it travels through the evaporator. In other words the compressor squeezes the refrigerant, raising the temperature and pressure and as that hot gas is cooled in the condenser it........condenses into a liquid. Now that hot liquid is free to travel back to the evaporator and pass through a metering device (TXV, capillary tube or fixed orifice) to expand cool and pick up that heat as the air in the living space is passed over it. REMEMBER IN A/C AND REFRIGERATION ALL WE ARE DOING IS MOVING HEAT - NOT COOLING AIR - THAT IS THE RESULT OF REMOVING THE HEAT!!!!
This is why when you put your hand above the condenser fan, the air is hotter than Hades. It is pulling say 100 degree air from the outside across a 130 degree hot gas copper line and you now have 130 degree air blown up into the sky. That 30 degree difference is the heat picked up by the refrigerant from the living space and a little from the heat of compression. We are moving the heat from the inside of your house to the outside air above your house!!
NOW, when you coil fins get all bent out of shape the airflow is restricted and A/C units hate restrictions to airflow. The refrigerant cannot give up that heat as efficiently because the cooling area is reduced. Now the temperatures and pressures will run hot, the evaporator is not getting to designed cooling temps and finally you are here wondering why your unit runs all day but never seems to cool to desired temps.
Condenser fins can be combed out to a certain degree. This is a delicate process and must be done with a special tool. It is effective unless the coils look like the pictures above then you just have to throw in the towel. There are not replacement parts for horribly bent fins.
If you have any questions on hail damage, air conditioning capacity, and the effect this all may have or have had on your unit call me or write in to http://www.thermal-medics.com/ If you suspect poor workmanship or have questions about an install do the same. Send pictures, drawings... anything than can help.
R-22 is the original refrigerant known as freon. The EPA has determined it is a greenhouse gas and mandated the elimination over time of its use. In January of 2012 the EPA mandated a 45% reduction in the price of r-22. Thus the price of it per pound to you, the customer doubled.
Now the origin of this whole greenhouse gas thing has to do with global warming etc at least on the official level. The rumor mill has it more to deal with the patent loss by Du Pont of r-22 and the associated profits in making the gas. R-410a is the replacement refrigerant but, of course, it is not a drop in replacement. You need a new unit. You can understand contractors, the federal government and Du Pont were giddy when they figured this out.
There really is no drop in replacement to r-22. Although I work on systems that are 25 years old and more the cost of doing a compressor replacement or adding gas to a leak in a unit now makes replacement more appealing. Of course for contractors replacement means more profits. They will be plugging the 'new unit' pitch all summer to everyone that will listen.
Bottom line you cant fight the man and when you have the power of government and big business on one side look out!!
You do have options. You do not just have to buy a new unit. Call or email me to get more info and guidance on what you can do to protect yourself.
Ok guys here is a quick and fun video on testing a run capacitor with a multi meter. I go through a dual run capacitor and two single run caps to test for MFD or microfarad. Just having some fun in the shop and what you can look for when you are diagnosing a bad run cap. Enjoy