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supermaxhd 05-19-2010 12:54 AM

16 years old and small leak, time to replace?
My local utility offers a service where I pay $35 on my next electric bill and in return get an HVAC inspection from a licensed professional. The system must be working to request the inspection. If the inspector finds a problem he provides a list of local HVAC companies I may chose from and then get a discounted tuneup.

I had the checkup completed and was told my 16 year old system looked good except for being a little low on coolant (which of course means I must have a leak somewhere). Next I scheduled the 'tuneup' with a local company who has new trucks all around town.

When I scheduled the 'tuneup' I found out that the discount meant that the first $250 would be paid for by my utility company, sweet!.

The HVAC tech, upon arrival almost immediatlly started with a pitch as to how I just needed to go ahead and replace my 16 year old system as it was already known to have a leak and would soon be too expensive to fix. He found a leak in my outside unit and showed me with his 'beeping' tool. He said it couldn't be fixed but I don't really understand why. It looked in plain site to me.

Since I expected the recharge to be completely covered with the $250 I insisted he go ahead and recharge the system because it would not cost me much. He told me that I would need to have it charged again before the summer is out and that it could damage the line with humidity and make the replacement even more expensive. I insisted again the recharge be done. The cost of the recharge was $132 with up to 2lb freon. A second charge of $132 was added to the bill for cleaning the outside coil. The tech rinsied it off with my garden hose. In the end I was asked to pay $14. I complained about the $132 cleaning charge (for work under 2 minutes) and not having to remove the other side panels and that charge was removed from the bill.

Before leaving the tech gave me a quote without my asking for $8219 to replace my system with a 2ton 14 SEER duel fuel ssytem and reminded me of an additional $1500 tax credit.

During summer months my electricity doubles from 400 to 800 kwh. The increase for me is about $24 per month. For 5 months I estimate my cooling cost to be about $120 at 6cents a kwh (coal electricity is still cheap for now).

My heat is natural gas with my attic furnace. My heating cost is about $600/year for my tightly insulated 1300 square/ft ranch house.

If a new system were to half my heating and cooling cost I would save about $360 a year. I have doubts that it would. Payback would be at my best calculation thinking coal energy is about to get expensive in 7 years and at worse case 15 years.

I have already used most of my $1500 available tax credit. I understand new legislation is in the senate that may make for even larger rebates/credits for a replacement system.

With a small leak in consideration is it time to spend $8000 + for a new fuel efficient system based on above information? thanks!

beenthere 05-19-2010 04:53 AM

I'd use another company next year. And see if they tell you it has a leak.

That company is using the Utility as a foot in the door sales technique. Bet lots of his calls/tuneups got the same speil and price that week.

Marty S. 05-19-2010 06:35 AM

Since you already used most of the tax credit my suggestion would be wait and see what happens. If it leaks enough to need recharged every year or doesn't last through the summer then it's time to think replacement.

yuri 05-19-2010 07:33 AM

I can set the sensitivity and fool with an electronic leak detector and make it "Beep". Oldest trick in the book. Get them to put soap suds on the leak next time. They should have a special high foamy Calgon leak detector soap or equivalent or kick them out and find an honest company. Some units naturally lose a few ounces a year thru the schraeder valves and just need proper caps etc. If it loses enough fast enough then consider replacing it.

puppyzeus 05-19-2010 08:16 AM

You are correct about the cost payback if your bill only goes up to 800kw. From your comments I take it you live in the mountains and therefore do not use the A/C much. It should only cost about $75-$100 for a company to come out and inspect your system. I say this because summer is coming and that is when everyone gets busy in the cooling trade. If your system is indeed leaking, your system only holds about 6lbs of refrigerant. I do not know when the leak started but if it is a new leak or it just gets worst, then you may lose your a/c when you need it most. Now it will cost you more and take longer to fix. Its a supply and demand thing. My point is, get someone you trust out there to check it again to see if it is indeed leaking. If it is a copper coil with aluminum fins, it can be fixed. It will take a few hours to drain the system, fix the leak, then recharge, so it will cost a few hundred dollars.

supermaxhd 05-19-2010 11:38 AM

All great advice so far. I live in Lexington Kentucky and not near any mountains. My house is super tight. Six months ago I had all low e coated argon filled windows installed. I put additional insulation in my attic. My house is on a concrete slab which I like because of its thermal properties in helping to keep my house an even temperature. thanks!

Red Squirrel 05-19-2010 11:43 AM

I'm no expert by why can't they just fix the line? Bleed the system of freon, fix the line (welding/soldering I'm guessing?) then refill the system again. Seems like common sense to me, but what do I know. :whistling2:

Yoyizit 05-19-2010 12:33 PM


Originally Posted by beenthere (Post 444010)
That company is using the Utility as a foot in the door sales technique. Bet lots of his calls/tuneups got the same speil and price that week.

Asking for the diag. in the form of a sworn statement from the tech may help.

Also inform the utility that they may unwittingly be a party to attempted fraud [an accessory before the fact?]. But I think it's possible they have plenty of wits.

NHMaster 05-19-2010 12:34 PM

Call someone else, fix the leak and forget about it. The cost savings will take 25 years or more to recover.

HandyMan2010 05-19-2010 12:52 PM

It could take years to pay back. But I am in the same boat here and found a really cheap quote at They will give you a call with the with tons of info on quotes and ideas. Hope this helps for you :thumbup:

Yoyizit 05-19-2010 01:05 PM


Originally Posted by yuri (Post 444039)
If it loses enough fast enough then consider replacing it.

What range of leak rates would this be?
What leak rate is 'normal'?

beenthere 05-19-2010 01:30 PM

Depends where the leak is. You could have to remove fins from coil, to repair the leak. When ever I do that. There is no warranty. Another leak can start near the press sheet. Leak repairs in condenser coils are a 70/30 chance they will hold. With 70% being the ones that don't hold, or a leak springs up not far from the one that was just repaired.

Each one must be evaluated by its own merits.

yuri 05-19-2010 02:23 PM

They don't turn out very well as the oil in the line starts burning and pollutes the weld etc. High chance of failure later as Beenthere said.

Yoyizit 05-19-2010 03:08 PM

This is probably not for resi. applications.

Owners or operators of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment with refrigerant charges greater than 50 pounds are required to repair leaks within 30 days when those leaks result in the loss of more than a certain percentage of the equipment's refrigerant charge over a year. For the commercial (e.g. grocery stores and warehouses) and industrial process refrigeration sectors, leaks must be repaired within 30 days when the equipment leaks at a rate that would release 35 percent or more of the charge over a year. For all other sectors, including comfort cooling (such as building chillers), leaks must be repaired when the appliance leaks at a rate that would release 15 percent or more of the charge over a year.

The trigger for repair requirements is the current leak rate projected over a consecutive 12-month period rather than the total quantity of refrigerant lost. For instance, owners or operators of a commercial refrigeration system containing 100 pounds of charge must repair leaks if they find that the system has lost 10 pounds of charge over the past month; although 10 pounds represents only 10 percent of the system charge in this case, a leak rate of 10 pounds per month would result in the release of over 100 percent of the charge over the year. To track leak rates, owners or operators of air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment with more than 50 pounds of charge must keep records of the quantity of refrigerant added to their equipment during servicing and maintenance procedures.

beenthere 05-19-2010 04:18 PM

Thats for commercial and industrial only.
Technically. A residential system containing 100 pounds of charge, could leak 20 pounds a month, and not be required to do anything about it.

There is however, another reg that prevents that loop hole from being taken advantage of.

Its also an outdated EPA reg. No leaks are required to be completely "repaired" anymore. Only to be brought back down to below the trigger rate.

Meaning a commercial comfort cooling system that operates with a 2200 pound charge. Can leak 30pounds in one month. And just has to have the leak reduced to below 27.5 pounds a month. And no further action is required.

Thats in the USA Yuri. :thumbup:

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