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Old 07-04-2012, 04:18 PM   #1
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AC - Coil leaking


#1 - how do the techs know it's leaking coolant as soon as they look at it? There's rust in the pan, but that's because the main condensation pipe was blocked. Condensation accumulated in the pan, ran out the secondary, and then drained when I unclogged the main pipe.


This year, about a month ago, a local AC company checked the AC when it wasn't cooling well. The tech said the coil is corroded, needs replacing, but that he could recharge the coolant and see how long I can get along with that.

This company, and others, have told me the unit I have (3.5 ton condenser) is a little too small for the house (2100 sf, two story in TX). He recommended moving up to 4 ton when I replace it.

The other day when it was humid outside (79 temp, 75% humidity) the temp in the house was where I set it, but the humidity in the house was 59%. I called out the same AC guy for a quote on a new system. He recommended a new condenser and coil, and gave quotes on a 3.5 and 4 ton condenser with the new coil.

I called two other companies for estimates. Both poked their heads into the attic, instantly said the coil is leaking, and gave me quotes. The first of these two quoted almost the same price, but said it would be wise to also replace the furnace because the existing one was a little small for the 4 ton unit. His quote including the furnace bumped the price up $1400.

The third company gave me three options. I know the three option strategy is to get someone to choose the middle option. It so happens that the middle option was very close in price to the other two, but also included a furnace and adding insulation. He also recommended a slab coil, which the first two didn't mention. He tried to get me to buy now by offering to recharge the freon free (for cooling over the holiday). I told him I still wanted to research the quotes and think about it. He then recharged the refrigerant anyway. That was pretty good.

Here are the quotes from the first guy and the middle option third guy.

4 Ton 14.5 Seer Ruud Condenser
Matching (4 ton) Box Coil, Transition Plenum
Along with access door, pan, drains and a float switch
Balance the system so all rooms cool evenly.
No mention of a furnace.
10 year compressor
10 year parts
5 replacement
$4950

Same as above but with 13 Seer Ruud condenser: $4503


The following is the quote from the third company. This is the middle quote.

Comfort Maker brand
Condenser cxab48gka (4 ton, 16 seer)
Furnace g8mxno901210
Coil EHD4x60al
Add insulation to attic for R44
retro fit ducts and add dampers
2 years of company's yearly system check free (pre-summer for condenser and coil, pre-fall/winter for furnace)
10 year compressor
10 year parts
5 year labor
5 year replacement limited warranty
$5350


Other questions:

Do I have to replace the condenser? Even though it's a little under sized, it works. The issue is even when the house was new the AC had trouble cooling it during the 90+ degree summer days?

The concern with the middle quote, third guy is it seems to be quoting a lot more for about the same price. He also mentioned that his yearly inspection service is required as they have to keep maintenance records to comply with the warranty. I don't like the sound of that. But overall, what's the catch? Why does it seem like more for the same price?

The high end quote from the third guy includes a two stage unit and separate controls (he claims) for temp and humidity. It seems to be overkill to me.

Comfortmaker
Condenser: ccA748gka (17 seer, 4 ton)
Furnace g8mvc0901716
Coil ehd4x60al
Retro fit ducts and dampers
Add insulation to R60
3 years of free inspection service
10 year compressor
10 year parts
5 year labor
10 year replacement limited warranty
$7650

I have posted this info to HVAC-Talk, an online forum. AC pros answer questions there. The consensus from the pros who post there:

- Get an energy audit and load calc Manual J and Manual D. That's about $500 for all those tests.
- Most insist there's some other problem, and ignore that the coil is leaking and that when coolant is recharged the unit cools satisfactorily for about a month.
- One suggested using window AC and fans instead of central air

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Old 07-04-2012, 04:43 PM   #2
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We all are or at least at one point and time were members of hvac-talk.

Yes, heat load calculation determines the size of an hvac system, manual j. Increasig system size would require duct work to be replaced as well, manul d.

99 out of 100 time when a system is losing refrigerant it's due to a leaky evaporator coil. Like when you see the neighbors dog continuously poop on your yard but that one other instance when you weren't home to catch the culprit in the act but yet there was poop on your yard when you came home but it could've been the stray from another neighborhood entirely? It's very similar to that in this field. We come across it so much that it's very easy to simply justify the coil seeing as how the repetitive evidence all declares it to be just that.

Having said that all the guys that have not actually performed a leak test be it with the use of a leak detector or nitrogen, especially the ones who simply poked their head into your attic without ever being there before to actually add any refrigerant and whom I'm assuming are going by what you told them which would be exactly what you've stated in here, that your system has needed a refill and lasts about a month, are simply going to give you a quote and that's it. You know that there's a leak, it's just not been properly located.

It very well could simply be a shraeder valve core, but again, all evidence of rust and dirt and simply age points to the evaporator coil.

Its up to you if you want to continually dump money into a dying system of which your refrigerant is being phased out so has tripled in cost or get it done right once and for all and enjoy your home.

And btw, the higher the seer rating the lower your electrical bill.

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Old 07-04-2012, 04:52 PM   #3
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- Get an energy audit and load calc Manual J and Manual D. That's about $500 for all those tests.

First you need this info to get the right tonnage for your new unit.
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Old 07-04-2012, 05:24 PM   #4
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$500 is the difference in cost between the 3.5 ton and 4 ton estimates.

Before I know if I can save $500 with the 3.5 ton system, I have to spend $500.

The difference in the posted estimates is not the size, not the tons. It is brand, and no furnace vs furnace. Those estimates are all 4 tons.

All three said I can "get away" with 3.5 tons, but 4 tons would be better. The audit and tests will tell me if I can go with 3.5 tons or 4 tons.

Until those tests - the energy audit is scheduled for next week - what? I sit here in a house with 60% humidity.

If these people aren't sure of a leak and are only pretending to recharge coolant, that's an issue. Then I don't trust them.

If a test is needed to determine what capacity is needed, then how could any of these "professionals" have given a quote without those tests?
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Old 07-04-2012, 05:34 PM   #5
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How old is your Unit? If AC needs refrigerant there's a leak somewhere.....can be small leak or big leak.......

If your system is too old it's better a high efficiency system than spend money to test for leak and replace the Evap.
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Old 07-04-2012, 09:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fcabanski View Post
$500 is the difference in cost between the 3.5 ton and 4 ton estimates.

Before I know if I can save $500 with the 3.5 ton system, I have to spend $500.

The difference in the posted estimates is not the size, not the tons. It is brand, and no furnace vs furnace. Those estimates are all 4 tons.

All three said I can "get away" with 3.5 tons, but 4 tons would be better. The audit and tests will tell me if I can go with 3.5 tons or 4 tons.

Until those tests - the energy audit is scheduled for next week - what? I sit here in a house with 60% humidity.

If these people aren't sure of a leak and are only pretending to recharge coolant, that's an issue. Then I don't trust them.

If a test is needed to determine what capacity is needed, then how could any of these "professionals" have given a quote without those tests?

Have a company charge the system up. When a system is properly charged and working it'll pull quite a bit of humidity out such as yours was until it ran low of "coolant". Plus if you choose to go with the same company for new equipment, of which I would definitely have a matching new furnace regardless of 3.5 or 4 installed as well, then they can deduct the service call and cost of refrigerant from your new install.

If you do that then best to ask up front if they can deduct the service call/refrigerant charge from the new install. They should as we all do, it's just that they'd have to re-arrange some numbers so advance notice would be polite.


That's my best recommendation. Plus a window unit for the main room you spend time in. Never hurts to have back up.
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:26 PM   #7
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AC - Coil leaking


some companys i work with do a load caculation as part of the bid.
the service companys sales people should be able to do a load calculation
to know what size unit to sell. there are some companies that will install the same size because " it worked befor" and if it didnt will just increase
one size bigger
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:50 PM   #8
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If your 3.5 ton is cooling the house to set point temp. You don't need a 4 ton. A 4 ton could make your home a lot more humid.

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