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Old 04-11-2013, 07:27 AM   #1
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Advice Needed on Broken A/C Quote


I posted in this forum last Fall/Winter for advice to replace my gas furnace. I had it replaced with a 2 stage system in January and it is great. Now, with the season changing, it hit me that I never tested the air conditioning when the installer was here...

Some Background Info
The AC worked great all last summr, once the fan motor was replaced in the Spring. We've lived here for 3.5 years and every year I've had to fix something on the AC:

Year 1: capacitor in the outside unit
Year 2: capacitor (same one)
Year 3: Fan motor

So yesterday I turned the thermostat to cool and noticed that some somewhat cool air was coming out of the supply vents, but nowhere near the force or coolness that the AC pumped out last season. At first I thought perhaps because of the new, 2-stage gas furnace (a Bryant 925T), that the AC speed was slower too. 2 hours later and the temperature hadn't budged. So I shut it off and called the company that installed my furnace to come out.

The guy came out yesterday and he really seemed to be quite sharp. He hooked up guages to the outside unit and said no freon was in the system. I told him it worked absolutely fine before shutting it off last season. He checked some other things on the outside unit and hinted the compressor might be shot, but then said there is one more thing to check. So we went down to the inside unit, he pulled the front cover off, and then turned the unit back on and pointed to a metal object connected to the coil (sorry but I forget the name) that he said has some type of gas (argon) and a check-valve built into it. There was a metal 'bulb' attached to it too, but the part in question is attached inline with the piping. He said that he is certain that what is happening is the cooling is not getting through that valve - he said the check-valve inside is stuck. When he turned on the system, pretty quickly while we watched, that valve froze up on the outside. He said that confirms it.

The estimate to replace that part:
$800 to $900 dollars
PLUS, he said if he has to replace the R22 then it is $100 per pound. My system takes 7lbs, so potentially this will be $1600 total. He insisted that he will do everything he can to save the R22 that is in there (he explained in detail what he would do to 'hold it back' (I think that's what he said)) but can't guarantee it.

Here's the problem:
The AC unit is made by ICP (I am told a subsidiary of Heil) and is 10 years old. I just paid $4400 for a new furnace a few months ago. I have the cash fortunately, to buy a new AC. But the tech says this one is only 10 years old and I should get another 5 to 10 years out of it.

The risk, he said, is if the scroll compressor that is in it has been damaged in any way by the stuck valve. He said that problem could show up a month or 2 or 3 from now, and if the compressor goes bad then it's game over for the AC and should be replaced.

What do you guys advise? Should I just cut my losses on this and pay the ~$3500 for a new AC ( I will go through with getting multiple estimates before committing, but I'm pretty certain a new AC will cost me about ~$3500 give or take $500). Or should I just get this repaired?

Some other factors:
1. I do trust this technician. He seemed really sharp and knowledgable. I know my description above probably doesn't make that come through as I'm going off of memory and it was difficult to process at the time because I was kinda freaking out at the thought of paying for a new furnace.

2. The $900 (plus potentially up to another $700 for the R22) seemed ridiculously high until he told me that it will take 3 to 4 hours to repair, because it is labor intensive - he said he'll have to sweat off the old valve, etc.

So my question is: should I just get a new AC? The thought of paying $1600 now, and then a few months from now the compressor or something else breaks on it....ugh.

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Old 04-11-2013, 07:47 AM   #2
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the part that failed is called a thermostatic expansion valve/ TX valve and controls the flow of refrig into the coil. ICP owns Heil. tempstar, comfortmaker and some other brands. not likely the comp got damaged as it has an internal relief valve to release pressure if the tx valve fails but there is a 5-10% chance it could be damaged. $100 lb for r22 sounds steep. $50 is the max IMO but it is getting quite rare but that sounds steep. If the unit gets used a LOT like in Texas/Florida then at 10 yrs it has a lot of miles/wear on it and may not exactly be worth repairing but I think it is. Depends on whether you want to spend a lot of $$ repairing a high mileage car. newer units are more efficient and use less electricity and that unit you have may be a builders grade. depends on whether you plan to stay in the house for 10 yrs to get some use/payback on a new one. if you plan to move in 5 yrs then repair it and take your chances.

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Last edited by yuri; 04-11-2013 at 07:59 AM.
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Old 04-11-2013, 07:58 AM   #3
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Thanks Yuri (yet again - you have advised me well in the past!).

Yes, I just got home and looked again at the repair estimate and it is the TX valve as you said. Here is exactly what it says on the repair estimate:

"Found unit to be running but suction pressure in a vacuum found problem to be the TXV and it must be replaced. TXV installed with being able to pump freon down will be $900 - $1000. If unit will not pump down then it will be an additional $700 for freon."

I tried getting out of the tech what the odds of being able to 'pump down' the existing freon were, but he wouldn't say. He insisted he would do his best and urged me to be here when he attempts it (I will).

If it is $900-$1000 repair that's one thing, but $1700 is half of a new system

Here is the existing system's model info:
Make: ICP
Model: EXA36F19A1
Serial: L022751668

Last edited by mark2741; 04-11-2013 at 08:00 AM. Reason: added ICP unit info
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Old 04-11-2013, 09:15 AM   #4
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A Google search found ICP TX valves for $60 to $200. You're getting charged $800+ labor to replace it? Sounds steep to me, but I'm no HVAC expert.
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Old 04-11-2013, 09:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark2741 View Post
Thanks Yuri (yet again - you have advised me well in the past!).

Yes, I just got home and looked again at the repair estimate and it is the TX valve as you said. Here is exactly what it says on the repair estimate:

"Found unit to be running but suction pressure in a vacuum found problem to be the TXV and it must be replaced. TXV installed with being able to pump freon down will be $900 - $1000. If unit will not pump down then it will be an additional $700 for freon."

I tried getting out of the tech what the odds of being able to 'pump down' the existing freon were, but he wouldn't say. He insisted he would do his best and urged me to be here when he attempts it (I will).

If it is $900-$1000 repair that's one thing, but $1700 is half of a new system

Here is the existing system's model info:
Make: ICP
Model: EXA36F19A1
Serial: L022751668
Assuming your unit has king valves he should be able to pump at least a portion of the freon into the condensing unit. (I'm assuming this is the TXV for the indoor coil) However sometimes the unit won't hold the entire charge. Now he could still reclaim whatever is left & store it in a tank, but you can never 100% empty the tank so there will be some loss.

So in all likelyhood he won't have to replace all your freon but just a percentage. Whether it will be 10% he has to replace or 50% is hard to say, but it shouldn't be the whole thing.
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:00 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tylernt View Post
A Google search found ICP TX valves for $60 to $200. You're getting charged $800+ labor to replace it? Sounds steep to me, but I'm no HVAC expert.

spark plugs cost $10-20 but if the mech has to spend lots of time to get at them then it is the labor that costs the most. price of the part has nothing to do with a lot of our jobs, it is the labor and DIYers have no idea what that should be.
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:02 AM   #7
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the tech does sound honest and yeah he probably won't be able to pump down most of the freon as with the valve closed it will hit a vacuum soon and overpressure soon and he cannot run it for long that way without damage.
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yuri View Post
price of the part has nothing to do with a lot of our jobs, it is the labor and DIYers have no idea what that should be.
True. I've turned a few wrenches so I know it can take much more time just to get to the part you're replacing than it takes to replace the actual part.

I'm curious, how many hours does it take to replace a TX valve?
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:17 AM   #9
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about 3-4 with saving the freon, welding in the valve, evacuating it then recharging it. My Dads GM van had one spark plug UNDER the motor so no DIYer could get at it and the labor is high because of that. my Ford Escape has them under the valve covers and while they last a LONG time the labor nowadays is the big deal.
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:01 PM   #10
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That guy isn't too sharp. He mistook a TXV with a bad powerhead for a system with no gas in it?
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:10 PM   #11
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You can 100% empty a recovery tank. Just use your recover machine and recover the freon in the tank and pump it back into the system.
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:14 PM   #12
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Beenthere, I thought the same thing. I bet what he did was only hook up the low side gage and not the high side. Alot of techs just hook up just the low side. dont know if lazy or just doesnt want to deal with removering high side gage with alot of pressure in it.
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:23 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by hvac instructor View Post
You can 100% empty a recovery tank. Just use your recover machine and recover the freon in the tank and pump it back into the system.
Well that makes sense, does seem like a lot of trouble to go through to get that last little bit of vapor out, but I never thought of doing that.
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:40 PM   #14
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when i do a rooftop unit that has 20-30 lbs. chargeing from empty, you can never get all in. most times you have to run the system and add to fully charged. since i have the recover machine there, i can put in the full amount without starting the unit. it saves time that way. one unit at work has 500 lbs of freon. we just pump it in.
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Old 04-11-2013, 04:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvac instructor View Post
Beenthere, I thought the same thing. I bet what he did was only hook up the low side gage and not the high side. Alot of techs just hook up just the low side. dont know if lazy or just doesnt want to deal with removering high side gage with alot of pressure in it.
Yeah, can't really tell whats happening inside with the Low on. Teacher in HVAC school used freak if only one side on and when done caps left off.
Lots of one liners running around out there.

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