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Atlanta_Man 05-02-2012 10:07 PM

Another Blower Problem
I have an attic mounted HVAC system in a fairly tight location. It reads to be made by the RUUD ac division of RHEEM manufacturing, model UGUH-075A-ER.

This is in my parents house so I have not been around it a great deal, and it is an upstairs unit while they don't go upstairs a lot, so this adds to the unknown factor as to what happened when.

At some point the upstairs unit stopped blowing. They have a home warranty but the home warranty company has refused to pay for the repair (I'll explain later) and two companies came out and gave them absurd estimates, each in a matter of minutes, so this falls to me to sort out.

Sometimes, when the system calls for air, the blower just hums. Sometimes, if you open the side of the system and rotate the motor, it spins up sounding normal for a moment then quickly idles down to a useless speed. What's going on?

I can access the motor side of the blower very easily. The other side of the unit (shaft side) looks really hard to access. The top of the hvac enclosure is maybe an inch from touching the roof (next to a heat shield) and the roof runs at a 45 degree angle.

I can't see how to remove the blower without having to slide out the entire system a couple of feet. Before that happens, what might my options be? What is the chance with these symptoms that we're looking at a bad capacitor, for example?

If we have to pay someone to do this, we can scratch up the money, but I want to know what is reasonable first. One of the repair guys claimed the filter was clogged and that "burned up" the blower motor. Strangely though, there is no filter up in the attic and my mom doesn't recall them bringing one out of the attic. Why not show her if this was true? The slot where the filter goes is absolutely empty. It is really easy to see the entire system is super clean inside because the last service guy left the side panel off the system and it looks like new inside (extremely clean), despite this system being almost 20 years old. I do not know when the filter was changed last, nor do my parents. I assume the filter was due to be changed, but I also assume the previous hvac guys were changing the filter for them from time to time. The house is hardly used anyhow, and the upstairs is used even less than the downstairs system.

From new, the house had one single elderly, extremely clean owner for maybe 10 or 12 years, followed by my parents who have this as a second, virtually unused home. Almost no dust appears in the house ever. It stays sealed up and virtually dust free year-round.

I find it hard to believe the system was so blocked as to cause this problem, but the repair guy told the warranty company it was a clogged filter and the warranty company said they would not pay. In response, my parents cancelled the warranty. It feels like the warranty company and these service people have come out and tried to take advantage of senior citizens. In any case, I need to solve this now.

I'm fairly certain the failure occurred in winter when the system was set to heat, but it clearly won't work for AC either. Wouldn't thermal protection have shut down the motor (and whole system) before damage would have occurred? If that failed and the motor was damaged, how would it hang one time and spin up the next, and what is the spinning up, apparently to speed, then slowing back down about? This was with the side panel off today, but surely that would not cause the slow down, right?

The basic service call approach so far has been to walk up, observe the strange behavior, say it needs a blower and tell them it will cost a new blower, install labor, plus about $1000 EXTRA to access the back side of the unit.

To try and add leverage, one company told my folks the hvac location was against code and had to be relocated. Pretty doubtful, plus there is nowhere to move it anyhow; not an option. This unit went in when the house was built and was inspected at that time and inspected again by a home inspector before the house went from the first owner to my parents. Again, sounds like a sales scam to frighten old people.

So where do I start to figure this out properly? And if the unit must be moved slightly to access the other panel, what is a reasonable cost for that portion? At the very least, I need to be informed before we call someone else out to look a this (when I can go over and supervise this time). I need an honest, fair estimate for my parents...

Sorry for the long post, and thanks.

hvactech126 05-02-2012 10:26 PM

It could need just a new capacitor. Or it may actually be the motor. That part is hard to say without being there. The blower should pull out as an assembly including motor and wheel and housing. Pictures would help....

beenthere 05-03-2012 04:55 AM

As above, may just be the run capacitor, and pics always help.

diyorpay 05-03-2012 10:24 AM

Arnolds has a troubleshooting pdf chart:

kevinb70 05-03-2012 11:20 AM

Check the large return air grille (in the ceiling below the ac in the attic) the filter might be there and not in the attic.

I would replace the run cap first, then the motor.
Match the cap with same capacitance (in microfarads) and voltage.
Motor will need same hp rating, rpm, rotation direction, shaft diameter & length, body diameter.. Motor may be around $100

SiNce there are no people opening doors, letting in dust, pollen, etc and no shedding of skin cells I wouldn't imagine you would have much dust

Atlanta_Man 05-09-2012 09:24 PM

Just getting back to this. The nice thing about a having broken unit in a house that isn't used all the time is repairs don't have to be rushed, LOL! That plus this is the upstairs unit and when the house is used, generally the upstairs gets minimal use. Still, once we're up in the mid 90's, it would be best to have this fixed!

Checked the capacitor. It appears to be out of spec so I will get another to try.

I wonder if there is any typical pattern to capacitor failures. This is not a catastrophic failure. Cap looks fine, not distorted or leaking. If I read this correctly, the spec is 7.5 mf +/- 10%

When I check the cap it reads 9.4 mf, so a little over 25% high. Would that likely cause the motor to come to speed then slow down to run under speed at times as mentioned and not to start at all other times?

If this doesn't fix it, I'll post some pics as requested. Forgot to take a camera again or I'd post now. Too much going on these days!

Thanks to all for the replies. Oh, on the return filter it appears to be at the unit. There is a slot for the filter there and I see no other filters in obvious locations. The slot is just empty. I assume the service guy took the other filter out when my mom wasn't looking, but why would he not show her this filter which he claimed to be the cause of the entire failure?

He also left the side cover off though Mom had not agreed to have the repair done. I guess he figured the "little old lady" was just gonna do whatever he said at any cost.

Sure hope the new cap fixes it!

Doc Holliday 05-10-2012 03:25 AM

This will be the first time I've ever heard of a cap being over the rated spec printed on it. Something is wrong with this picture, that's not the way it's supposed to happen and even if one was to install a 10 mfd cap on a motor rated for a 7.5 mfd cap all that would do is make the motor run faster, not not run at all. It very well could be the motor is burned up seeing as how it was running well past spec'd rpm. Capacitors lose their ability to hold their spec'd requirement, not gain. The only way that cap would be bad is if was a misprint of a cap that was at minimum a 12.5 to start with. That way 9.4 mfd is out of range. If it were a 10 then it's still good at 9.4.

This would also be the first misprint of a cap I've ever heard of, which is what I'm thinking this is although on that same note most blower motor caps are 10mfd and above. Not all but most. 5-7.5 are usually condenser fan motor caps, in general. I personally see 10, 12.5 and 15 mfd on blower motors for the most part.

That cap is good, good enough to start and run a motor.

Something else is wrong.

Btw, I recently quit an hvac company that soley worked for home warranty companies. I'd like to know your mother's deal with them.

beenthere 05-10-2012 04:11 AM

Did you test it with the wires off or on.

COLDIRON 05-10-2012 05:52 AM

Need pictures to help you . Shut the power off, does the fan spin easy? yes, remove the capacitor and replace it with a new one. Don't forget to write down the wire colors and what terminals they go on.

No, replace motor and cap.

Is there filter grill in the house below the unit? Check again.

Atlanta_Man 05-10-2012 07:43 AM

Tested it disconnenected beenthere.

Doc Holiday, Tested it several times. The meter is new as none of my usual meters had the correct mode to test a cap. I rarely need other than voltage and continuity for my occasional electrical projects. I'll be curious to test a new capacitor and compare the reading. Could be a faulty meter I suppose. It seemed a decent unit but I didn't buy a fluke as I would prefer to have. Seemed overkill for the limited use it will see in my tool bag.

The warranty company is American Home Shield. My wife had a warranty from them (before we met) on her house. I was not impressed by their service and we soon cancelled the warranty. My parents have two homes and had AHS warranties on both. With their other home there was an issue with the swimming pool that was supposed to be covered and they never have managed to get that repaired properly (there is a "mystery leak" in the pump/filter system). This even after being out of pocket the cost of a drain and full refill to access something for the repair people who were "certain" this would solve the problem. That issue began last summer, so it is nearly a year old.

With the hvac concern, this is the first time they have tried to use the warranty which I believe came with this home when they bought it. They have been renewing it for 5 or 6 years.

The company took many weeks to actually get someone out. Mom paid the deductible then they tried to get her to pay another $100+ for some sort of diagnostic fee. After this, they told her the motor was bad and the unit was installed out of code specifications so the warranty would not cover access and on and on.

This was the orig. installation of the hvac system, inspected by the local building inspector and re-inspected before they bought the home from the orig. owner, but apparently the service guy and AHS know more about local codes than the inspectors.

Long story short there would be an additional charge of over $1000 to access the blower. Then they started trying to convince Mom to just buy a new upgraded system for several thousand dollars instead. Mom sent these people away at that point and had someone else sent from a different company which also works for AHS.

The new guy / company seemed nicer, but he announced to my Mother / informed AHS that the failure was caused by a clogged filter, though there is no evidence of the filter issue remaining in the attic, nor did he show this to my Mother. There is rather a long path and only one way up to the attic such that I would think Mom would have noticed the filter, though I would hope he would have bagged such an apparently horribly clogged and filthy filter before he carried it throughout the house. Lots of white carpet and easily marked up, light color, flat painted walls. In any case, I wasn't there so I didn't see what happened. And Mom wasn't told they would not pay until the filter had vanished, so at that point, she had less room to argue. Neither has AHS ever shown her (despite requests) where this exclusion to cover is in their policy. It is all nonsense, if you ask me.

So, long story slightly shorter, AHS claim that since the filter caused the failure they didn't have to pay at all to repair the hvac now.

Each one of these interactions with AHS takes hours or days. In one case, AHS was going to call back with more info on what they would do later in the day (on a Saturday, after one of these service guys came out). They were "checking" with one of the service companies and so forth. Mid-morning, they had promised to get an answer for Mom by 5:00 that afternoon. After several hours sitting and waiting and no update, Mom called back. Turns out the companies they were "checking back with" had all closed by noon and AHS appeared to have no intention of calling my Mom back that day at all. They'd have had her sit for 3 or 4 more hours waiting. They have no respect for their customers at all, and clearly every intention to avoid paying repair bills any way they can manage.

I was asked to figure out / solve all of this for my parents after the second service company fiasco. I went up in the attic and found no filter to be seen anywhere (though the filter slot is easy to spot and access it was empty) and the side panel off the unit still. That alone, given that they were not asked to leave the unit sitting open and they were not scheduled to come back, and add that to the (apparently quickly removed) filter issue and the fact that AHS is using that to justify not paying the only claim on this warranty in probably 6 years and things begin to look pretty bad as far as AHS.

There is an additional pile of sheet metal screws (apart from the cover screws which I located) under the hvac unit. No way to be certain, but I ASSUME the other screws are old and left over from installation of the unit many years ago. Still, I have to wonder, given the panel being left off and so forth, could they have pulled those screws from something else I am not seeing?

My folks have been spending something on the order of $1000 a year on these two warranties combined. Mom had enough and cancelled both policies. She's had similar bad luck with Sears and their on-site lawn mower service for a number of years. Their people show up after a few weeks then don't have the right parts and they come back weeks or even months. Sometimes they come back with still the wrong parts, or what they guessed didn't fix the mower. They have dragged out mower repairs for over two months, and this has happened more than once. Meanwhile the lawn overgrows and causes all sorts of issues.

My parents are retired. They are home and available most anytime. They don't have any problems like these with any other service companies / people. It is only these warranty companies. Same thing with an aftermarket car warranty they decided to buy. Whatever the problem is, there is a mysterious reason why the warranty doesn't cover that particular repair and there will be additional charges....

Sorry to get off on a tangent, but that is the basic issue. I'm not saying all warranty companies are bad. Maybe AHS is not bad and we've just had some really horrible luck with them, but for us, between AHS and Sears with their bad mower service, and now the car warranty, I have some pretty big reservations about these warranties. Thousands and thousands of dollars spent, and nothing to show for it when the hvac fails.

I may need to call out an hvac guy to get this right, but I want to know better what is going on before I do that, and surely I want to know what's up with this capacitor. If I get a new one and it reads the same way, I'll return the meter I bought. Neither of the service guys mentioned the capacitor, but maybe they planned to replace it with the motor, or maybe they know enough to know it was okay despite what I read. My gut says they never checked it and were just trying to get money out of my parents with a high dollar repair.

Probably more info than you bargained for, but that's the situation.

Thanks again.

Doc Holliday 05-10-2012 10:31 AM

The situation is highly common with American Home Shield, First Amercian, Old Republic, Cross Country or any and all of the home warranty companies. The thing is it's the hvac company who makes the call, it's what they report back to the warranty company that determines if the warranty company will cover or deny a repair.

There is a fixed rate that the home warranty pays the hvac company to perform any specific repair. Usually that fee is 1/5th the cost of a regular hvac company's set price so the only way to actually get money on any given job is to "find" things wrong. This way the hvac company receives any additional money paid by a homeowner directly plus the original fixed rate paid o them by the warranty company. It's how the game is played in order to keep from going under. No one is going to actuallly diagnose and then change a blower motor for $90, fixed rate. That's usually a $400-$500 job. The difference or better if possible then comes from the customer, what these hvac companies strive to accomplish and if and when they can't they can simply walk away.

If a customer doesn't want to pay for what the hvac company recommends right then and there to a customer then it's as simple as telling the home warranty company it was an improper installation or home owner neglect and the job gets denied, no questions asked.

Many times and I have to include myself in this as it's the truth, we'll tie a home owner's hands behind their back to be able to make money. If a condenser fan motor goes out, we'll say you have to have the coil cleaned or the home warranty will deny the repair. Now this is true, a blocked/dirty condenser coil restricts air flow causing motors to run hotter and burn up but it takes some serious time for that to happen, not overnight or within a month. On that explanation it's easy to convince someone that their system needs maintenance so from what should have been a simple $55 or $60 deductible we can receive $175 for a condenser coil cleanings (always good and actually recommended annual maintenace) plus a possible evaporator coil cleaning for an additional $150-$450 depending on what type of evap it is so a total of a possible $685 dollars, all from a condenser fan motor being out. And if they don't want to perform the condenser cleaning then we can simply tell the home warranty the condenser was blocked, causing the fan motor to burn out and the repair gets denied. Who's going to put in a brand new motor on a blocked condenser, it's just going to burn out again right away, right? :whistling2:

Many times the issues present themselves directly to us to take advantage of but other times we "find" issues to make money from a service call. Again, I say "we" but I quit, it's just that I have first hand experience with it and I've made damn good money as well. Not all of it's bad as a lot of it is required maintenance related, but in the end the home owner can either be left out completely or taken for a ride when people don't care whether or not someone goes without a/c, especially the elderly. Luckily my company was owned and run by an elderly guy who wouldn't turn his back for any reason on elderly folk. Those hvac companies that don't care shouldn't be in the field regardless, many people die from lack of having air conditioning in thier homes either from heat stroke or freezing to death but again, shady would best describe the relationship with home warranty companies.

An hvac company will find any old way to deny a job they stand to lose money on. I know, I've played the game for two years, taught it by my ex-boss who I found out in the end was stealing from me. That's also very typical in the home warranty line of business, why I quit.

Anyways, that cap is good. Something else is wrong.

clocert 05-10-2012 11:47 AM

Good post, Doc. should put it on Chronicle or chen 13.
Atlanta.. go get a new blower motor, your job will be all done. Your parent will love you.

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