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Old 01-07-2009, 09:33 AM   #1
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Heat Pump Woes


I am new here and unsure if my post is "forum-friendly" or not so please, let me know...

I have been having an on going Heat Pump issue for 3 years, this marks the third winter that we're using space heaters and paying $600 electric bills because our Heat Pump doesn't work properly or at all.

Here is the Cliff Notes version of what has happened.

We bought a Townhouse in October 2006, the Realtor suggested a home warranty and gave us several company names to look at. We selected American Home Shield and paid for one year in advance.

Five months later, our Heat Pump performance degraded so we called AHS and requested a service call. AHS dispatched an HVAC contractor that came out and determined the compressor was failing. We had a 13 year old Lennox system that was covered under the warranty so AHS approved the repair. AHS was to send the contractor the replacement compressor and this was to take 3 weeks. Well the contractor received the part, made an appointment with me to come by the house but when he arrived and compared the new one to the old one, it was discovered the new part did not match the old one and so he could not install it. He contacted AHS and they sent him another part. He came back out, installed it and by now, the weather was warming up so we didn't use the system again until the following winter. My wife and I do not like A/C so we turned it on only when company was over and the system seemed to work on those few occasions.

Well, it is winter again and we renewed our AHS contract which was a good thing because a few months later, in the same month as last year, the Heat Pump performance degraded to the point of being just an electrical waste to have it running. It would be 35 degrees outside, the thermostat set to 72 degrees and the house staying at 58 degrees. Anyway, back to what happened.

We call AHS again, they once more dispatch the same contractor and now he determined the "TXV" was not compatible with the new compressor. He put in a service request to replace the entire system, inside and out, Heat Pump & Air Handler. AHS approves the repair and sends him the new Payne equipment. He comes out, installs it and the unit isn't producing any heat but rather making a "stepped on the cat's tail" noise which he says will go away once the system equals out. He said the temperature will go up once it equals out. Well, my wife and I are too cold to stay in the house so we stay at a hotel for 2 days only to return to some very angry neighbors.

It turns out, for the last 48 hours the new unit was generating a lot of noise and the metal lines protruding from the outside unit that extend to the inside Air Handler were vibrating and that vibration was severe enough to be felt inside the structure of the house. Since it is a Townhouse, we share a common wall with our neighbor, it was that same wall being vibrated and is the same wall my neighbors master bedroom uses. It kept him up at night and he was not shy about telling me.

I call AHS again so they dispatch this same contractor who stops by, determines it is over charged and vents the freon to the atmosphere for about 30 seconds. he says this will fix it and leaves. Well it didn't so he came by a second time and vented it again for about the same amount of time.

the system still did not work, still made noises and still vibrated so when I called AHS again, I requested they send a different contractor. They obliged my request and the contractor they sent came out, connected some guages as well as other HVAC tools and he found the system over charged 18lbs. No, that is not a typo, he evacuated 18lbs 10oz. He then pulled it to a vacuum for 30 minutes and recharged it with 6lbs 8oz. The readings were as follows:

Before Evac:
75 suction, 18 superheat
275 liquid & climbing 30 degrees subcool

After Evac:
70 suction 14 superheat
180 liquid 12 degrees subcool

Those readings are from his service invoice. The unit seemed to work but as it was last year, the weather was warming so we couldn't tell if it would work when the temps outside were dead of winter cold. It is now this winter and we're again without heat. We chose not to renew the AHS contract since we didn't have good luck with the one service call we had in with them. I was forced to look for an HVAC contractor myself and a friend suggested ServiceMagic.com so I asked them for a recommendation. The contractor they suggested came out, and found several things out of order, the larger of the two metal tubes coming from the Heat Pump has a valve of some kind that can be turned with an allen key, this valve is leaking. It has a cap over it that contains the leak but the valve itself is not sealing, there was an unused 30amp wire from the old heat strip that was just shoved into the ceiling, live with nothing protecting the open ends, there was no rec/dryer filter in the line set and the heat strip was not connected.

He added the rec/dryer, connected the strip heat and secured the live wire after turning off the breaker switch. He checked the valve at the base of the Heat Pump that connects to the thin metal tube connecting to the Air Handler but it was ok. So far, he has no idea why the larger of the two metal lines only gets room temperature warm, not hot like each and every one of my neighbors units. Even when it was 18 degrees outside, my neighbors units large metal line was hot, hot enough you couldn't grab it. Mine, luke warm.
He measured the temps of a neighbors line and mine, 148 vs 87.

At this point, we still have no heat and no idea what is wrong or if this unit can even be repaired. Anyone with some thoughts as to what we should do or suggest to this currect HVAC contractor?

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Old 01-07-2009, 10:55 AM   #2
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Heat Pump Woes


The new compressor may have internal damage such as bent valves from being so grossly overcharged. Also seems as if your auxillary heat is not being energized. Go through the phone book and find a Payne, Bryant or Carrier dealer with a good reputation. If not sure ask neighbors who they recommend.

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Old 01-07-2009, 06:30 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by SKIP4661 View Post
The new compressor may have internal damage such as bent valves from being so grossly overcharged. Also seems as if your auxillary heat is not being energized. Go through the phone book and find a Payne, Bryant or Carrier dealer with a good reputation. If not sure ask neighbors who they recommend.
Someone asked me if the line was nitrogen-flowed. I had to Google and search here for the term "flow+nitrogen+brazing" to learn what
it is and more important, why it is done. I can say that not one of the contractors that worked on my Heat Pump did this.

While the contractor that came out last was nice, friendly and did educate me about permits, he is not able to fix my problem and when it is 22 degrees outside, I need a contractor, not a friend I give money to.

I am looking for someone else, a contractor that is competent, capable and confidant enough to answer some pre-qualifying questions, I just need help developing that list of questions. What to ask, what answers to look for and what certifications this person ought to have. I don't want to keep paying turnips-with-a-wrench because it had a yellow book ad.
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:45 AM   #4
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Heat Pump Woes


I think the first thing you need to do is ditch the home warranty! Home warranty companies seem to contract the lowest bidding HVAC company they can find and they are usually all hacks.

I here constant nightmares from people regarding the same problems you are describing with your company. Like skip said, go through the phone book and find a good Bryant dealer.
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Old 01-08-2009, 11:50 AM   #5
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Why a Bryant dealer if my system is Carrier/Payne?

We ditched AHS at the end of the 2nd contract, the Heat Pump issue was the main reason
we elected not to renew.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:00 PM   #6
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sorry, I had my head somewhere else this morning. Bryant, Carrier, Payne are all the same manufacture.

Where I live, there are hundreds of a/c companies and a great deal of them arent worth a darn. Get in your phone book and find a large reputable company that specializes in your unit.
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Old 01-08-2009, 06:40 PM   #7
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Heat Pump Woes


I'll weigh in here as well. The home warranty is a joke...my house came with one, and I canceled it and got the money back and used it elsewhere.

They will ALWAYS go the CHEAPEST possible route.
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:26 PM   #8
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Heat Pump Woes


The 'stepping on a cats tail' squeal sounds a lot like a scroll-type compressor turning backward. This is very rare on a single-phase power system, and usually only happens once. When the compressor is shut off and re-started, it almost always turns in the proper direction. If the system is 3 phase, wires need to be changed to correct the problem.

If this noise occurred for more than a few minutes, the compressor is most likely damaged beyond repair. This would explain the lukewarm line.

Having no filter installed and not using nitrogen would also damage the compressor. I've never even seen a system without a filter!

Rob
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Old 01-09-2009, 01:54 AM   #9
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Heat Pump Woes


stupid question is this an r22 system or or 410a? if its the latter did the (guys) use a green can of freon (r22) check the label on the outdoor unit see if its 22 or 410a perhaps the wrong refrigerant was used, just a thought good luck and just so you know a 3ton compressor is a 3 ton compressor all day long a savvy tech could have installed any compressor as long as the tonnage was correct and voltage and mounting feet were a match just were lazy (i just used 3 ton as an example)

Last edited by kennzz05; 01-09-2009 at 01:59 AM.
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Old 01-09-2009, 04:03 AM   #10
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Heat Pump Woes


american home shield was your first mistake. I would not want to deal with the likes of them at all.

As you can tell by now, they are sending out the same ignorant contractor who just can't seem to get the repairs right.

Time to call another HVAC professional for a second (and even a third) opinion on what you course you should take from here. Even if you have to spend some $$$ out of pocket, you have to get your heat system fixed properly.
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Old 01-09-2009, 07:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by micromind View Post
The 'stepping on a cats tail' squeal sounds a lot like a scroll-type compressor turning backward. This is very rare on a single-phase power system, and usually only happens once. When the compressor is shut off and re-started, it almost always turns in the proper direction. If the system is 3 phase, wires need to be changed to correct the problem.

If this noise occurred for more than a few minutes, the compressor is most likely damaged beyond repair. This would explain the lukewarm line.

Having no filter installed and not using nitrogen would also damage the compressor. I've never even seen a system without a filter!

Rob
The "cat's tail" noise was almost a constant noise from the time this unit was installed until the 2nd company AHS dispatched came and evacuated 18lbs 10oz and recharged with 6lbs 8oz. He believed but could not say difinitevly that compressor damage was likely.

In a vehicle's gasoline engine, a technician can compression check the cylinders to help determine damage and loss of compression, what can be done with this compressor to determine if internal damage is present?

Our unit is the Payne PH13 R-22, I am not sure if this is single phase or 3-phase, how can I determine what it is? Carrier isn't much help on the phone because I am not a contractor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennzz05 View Post
stupid question is this an r22 system or or 410a? if its the latter did the (guys) use a green can of freon (r22) check the label on the outdoor unit see if its 22 or 410a perhaps the wrong refrigerant was used, just a thought good luck and just so you know a 3ton compressor is a 3 ton compressor all day long a savvy tech could have installed any compressor as long as the tonnage was correct and voltage and mounting feet were a match just were lazy (i just used 3 ton as an example)
This is an R22 type and the bottles they filled from did say R22 on them.
Wouldn't the valves or connectors be different from R22 and anything else? I know that R12 and R134-A do not share the same type of connecting valves.

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Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
american home shield was your first mistake. I would not want to deal with the likes of them at all.

As you can tell by now, they are sending out the same ignorant contractor who just can't seem to get the repairs right.

Time to call another HVAC professional for a second (and even a third) opinion on what you course you should take from here. Even if you have to spend some $$$ out of pocket, you have to get your heat system fixed properly.

This is the next thing I am working on but I'd prefer being able to prequalify the person before watching him or her screw up and handing me a bill after. I'd like a simple check list of things to ask, answers to look for and certifications to check so I can minimize hiring a contractor like AHS hired.
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Old 01-10-2009, 12:19 PM   #12
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I have a Payne Authorized contractor coming out Monday, after giving him the Cliff Notes version via the phone, he feels that the compressor is damaged, something to do with trying to compress a liquid. One of the valves connected to the suction line at the base of the compressor is also ruined from excessive heat while brazing. He also thought a 5KW stip was too small, he thought a 10 to 12KW would be more suitable.

I know we can't discuss $$$ here but I need $$$ advice.

If I replace this unit, do/should I replace the air handler and line set as well.

Also, I am looking at R22 vs 410A and what SEER level I need.

The two units I am leaning towards are the Trane XL16i and the Lennox XP19.

Which is the best for a townhouse application and what is the the aprox of each?
Do the costs of these units from the manufacturer include the air handler?
If not, can the air handler come from any OEM or does it also come from the
manufacturer of the heat pump but at additional cost?

I also scheduled Home Depot & Sears to get estimates... for the estimate value and education value of additional opinions.
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Old 01-10-2009, 12:41 PM   #13
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The cat squealing noise is the internal relief valve blowing and the compressor is probably shot. With all the poor welding/contamination that these hacks have done to your system I would replace it. It is a money $$ pit and not worth repairing IMO. Been in this biz 30 yrs. Prices vary from region to region. The Lennox is a higher SEER unit/more efficient. Both are good brands. The MOST important thing is to get a reputable contractor to install it properly and set it up properly. Get several quotes and talk to your neighbors/friends/co-workers to see if they have had good work done by someone they trust and recommend. You will need a new indoor coil as the new freon is R410 and you must have matching components. Best to stay with all the same brand for warranty issues/compatibility. I prefer Lennox. They make air handlers with ECM high efficiency fan motors which save a LOT of electricity $$ and are worthwhile. Those last two companies use 3rd party subcontractors and I would rather not comment on the quality of such contractors. Find a good independant is what I would recommend.

Last edited by yuri; 01-10-2009 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 01-10-2009, 01:01 PM   #14
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The cat squealing noise is the internal relief valve blowing and the compressor is probably shot. With all the poor welding/contamination that these hacks have done to your system I would replace it. It is a money $$ pit and not worth repairing IMO. Been in this biz 30 yrs. Prices vary from region to region. The Lennox is a higher SEER unit/more efficient. Both are good brands. The MOST important thing is to get a reputable contractor to install it properly and set it up properly. Get several quotes and talk to your neighbors/friends/co-workers to see if they have had good work done by someone they trust and recommend. You will need a new indoor coil as the new freon is R410 and you must have matching components. Best to stay with all the same brand for warranty issues/compatibility. I prefer Lennox. They make air handlers with ECM high efficiency fan motors which save a LOT of electricity $$ and are worthwhile. Those last two companies use 3rd party subcontractors and I would rather not comment on the quality of such contractors. Find a good independant is what I would recommend.
Thank you for your reply. Your comments make absolute sense.

I am leaning towards the Lennox and would prefer them over the Trane
with the price point being the deciding factor. I have no pricing on either
of them yet. I am only having Home Depot or Sears come so that in the event I sue the dolt that botched this Payne system, I'll walk into couirt with multiple estimates and statements from different contractors.

I do not plan to use anyone Home Depot or Sears sends here unless
they can really wine and dine me with their dazzling intellect and impress me with technical skills. I think I have a better chance of winning the lottery and I haven't bought a ticket.
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Old 01-10-2009, 01:11 PM   #15
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Lots of trouble here with those "sub contractors" and not just for HVAC. That is the nature of that biz. They chose the cheapest to maximize their profit. Wise old saying told to me this week: Cheap is not Good and Good is not Cheap.

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