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· Registered
5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'll start by saying that I am a home owner, not a professional, and understand very little about HVAC. I've turned to HVAC discussion boards because I'm feeling backed into a corner and at a loss for what to do.

A little history... I bought a condo unit and began to have some work done on it while it was vacant. The HVAC system was incredibly loud and looked ancient, and so I had thought about replacement but it wasn't at the top of the list. With the holidays projects got delayed and the unit sat empty, with everything unplugged and lights off for a few months--But the electric bill consistently stated between 600-800 kWh of use monthly. After a long, frustrating journey it was finally discovered that our heating and cooling unit was consistently drawing over 10 amps WHEN OFF.

The unit is a 1.5 ton Magic Pak M-series all electric heat pump by Armstrong. It's seven years old, but looks 100. It hasn't been maintained, but it's also filled with cheap parts, refrigerant (or whatever fluid goes in there--like I said I'm not a pro!) leaking and cap missing... One HVAC guy who came to give me an estimate said, "I can think of about 3 ways this could be even less efficient. And 7,000 ways it could be more efficient."

The problem is that every company I've contacted for an estimate says that the unit can only be replaced with the EXACT SAME UNIT. And in reading up on their website, it doesn't look like any changes have been made to make the unit run more efficiently or quieter. To spend 10K on replacing a crappy unit with the same crappy, albeit new and maintained, seems like a poor investment.

The issue is that the condo building has basically backed us owners into a corner. The HVAC closets have gas lines to them, but they took out that possibility because the gas is only metered going into the building, and not at the individual unit level. A company owns the building and rents half of the units, and half are owned by individuals like me, so there isn't much incentive to change this.

Bottom line, the unit has to be:
- all electric
- indoors (the closet is on an exterior wall with a vent, but nothing--like a compressor--can be placed outside)
- vertical and relatively small (guestimation: 4' deep 5' wide and 6' high)
- handle both heating and cooling

Another company who came to give an estimate also said there was significant mold growth and this was a problem with units like this--so ideally I'd like a UV lamp in there somewhere.

I've seen the air handlers that Lennox, Carrier, and the other big guys sell, but companies I've talked to about estimates claim they won't work.

All of this HVAC stuff is over my head, I won't claim to understand it. What I wondering is if there are any apartment/condo or even homeowners that had a similar predicament--what option you choose to go with, how it's working out? If there are any professionals or anyone else with expertise in this area--are there any other options or companies that make a product to fit these guidelines?

ANY and ALL information on my frustrating predicament would be greatly welcomed.

· Registered
5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
ben's plumbing: Yes--I know. Just pales in comparison to Lennox Air Handlers (CBX range).

zappa: Yes--the pro who most recently came said something to the effect that the heat strips were bad/not filling up.

Thanks for the everyone! Generally, because the repairs quoted were so extensive, it makes sense to replace vs. repair. I just see it pointless to replace with the exact same product, hence turning to this forum to see if anyone out there had any other options I could look into.

· In Loving Memory
42,671 Posts
One HVAC guy who came to give me an estimate said, "I can think of about 3 ways this could be even less efficient. And 7,000 ways it could be more efficient."
Sounds like a salesman. Too bad you didn't ask him to name 15 of those 7,000 ways. You could have had a good laugh at his stumbling.

You live in a place that requires the use of a space constrained appliance. Which means you don't have any place to put a large high efficiency condenser. So you are stuck with a Magic Pak, or similar unit.

A new Magic Pak will be a min of 12 SEER, and 7.4 HSPF. Unless you live in either, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, or in the District of Columbia. Then the min SEER will be 14.

So you should be able to order a 14 SEER if your willing to pay the extra for it, if you don't live in one of those states.

You have a blown and shorting to ground strip heater. Somewhat easy to replace.
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· Registered
15,740 Posts
Do you have a balcony?
BT is right. It shouldn't be that difficult to fix this. They sound like salesmen more then technicians. If you have a digital clamp on multimeter, a couple of hand tools, we can help you, help yourself.

Required essentials:
* A clamp on multimeter. (cat 2 or higher) These can be very cheap when on sale. Sub $15.
* 5/16 hand nut driver (sometimes 1/4" or robbies are used, but 5/16 is most common here)
* a tiny bit of skill at following instructions.

That's all

FYI: some of the lower provinces in Canada have switched to minimum 14SEER as well. (Ie. Ontario)

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