Results 1 to 13 of 13
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Berks Co, PA
    Posts
    4

    R-410A Leak problem

    First post -- thanks for letting residential owners post questions.

    I have a five-year old Nordyne split central air system that runs R-410A as the refrigerant.

    A few weeks ago, we turned the system on for the first time this year (April hot spell) and noted it wasn't cooling. People I talked to suspected a refrigerant issue and after having out the local "large regional service company" out -- the same company that put the system in five years ago for the house's previous owner -- the gentleman confirmed that the system was "low."

    Now I know these are closed systems and they're not supposed to leak and he confirmed as much. Evidently my system takes 264 oz. on a factory charge which I guess is equal to 16.5 pounds total (1 lb = 16 oz just like grade school, right?). Out of that 16.5 pounds, mine was "down 5 pounds." That seemed like a lot. There were no obvious cooling issues last year that I can recall. The sytem seemed to run a lot but it was an obnoxiously hot summer so it's tough to say or remember. But it did cool the house -- even on a day it was 106 it was able to hold the house in the high 70s.

    Anyhow, he put in 5 lbs. and tried to find a leak using an electronic detector. He suspected the evap unit inside but couldn't find anything (though he still suspects that's the issue). He half-heartedly seemed to try to detect a leak in the condensor coil outside. I say that because he took off only part of the access area and scanned just the area he suspected it would leak. He also tried the valves, a few joints, switches. He couldn't find anything.

    So now my issues. To him, it's "fixed." At least "for now" (quotes are his words). I'm out $xxx (no pricing allowed here, I know) for 5 lbs. of refirgerant at a 3x markup (based on commercial rates I can easily find online) and an hour and a half of service time plus show-up costs. It wasn't cheap. I'm ok with paying for stuff if it's fixed, but this clearly isn't.

    So now what? He didn't find a leak. He didn't seem interested in using dyes (I asked) and didn't really want to pursue it further. His basic comments were "it'll eventually get worse and easier to find" but "this will hold for a while" then he upsold the notion of a "service contract" (at $xxx per year) to at least help with constant labor charges? REALLY? That's the answer?

    So what do I even do now? Call another place? Should I go back to this "big regional company" and start complaining (politely -- I'm not a yeller or whatever) and see if they can send someone else out?

    I mean -- at the least -- shouldn't they try to find the leak? I was really concerned when he basically told me he did mostly commercial stuff but got stuck with some residential now and then, he kept quoting pressures and numbers that weren't even listen in the system ("you should be 100 pounds low and 250 high when on" -- the system states 250 and 550, respectively, so that's way off -- I don't know what I'm doing but I can read numbers). He only seemed to want to be here half heartedly. It just didn't feel good. I'm to the point where I'm wondering if he even got the amount it was 'low' correct (5 pounds seems like a LOT). Did he use a presure gauge or just guess? Another site said sometimes a dirty condenser (it doesn't "look" dirty, but what do I know -- the evap is clean though) can make it seem low on R410 so they'll overcharge it and cause different issues. Frankly, I don't even know if I'm ok with any of this. I have a family -- I don't want sick kids/wife from an indoor R410 leak.

    I'm at a loss... what would you experts do or recommend? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,837
    So by calculation, you've lost approximately 33% of the charge over a 5-year period and you're not the original owner so there's no real way of telling how much was really lost. The factory charge is a nice reference but that's just a benchmark. Other factors enter the picture, such as length of line set.

    Has the unit been serviced over the last 5-years? If 'yes', then some refrigerant is lost just disconnecting the gauges each year. If the answer is 'no', then you have no way of determining if the unit has lost a little each year or lost the total over the winter. I hear your pain of paying for something that doesn't seem outwardly fixed but then again, the unit didn't seem outwardly broken to the tech either. He did do a level 1 leak check and found nothing. Checking for leaks can be very expensive if it requires isolating the indoor and outdoor units, evacuation, brazing joints, etc. I don't see that the tech did anything out of the ordinary and did at least look for an obvious leak. IMO, he did the right thing on a first visit, first recharge with no history. If the problem renews, then at least you now have a date of recharge and can begin to make a case for a significant leak and that will help you make decisions on how much you're willing to invest to find the leak.

    As for your buyers remorse at the cost of refrigerant; that doesn't move me at all. If you want cheap refrigerant, buy some gauges and thermometers and have at it. Otherwise, try to understand that there's a lot more expense to providing in-house service than just showing up. That expense has to be covered somewhere.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    3,535
    I've owned a HVAC service business for over 30 years and with a really good year we'll clear (after expenses) about 10 cents for every dollar brought in. I'll bet you'd not even show up for work if the boss told you that you'll get 10 cents from every dollar. This is NOT a "get rich quick" business. If you want to buy your own freon over the internet, and equip. and qualify your self to install it, then go for it. I'd say you got the service you paid for as there are too many variables to say otherwise. If you want to require that the company find the actual leak, regardless of time or expense then go ahead, but don't complain about the cost as it could take hours to find. Good luck though....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Houston,Tx.
    Posts
    16,000
    Quote Originally Posted by PuMoDi View Post
    the system states 250 and 550, respectively, so that's way off -- I don't know what I'm doing but I can read numbers).
    This is probably "test pressures" and no one like leaks they can be a nightmare, 5-lbs is a lot, did he weight his jug before and after? He did seem to have checked out the most common places, about 95% of the time, the evaporator is were I find most of my leaks in my travels.
    __________________________________________________ _______________________
    “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards". - Vernon Law

    "Never let success go to your head, and never let failure go to your heart". - Unknown

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Berks Co, PA
    Posts
    4
    OK look -- if you guys are offended over the fact that I was shocked over the price of R410A then sobeit. Sorry that got your ire up.

    With that said, again, sorry about expessing my surprise. It's not like I get this done every day. I have no point of reference. And as my father-in-law is a master plumber and deals with the same billing stuff, trust me, I understand about overhead, recovering costs, etc. It's tough out there re: home repair/construction/etc. and the recession isn't helping. I don't have a problem with the overall service cost. I'll be fine with it if what I got is as good as it can be right now.

    The point of the thread was more "is this all I should expect right now?" Should I ask for a second opinion... hire someone specifically for leak detection... etc.

    For the first poster, who was helpful, thanks for the points of reference and the perspective/education.

    You're right, I have no point of reference regarding the 33% loss. And no it was not serviced in between install and today. So now I guess I at least have an established point of reference with a charged system and an 'as-of' date. In your opinion, do these R410a systems have a 'tipping point' where cooling becomes ineffective? So it's like a 'switch' where it hits a point and BAM no more cooling or will it be a gradual decline in effectiveness?

    Should I wait it out so the HVAC guy can come back in maybe a year or two and say OK we know it's xx% now over this much time, it's a big leak, let's start a thorough test regimen with dyes or replace the evap coil (since that was his suspicion), and so on?

    Lost in my wordy post above was the fact that I am concerned a little about an indoor leak. I know this stuff isn't the best stuff to be inhaling. The gentleman seemed unconcerned -- which might be totally fair. I have no clue (obviously). So is it OK if I just follow the course of action re: let it ride for a while and when it's down again we'll figure it out?

    For the third poster: thanks. I didn't see him weighing the canister. I just trust that he was being honest about the amount. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt -- it's not fair to do otherwise. But yes, 5 lbs. did seem like a lot. I was suprised it would still cool last summer if it was a small leak (like would being down 4 lbs last year be OK but 5 lbs this year not?) that's why I thought it might be a bigger leak and also why I am a little concerned re: my family.

    Thanks again. And again, understand my intent is not to piss anyone off. I'ts a shame that was the big takeaway for some. I really do appreciate the thoughtful help.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Littleton, CO
    Posts
    264
    Can you post your make model and serial number? Does this serve a residential home? 264 oz factory charge seems like a commercial unit.
    Become a friend or fan on Facebook

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Berks Co, PA
    Posts
    4
    Quote Originally Posted by llskywalker View Post
    Can you post your make model and serial number? Does this serve a residential home? 264 oz factory charge seems like a commercial unit.
    Nordyne FS4BF-036K (3 Ton) but it's branded as a Frigidaire (Nordyne seems to be the supplier to a few brands). And yes it's a residential home.

    The unit is pictured here along with the specs (only mine does not have the diagnostic module -- possibly due to age as mine was installed in late 2006):

    http://www.nordyne.com/literature/a067c.pdf

    Thank you.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    3,535
    16.5 lb of freon in a 3 ton? Wow.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Berks Co, PA
    Posts
    4
    Quote Originally Posted by wahoo View Post
    16.5 lb of freon in a 3 ton? Wow.
    Yeah the tech was shocked too. He thought it'd have been maybe 10-11 at most.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,837
    With every system, yes, there is a "tipping point" below which things start to happen. That said, it can vary from day-to-day depending on conditions. A system may freeze on a cooler day (it shouldn't but if low on charge it could) and not freeze on a hotter day. At some point, no matter the load or temperature, the system will freeze or otherwise fail to cool. But thermal capacity and efficiency fail long before the unit actually stops producing entirely.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    68,074
    Call the company up. And tell them you would like the leak found. This can be a very expensive thing to have done. Depending on where the leak is, an how big the leak is or isn't. So you might want to ask them what it will cost before you have them come out. And perhaps they will give you a small discount of the cost of the search.
    Contractor locator map

    How-to-apply-for-Professional

    How many times must one fix something before it is fixed?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Tallahassee, FL
    Posts
    6,048
    I think we can all agree it poses no health risks.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    3,535
    To the best of our knowledge this leak should not pose a health risk. That would be the only safe statement.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Comfortech Show Promo Image

Related Forums

Plumbing Talks | Contractor Magazine
Forums | Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M) Magazine
Comfortech365 Virtual Event