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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    5

    Confused

    I read a number of the posts here and noticed how the DIY discussions tend to get ugly. I read and respect your forum rules unlike some who have posted questions here, but many in the industry seem to think it’s all about being cheap. So I figured I would share why I got into DIY, and the reasons I tend to agree that it is NOT a good idea. Also, I would like to share some suggestions from the consumer standpoint about how the HVAC industry could do a better job of selling to people like me.

    Let me state up front that I know many of you are true professionals so this does not apply to all. Unfortunately, my experience has been that the professional is not the one who comes out (at least on the first trip to my house). I am an electrical engineer so that part of HVAC is easy for me. The first time I looked at my AC was 20 years ago when my new Trane failed. The first tech repaired it so I did not worry about it until it failed again several days later, and it was hot inside. So while waiting I did some electrical troubleshooting to find that one of the capacitors was bad, and the tech had installed a hard start cap. The second tech wanted to install a bigger hard start capacitor even though I told them one of the other caps was defective (open circuit). Since then I decided I would check the electrical status before calling in for a tech.

    Fast forward 20 years. My whole system needed to be replaced. I wanted the highest efficiency unit I could afford. Being a perfectionist, I would have expected someone come out, do heat load calculations, inspect the job site, do duct evaluations, etc. and give me a quote detailed with labor, HVAC equipment, and supplies estimate. Everyone quoted differently, and virtually no detail was provided. I looked at one equipment provider’s web site, contacted a local contractor and asked for a quote on a particular system type. They quoted me standard efficiency Carrier instead with no explanation, and said “well we COULD install one of those”. That left me irritated to the point I went the DIY route I am sorry to say. I should have kept looking until I found a contractor who would at least respond to what I asked for.

    Now I would like to say money is not a factor, but it is. I am not cheap, but want to know what I am getting for my money. This is one of the real problems for us as HVAC consumers. It is difficult to compare quotes from contractors because it is difficult to compare what they are going to actually do. The higher priced ones may actually be a bargain if they put in the right effort. Selling what you will do for price X, is important and lacking (at least in my city).

    Now that I am 95% done, I have to say the HVAC job is a heck of a lot of work. Putting an air handler in the attic is no fun at all, and pulling those blasted refrigeration tubes down the wall was just about impossible. On top of that I converted to a heat pump from gas and had to replace my whole power panel which was a two day affair just for starters. Also, the fiberglass ductboard will eat you up. Four weeks later, it was ready to fire up. That’s right, for the benefit of any would be DIY folks; I had no heat or air for 4 weeks while doing this. Lucky for me, the weather has been nice. I have to go to work so most of this was done on the weekends. Now to my credit, the guys who came out to do the final startup said my work looked “real good” in their words. My power circuits are all new with THHN insulation and metal conduit, low voltage wiring is soldered and covered with heat shrink – you get the idea, it was not a slop job.

    Now many of the arguments I have seen against DIY while true, do not worry me too much – like warranty issues, etc. Here is the real problem. I paid a very high yet totally fair labor rate for a large local HVAC contractor to do the final work and charging. The only problem is that it is not working quite right. I don’t believe they charged it properly and I am stuck with having to pay a second company to come out and check this company’s work. I don’t have a leg to stand on because the first company was on a time and materials basis; otherwise, I could be raising cane with them. How many people will I have to pay to find the real problem? Your guess is a good as mine.

    Everyone thought there was an airflow problem at first, but the symptoms occur even when the ducts are removed. In heat pump mode the high side pressures go too high, and the current goes way up (30A at 240V) if the outdoor temp is approaching 60. When cold outside it seems to work OK. They should have had to add over a pound of R-22 with a 50 ft line set, but told me they did not add any. Hmmm.

    Still, I may be OK If I can get this problem resolved. The cost was still less than I would have paid on some of the quotes, but my aggravation level with this project is very high now. As far as DIY goes, I am pretty competent since I have no problem reading the technical manuals and understanding them. I don’t take shortcuts. I was a little disturbed when these guys did not flush the lines with nitrogen before brazing, and they did not use a digital vacuum gauge. At least they pressure tested it with nitrogen, and their brazing quality looks pretty good. Still, I was kind of appalled at the amount of R-22 they released when connecting and disconnecting their gauges. These are supposed to be the certified professionals. Don’t think some of your customers will not notice these shortcuts.

    The bottom line: I have learned a lot. There is quite a bit of good technical information available. It takes a lot of reading to prepare for this. Can it be done properly? I think yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. Did I save money, probably. Time will tell, but I saved MUCH less than I believed I would due to the supplies and tools required to do it correctly. Copper wire is EXPENSIVE too. My efforts would have been better placed researching the quality of work done by contractors in my area and finding a true HVAC professional contractor. So for the fellow asking about why he can’t just change out a coil and condenser, even I would not do that since it would not be a matched system and I am crazy enough to DIY.

    Just thought I would post this story for potential DIY folks so that they know what they are getting into. Also, 240 V is pretty dangerous if you are not totally competent with circuits. If not, don’t even think about it.

    Best wishes and sorry about the exceedingly long post.

    RD

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    NW burbs of Detroit
    Posts
    6,058
    Another guy wanting us to hear his story of oppression at the hands of a diabolical contractor.

    I know it is about a lesson learned, I just think it drags badly on this site.

    I feel something like this would be more appropriately addressed to a DIY site.

    [Edited by hvaclover on 11-28-2006 at 12:10 PM]

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Posts
    342
    His posting was well thought out and courteous. I, for one, would be willing to help him chase down the problem but I do believe the answer is in his post.

    Maybe he will offer his never to be used HVAC related tools in the Junk Yard forum.




  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    5
    Well, actually I have not run in to any I considered to be diabolical. Some are more competent than others, but that is true in any field.

    And actually your assessment is totally wrong. I posted this so that any would be DIYer would read it and have second thoughts (i.e. I agree with you guys regarding DIY).

    Lastly, I am not looking for and sympathy or help, just pointing out some facts.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    5
    David,

    Thanks for the reply, I may have to look at the junk yard forum. I did end up with a bunch of stuff I really don't need now - like sil-fos 15 brazing sticks, etc. but I knew they were using the right stuff you know.

    And, I purposefully did not provide the details of the problem and violate forum rules, but I believe it to either be a TXV or charge problem or both. I don't think it is too serious.

    Rduke

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    853
    I also found your post valuable. Your job was much more extensive then mine given the gas to HP changeout, attic installation and major wiring changes.

    However here's an example of why to consider the DIY route:

    http://www.hvac-talk.com/vbb/showthr...hreadid=122428

    P.S. When I re-read the site rules it does not say you can't discuss DIY. It states not to ask step by step DIY instructions. The OP simply shared his DIY experience.

    "This site is for industry professionals and folks seeking HVAC/R advice and knowledge. Please do not ask for step by step instructions on purchasing, installing or repairing your own HVAC equipment, that is our job and our livelihood. We are generous, but not to a fault.

    Questions of this type will not be answered and may be deleted."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    5
    davefr,

    I know what you mean in that not all contractors will do a good job;however, the ones taking pride in their workmanship would never leave a mess like that one. So the trick is seeing one of their job sites before you contract them to do work. Besides take a look at the "wall of pride".

    One thing I did not consider when looking at my AC source is valuation of my home. Obviously, a home buyer would not want to buy a house with a hacked AC system, and a name brand high SEER system properly installed is a plus. I don't plan to sell mine soon so it is not a problem for me (yet). That is one factor I did not consider and did not see mentioned in the typical response to DIY. These days, home inspectors help buyers scout for that sort of thing. Just something to consider.

    Rduke

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Ft.Worth,Tx
    Posts
    4,584
    He ````hack~~~D it in now he wants someone to tell him where he made HIS mistakes...LOL..

    DIY>>> Guess what no warranty on your equipment..
    "Everyday above ground, is a good day".
    "But everyday that you have made a difference in someones life, may insure you stay above ground a little longer".<aircooled>

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    OK
    Posts
    2,144
    Originally posted by aircooled53
    He ````hack~~~D it in now he wants someone to tell him where he made HIS mistakes...LOL..
    I didn't get that from his post. He admits to calling pros to figure that part out and even to the final work on the system. I thought it was well written, thought out and provides some warning to others considering going that route. We frequently tell DIY's to call a pro due to the dangers in our field but I don't recall warning any that it may take a month for them to do it, all the time with no heat or air. Or warn them that to DIY requires specialty tools that if they purchase will erase a lot if not all of the savings. Or that they are passing up the value of an educated and experienced HVAC pro looking at all aspects of the system, not just the bad piece of equipment. Or how an improperly installed system can negatively affect their home's value. I could go on and on about the dangers of DIY HVAC yet many here tend to focus on bashing the person instead of truly educating them on value and properly selling our industry.
    Never knock on Death's door. Ring the bell and run, he hates that.

    Views expressed here are my own and not neccessarily those of any company I am affiliated with.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    east central indiana
    Posts
    1,117
    Originally posted by davefr

    However here's an example of why to consider the DIY route:

    http://www.hvac-talk.com/vbb/showthr...hreadid=122428

    I must disagree. I think that thread is an example of why to hold off on payment until you're satisfied.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    5
    sales correctly stated the case better than I have seen posted before. The home valuation point totally slipped past me.

    As for my mistakes. The three guys looking at my system did not find any.

    Unfortunately, my assumption was that they would be able to charge it in one trip. It did not occur to me the installers would be scratching their heads and running up the bill. I suspect that even the good guys have some trouble from time to time - not something I expected.

    As for warranty, my Trane lasted 21 years - maybe I will be lucky again. It's hard to stop a Trane I guess.

    Rduke

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    853
    Originally posted by 4l530
    Originally posted by davefr

    However here's an example of why to consider the DIY route:

    http://www.hvac-talk.com/vbb/showthr...hreadid=122428

    I must disagree. I think that thread is an example of why to hold off on payment until you're satisfied.


    Yes but that thread also illustrated how a HO with good intentions picked a middle of the pack bidder that came with a good recommendation and how he ended up getting a "hall of shame" installation which will obvious decrease his home's value and now he's faced with major legal issues not to mention the safety of his home!!

    The "typical" HO doesn't have the knowledge base to know what's acceptable and hold off payment until they're satisfied. That was also evidenced by his comming here and posting images for critiques on the final job. He also trusted his local building inspector.

    In the case of Rduke's installation, I inferred that he did do a "hall of pride" job on his portion of the installation. However he ended up with a hack from a well known HVAC company to do the final refrigerant evacuation and charging. And yes, maybe he wouldn't have got their hack if he hadn't asked the company to just complete his already started DIY project.

    My project is pretty simple (no electrical, control system, capacity, and ducting changes other then a sheet metal plenum transition piece). It's simply airhandler, lineset, and condensor replacement. (4 ton to 4 ton)

    I'm determined to do it 100% right and am not going to end up in "hack hell". I will do my own final system check out, leak testing, evacuation AND make up the line set length difference refrigerant charge. (which sounds like part of Rduke's system issue)

    I'm EPA 608 Type 1 certified and just passed the proctored Type II exam yesterday. (graduation gifts not needed unless someone has an extra Nitrogen tank regulator :-)) Yes, I realize EPA teaches you next to nothing and that's why I'm also studying everything I can, reading all these forums and reviewing installation manuals. (from any and all manufacturers). I'd also like to study the NATE HP manuals.

    So far I've invested way more time learning and planning my install then the cost savings would justify. I have no desire to become an expert in HVAC in general and I know that experience is the greatest teacher of all. However I am only seeking to be an expert in my own system components and their correct installation/operation.

    Once heating season is over I plan to do my install and am determined as hell to have it in the "hall of fame" section when all is said and done!!

    I also reiterate I don't have any disrespect for any of the HVAC pros here at HVAC-Talk!! It's the sea of hacks out there that's my concern. (I doubt the hacks would ever come here during their off hours and talk HVAC). Flame me all you want but I really don't think people like me are significaant threats to your business.

    I will follow the forums rules and not ask for step by step DIY advice. However I do intend to pick up all the best known methods, tips and techniques I can glom onto.

    [Edited by davefr on 11-28-2006 at 06:35 PM]

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    212
    I strongly believe 'knowledge' and 'experience' are two very different things. You can read all the info out there, and understand it, but nothing beats experience in addition to that knowledge.


    I also think there are hacks out there that truly think they do a good job. They don't mean to "rip you off". They think what they're doing is the right way, but they're just ignorant. As long as they're "less ignorant" than the HO, everything is fine... Most of the time.

    With any service out there, find a very good contractor and NEVER throw out his number. Hold onto them like a great booty call. They're worth it.

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