Hey guys! I'll give y'all the Reader's Digest version of what happened....
Note: The original installed equipment was confirmed to be a 3.5 ton Carrier condenser unit and 3.5 ton Carrier evaporator coil.
So, approximately one week prior to the signing of the purchase settlement statement regarding our property purchase (February 2011), the previous homeowner contacted a local Texas-based HVAC contractor - mainly due to a problem with the central A/C system while testing its functionally (he was not living in the home for months prior) - especially after being shut down during the winter months, and with us closing on the property. Their service technician purportedly conducted a system check, and reported that the freon level tested low, and subsequently conducted a system leak check...at which time, it was determined by him, that the purported leak was originating from the location of the evaporator coil. Subsequently, the original, supposedly “damaged” 3.5 ton Carrier evaporator coil was removed/replaced ($) with a 4 ton Carrier evaporator coil (model # CNPHP4821ATAABAA) and recharged with an unknown amount of R-22 refrigerant, which was supposedly lost as a result of the leakage. As of date, the company's owner refuses to speak with us, or release any information regarding this particular installation.
Well, we officially moved into the property in June of 2011. The A/C system appeared to be operating adequately throughout the Summer of 2011, with no reported issues. We shut down the A/C system for the winter months - from approximately late November 2011 thru mid/late April 2012. Only when the interior house temperature started reaching the mid-to-upper 70's during late April or so, did we start using the A/C system again. Initially, it would run cold for maybe a few hours or so, but then began to feel progressively warmer...not hot, just warmer. After several weeks of this, the blower would continue to run for hours at a time; forcing warm air through the vents...at this time, we were having a difficult time maintaining temperatures below 80°. At which time, I called and spoke with the previous homeowner about, whom advised me to contact the company whom originally installed the evaporator coil - since they were the last to service the system as of February 2011.
I contacted and spoke with the company's owner via phone, and explained our situation regarding the loss of cooling relating to the A/C...I also asked if it could possibly be related to the evaporator coil they recently installed, and asked if it might/could be from a bad weld or seal, which he replied, “absolutely not”. After that point, he became extremely defensive and was a bit difficult to reason with. After going around in circles with him, we finally agreed to have one of his service techs come by to check it out, which would cost us a service fee of about $ or so. The service technician was “tentatively” scheduled to show up sometime after 4pm a few days from that time. So, I decided to call around, to try and find another company that could possibly come out before that time - especially with the outside temps being in the low 90's for the past day or so...I also wanted to find someone who wouldn't charge as much regarding the service fee.
After contacting a few companies, I found one that agreed to send someone out around 9am the next day or so, and charging a service fee of around $ or thereabouts. By the time the technician arrived, the condenser unit was completely frozen and needed to be thawed out. After shutting down the system and waiting about an hour or so - and with the help of a heat gun - he was able to test the refrigerant levels, which tested noticeably low. We then sat down and discussed options regarding recharging the system to replace the lost freon - and possibly conducting a leak search, which would have been an additional $ or thereabouts. With the results of the gauge test, I asked about how much refrigerant might be required to recharge the system, which he said, he had no way of really being able to determine the exact amount needed. The system ended up requiring 5 lbs. 5.4 oz. of R-22 refrigerant, which resulted in a service bill of $ ($/lb. R-22 + service call fee + slight discount applied). Subsequently, I found out later that the unit holds a total of approximately 11 lbs of R-22...losing half of its refrigerant capacity!?
Well, before leaving, the technician asked me if I knew anything about the condenser unit being over 20+ years old...I told him, that can't be right, the house was only about 10-years-old itself at that point. He walked me out to the unit and showed me the plate, showing a manufactured date of June 1991. Not only did I discover that the outside condenser unit was approximately 21 years old, which again, is approximately 10 years older than the house itself, but that it was a 4 ton condenser unit manufactured by Trane. I also discovered that it was also installed by the same HVAC company a few years prior (according to the service tag adhered to it)...which I'm assuming could have/may have been responsible for the failures (leakage) of the original evaporator coil, and now the condenser unit itself.
Since that time, I've had 2 separate 'basic' leak tests performed by other HVAC companies offering free leak tests via radio commercials, and both confirmed that the leakage is now in the outside condenser unit.
Anyway, so, I guess now my questions are...
Q: Could this antiqued 4 ton Trane condenser unit been responsible of damaging the 3.5 ton Carrier evaporator coil, which was then replaced with a 4 ton Carrier evaporator coil...which in turn, could have caused the 21 year-old outside condenser unit to fail/leak now?
Q: Is installing such an antiqued P.O.S. unit on a newer residential home even legal or is it a possible violation of some kind?
I'd really appreciate any/all thoughts/comments/information regarding this situation...Thanx in advance!
P.S. Sorry for using the word "subsequently" so much, too!