2 Year old evaporator problems - possible install issue?
I had a new 16 seer high efficiency system installed 2.5 years ago to take part in the Federal energy credits before they expired. My old unit was working but was just old and I figured the time was good to go ahead and replace since the credits were available. Unfortunately I am now having problems and in my opinion this is still a new system.
I had the tech come out this week after it froze solid and he detected a freon leak at the evaporator but did not open it up. Since it is a newer unit he said it should just be pulled which I tend to agree with. He detected it where the hoses enter the unit and therefore just put in some freon to get it back up and going until they could figure out the replacement.
My questions are on several fronts:
Is this not entirely too soon for a unit to be leaking? I guess anything is possible but this is unbelievable to me.
I happened to notice that the secondary drain plug is still in place even though the pan is below (as it was before I had it replaced). However there is no direct way for water to get into the pan if the primary backs up - there is no secondary pvc drain pointing down to drip into the metal emergency tray. It appears the primary was clogged so I sucked it out myself but I had no way of knowing because it did not immediately drain into the pan and out where I could see it. When I personally opened the evaporator to check it out (before I called the tech) that is when I noticed it frozen solid and the water in the bottom. I am wondering if it may have rusted prematurely due to them not hooking up the secondary drain then causing it to fail. There are rust particles in the bottom of the evaporator inside. See picture below of the outside.
What are your thoughts?
The evaporator will surely be under warranty but I do not want to pay for the labor to reinstall it considering it is only 2.5 years old. This just puts a bad taste in my mouth.
thanks for your input
Refrigerant leaks have become a big problem in our industry. The are caused primarily from tubing that seems to get thinner each year and then is rifled to add surface area and efficiency (cutting grooves on the inside) The second reason is formicary corrosion (google it-lots written). It is copper corrosion caused primarily by household airborne chemicals and air pollution. It causes holes in irregular patterns and the tubing "weeps" and the only solution is to replace the coil. Mfg. are going to aluminum microchannel coils which don't have this problem. At any rate a big problem for all of us-dealers and consumers.
It sounds as if you have an horizontal air handler if you have a pan below it. The secondary drain is installed for an added safety incase the primary one gets plugged.
If your coil is frozen, there are two reasons usually. First one is a dirty filter which restricts the airflow. A three ton unit traditionally needs 1200 cfm going over it. If the filter gets clogged and half that goes through (not uncommon-probably our most common service call!) the coil will get too cold, the regrigerant pressures will go too low and the coil will be below 32 deg. F-frost and ice. The second reason is, as you stated, low refrigerant. A technician needs to deal with it. If he found a leak where the refrigerant tubing enters the coil, he should be able to repair it and recharge your unit. Nothing should break in two years but we can tell you it does, all the time. Ask car dealers. But find a technician that can fix it, gurantee his work and have him install the drains correctly. (We put an overflow safety switch in the auxiallary drain pan. They are inexpensive, they work and they protect ceilings!)
Thanks for the reply. Air flow is fine and the pan does have a safety switch - it was there from my old unit. The missing secondary pvc drain is something I will definitely have them do this time around. My concern was that since they did not do it originally that the sitting water could be the cause of the leak (via rust).
With that said, I am not sure where it is leaking as the tech that came just put a band-aid on it with some more freon to get us back in business until it could be replaced. I think his thoughts were if it is leaking at the coil - not at the line brazing - then it really does not matter where because it should be replaced (under manufacturer's warranty).
I am just frustrated because it is WAY too new for me to be having trouble with it - but as stated earlier anything can happen and manufacturing defects happen at some rate even if at a low rate. I also hate to think that I will be stuck with a labor charge for something that failed this prematurely. Should be the manufacturers problem but the way I understand it they will only provide the new coil.
What is fair with regards to the installer's duty here? I am curious what others have experienced and for those pros out there - how do you handle these things? I want to be fair but I do not want to get hosed on this considering I just paid them a bunch two years ago to put it in. The owner of the company has been on vacation and thus we have not spoken yet about next steps. I am hoping your input can be helpful to that discussion which should happen later today.
The secondary drain issue is not an issue for this matter. If you want them to add it in just for your peace of mind then by all means ask them too. But in no way is that an install error. Labor is never covered under manufacturer's warranty. Most companies offer a labor warranty, I do a yr labor warranty. Just talk it over with the owner. Leaking coil after two yrs is getting more common and I hate that part. If it's a good company they will get you fixed up.
Many thanks. I hope for the best.