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  1. #1

    Do I really need to replace the whole AC?

    I noticed the last week or 2 my AC didn't seem to be working as well as it should. It would never get the thermostat down to below 74 and would run constantly. Even if I bumped it up a degree or 2 more it ran much longer than it used to.

    The last couple of days when it would cut off I could hear what sounded like water dripping for a few seconds afterwards. Last night after running for hours I looked and saw a little water dripping out underneath the part (the coils?) in the basement and decided I needed someone to look at it so I shut it off.

    About 10 hours later a service guy comes out, opens up the compartment with the coils and there is what appeared to me to be a lot of ice buildup - probably 1/3 to 1/2 covered and he points out a little rust. Then he goes outside to the compressor(?) and checks the pressure. He says it should be around 70 (although I don't recall if that was min or max) and shows me that it's leveling out around 40.

    So, he says he can run a leak test, but he's pretty sure it's coming out of the coils that were iced over.
    Or he can refill it with HCFC22 (6 pounds worth). He quotes me a price for full 6 pounds although I wonder if I'd need a full 6 pounds and he also says it will probably just leak out again.
    So then he starts talking about replacing compressor and coils with their "Basic", "Silver" and "Platinum" options. The catch is, if I get the "Silver" or "Platinum" he says I'll also have to replace the furnace since those are 2-stage compressors which of course makes it even more expensive.

    I know you can't give me a definitive authoritative answer especially without seeing it yourself, but I feel like I'm being pressured into buying a whole new AC and furnace when perhaps I could get by for another couple years with just refilling the coolant.

    Other info: The filter was clean, water was flowing through the drain pipe despite some spilling onto the floor, system is about 9-10 years old. It's a Lennox.

    The price of HCFC22 seemed high to me, but maybe it's just the going rate. Is it possible I would only need to top it off instead of buying 6 whole pounds of it?

    What are the chances that if I filled it up now that it would just dissipate within the next month? By next spring?

    I know the answer may be "it depends", but I'm just looking for any guidance since I'm clueless about this.

    The only options offered to me were Amana and Goodman. I'm definitely going to get a 2nd opinion and shop around before I decide to spend thousands to replace the AC (and possibly furnace).

    Sorry, I'm pretty clueless about this stuff. If more details might help, I can provide them. The ice melted fairly quickly once the cover was removed and I'm not running the AC until I figure out what I'm going to do.

    The rust really doesn't look that bad to me, but I realize we're talking about a gas here and it might only take the smallest of pinholes for it to bleed the system dry.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    1,391
    Have someone else evaluate the system after the ice has defrosted. Might be a leak, might not. The ice can cause the pressure to be low. Other temperature tests should be done after defrosted.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    The Quad-Cities area (midwest).
    Posts
    2,701
    I would get very leery of a service guy (and his company) trying to sell me equipment during a service call after "finding" fault with my existing equipment. With a 9 - 10 year old system, I would definitely get a second opinion.

    The worse case should be to replace the evaporator (inside) coil. I'm not a service guy, but 6 lbs. sounds like a lot of freon for a system that is partially working.

    P.S. The rust is normal.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    The Quad-Cities area (midwest).
    Posts
    2,701
    Quote Originally Posted by comfortdoc View Post
    Have someone else evaluate the system after the ice has defrosted. Might be a leak, might not. The ice can cause the pressure to be low. Other temperature tests should be done after defrosted.
    X2

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    Northern Wisconsin
    Posts
    2,013
    First off the only thing the tech could really diagnose was that the coil was partially frozen. Anything else is pretty much guess work until you're dealing with the "standard" starting point.

    He could have run the furnace and cleared the coil of ice and then checked the entire system over. At least that way he could tell you, with more certainty, THIS is/are your problem(s).

    The indoor coil may be leaking. The leak could be outside on the condenser. Or ...... there might not be a leak and it's an air flow issue.

    You can repair/replace whatever is found to be leaking and replace the lost refrigerant and be good to go. And YES, R22 is very expensive per pound.

    The choice of going to multiple staged equipment should be made "mostly" on how much extra you are willing to pay for the added comfort this type of equipment should give you. If you're happy with the comfort your existing system is giving you and the "sales pitch" doesn't convince you that the upgraded system will make you go "I wish I'd of had this years ago!", the answer should be simple.
    Use the biggest hammer you like, pounding a square peg into a round hole does not equal a proper fit.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, Oh
    Posts
    5,047
    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    I would get very leery of a service guy (and his company) trying to sell me equipment during a service call after "finding" fault with my existing equipment. With a 9 - 10 year old system, I would definitely get a second opinion.

    The worse case should be to replace the evaporator (inside) coil. I'm not a service guy, but 6 lbs. sounds like a lot of freon for a system that is partially working.

    P.S. The rust is normal.
    I concur on the rust.

    I also have to say that any determination prior to the coil being defrosted is too soon.


    As far as the ammount of refrigerant quoted, that is a hefty order, but I do want to remind people that a 4-ton Amana straight A/C from 15 years ago (those ones with the massive condenser coils), ran on 14lbs+.
    "Better tell the sandman to stay away, because we're gonna be workin on this one all night."

    "Dude, you need more than 2 wires to a condenser to run a 2 stage heatpump."

    "Just get it done son."

    Dad adjusted

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Anderson, South Carolina, United States
    Posts
    7,074
    Could need 1lb or could need 10lbs, its hard to guess. The only way to know for sure is to recover whats left, weigh it then calculate how much it needs per manufactures charge weight plus line set length. I'd advise you to get a second opinion, sounds like you got a sales tech rather than an hvac tech.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    East tx
    Posts
    164
    No way in hades can anyone give an accurate pressure reading on a partially frozen coil! And for that matter. If you chose to just recharge the system make him use a scale and watch what he puts in. It's a habit with me, i pull a scale at and show customer how much i added so they know I'm being honest on a recharge. I wouldn't replace equipment based on the information given above. I would either replace leaking component (if it is inside unit) then may be cheaper to just replace whole indoor section. Just my two cents

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Mount Holly, NC
    Posts
    3,205
    wait.

    you had the system off for 10 hours, and it STILL had ice on it, or when the system was turned on by the tech, with the door off, it iced up...
    also, was the door still off, when the tech read the 40 psi?
    how THICK was the ice on the coil?

    either way, the price for refrigerant 22 is high, but it's just the way it is now, and it's ONLY going to get worse as the EPA further restricts the manufacture of it. soon it'll be above the price of silver...

    how many pounds of 22 does the dataplate on your equipment say it comes precharged with? how long are the lines between the outdoor and the indoor system?

    if the system needs 22, it's leaking. if it was empty, then yeah... it'll leak right out.
    40 psi on the low side with the system partially blocked with ice, is not empty.

    I'd certainly get 2nd and third opinion from additional companies, but keep in mind... the opinions are not free.
    The TRUE highest cost system is the system not installed properly...
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
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    68,125
    Can't judge how much charge a system needs while the oil is iced over. Get a second opinion.
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  11. #11
    Thanks for the replies everyone. The thing holds 6 pounds total and since it still had some pressure even when iced up I was a bit skeptical when he said it would cost me $X for a full 6 pounds. I don't believe it's completely empty although whether it needs 1 pound or 5 pounds I can't say.

    As far as how thick the ice was, well I probably should have taken a picture. Like I said it was between a third and halfway up the coils when I first saw it. Some came off easily just pulling on it with my hands. At the thickest near the base it was probably a little over an inch thick? I'm terrible at judging such things, but when I checked on it about an hour or so after he left all the ice was gone. On the flat part the coils went into the ice was much thinner.

    I've decided to just keep the whole system off all weekend and do some research. He said I could damage the system more by making it run with low coolant even though he was recommending a whole replacement. That didn't make sense. If I'm going to replace the whole thing, why should I care if use the current system until it's completely dead?

    Hopefully I can figure out who to call for a 2nd opinion. This was actually the 2nd service I called. The first lost out when they didn't answer their phone even after 3 tries. Seriously, I called them up 2 minutes before they said they opened and got voice mail for their 24 hour emergency service. 5 minutes later. no answer. 10 minutes later, no answer. If they can't even answer their phones, well that's a bad sign.

    And the service I did get to come out should realize that if I'm going to spend more than a few hundred dollars on anything I'm going to weigh my options carefully. And while it's really nice for them to offer to throw in a humidifier or an air filtration system to sweeten the deal, I never thought I needed one. I'd rather them lower their price than to throw in extras that I don't need. (Besides, the humidity here is 89% at the moment....It does get dry sometimes, but really? Offering me a humidifier in these conditions isn't going to win you a lot of points.)

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Southeastern Pa
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    18,593
    How clean is your air filter?
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  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Mid-Mo
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    3,596
    We may have a member from this site that might be close to you, in many of the guys' signatures there is a link to a map.

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