A little mystery
I think I know what's going on here, but I want the experts to weigh in....
Four years ago in Spring, I switch my 1997 Heat Pump to A/C and it kicks its outside circuit breaker for the first time. I have it serviced by a reputable, local company, it's a little low the tech says, puts 2 lbs of R-22 in it (Ruud UPGB-037JAZ).
A couple months later I have problems with the system, call them again, they replace a bad ICM203B Time Delay.
The outside circuit breaker keeps kicking, so I call again and this time get a Supco Model No SPP6 "Solid state relay and hard start capacitor". I'm warned the compressor won't last forever.
Things get better with the circuit breaker, but it still needs to be reset on occasion. In particular, switching from heat to cooling mode is a 100% guaranteed circuit breaker kicker. This is a real pain in the Spring and Fall.
I have the system serviced each year, curiously it doesn't lose any more refrigerant.
Fast forward almost four years, and I'm increasingly unhappy with the HP. The circuit breaker isn't a problem in heat mode, but it runs all the time, blows cold air and resorts to electric backup often. My bills are high. As an A/C it works fine, so I have a Rheem mod installed in a dual fuel setup. When the pro tears apart my system, low and behold, the old A Coil is covered with lint like a sheet of felt. We clean it up and he puts it over my new mod.
Gas heat works great. Heat pump blows warm. I like the VS fan. Life is good.
Warm weather comes, I start the A/C. Guess what?
No circuit breaker trips! Hot days, cold nights, I'm switching back and forth from heat to A/C (not just for comfort, I'm wringing out the new/old system on purpose). Guess what? Still no circuit breaker trips.
I come to find out (here on this board) that the coated A coil situation was detectable by checking superheat/subcool temps along with pressures. No one ever did that. OK, that I understand. Adding coolant just masked the actual problem.
So my questions are:
1. Do overfull systems trip the circuit breaker more, or reduced airflow systems, or both?
2. Is there some other possible cause for tripping the circuit breaker, such as (just guessing here) the reversing valve being sticky, the old control board, or something? Would those other possibilities suddenly get better after the furnace install?
3. I realize that no system lasts forever, but I'm thinking my 11 year old 13 SEER system might last quite a bit longer with a.) a clean A-coil, b.) the proper amount of R-22, and c.) a gas furnace to do the heavy lifting in cold weather... no?
4. Isn't this some kind of self-rewarding bad behaviour going on here? A tech adds refrigerant, comes back with the capacitor, problems persist, hey, system's old (yes), leaking refrigerant (not really), throwing breakers (overfull), you need a complete new system... ?
...if i understand right
if it's tripping the circuit on the inside of your house most likely it was because of the fan trying to push air through a dirty coil, on a system that is probably heavily loaded with electric heat
the electric coils would over heat without air flow
if for some reason it's not on it's own circuit it could be effected by something else
if it's tripping on the outside and it's a heat pump, there's a good chance the tech that added refrigerant over filled the system, and/or maybe the outside circuit isn't the right size, or not dedicated.
Last edited by wolfstrike; 04-30-2008 at 01:19 AM.
Sorry I wasn't clear. It's the Circuit Breaker on the outdoor unit that was tripping. The old 50A indoor CB (gone now along with the electric backup) never tripped, and was not shared.
Originally Posted by wolfstrike
Most likely refrigerant (that wasn't needed) was added to bring up the suction pressure. The tech missed the airflow problem. While your pointing the finger at him though, remember there are three pointing back at you. All this could have been avoided if you had just changed the filter like you were supposed to. And had the coil's cleaned every year like you are supposed to. Funny thing about an evaporator coil is that if you'll just change that cheap filter once a month the coil will still be clean 5 years from now.
He shoulda coulda woulda caught it. There are a lot of people in this business that aren't always qualified to do the job. Maybe he was new. It is a scramble to fill jobs this time of year in the HVAC industry and sometimes guys get promoted because they were a good installer or they lie on their application. If the filter was changed regularly, you would never have had the problem. I'm sure you're trying to lead us into having ammo to call the company back and complaining about him, let it go. It is just as much your fault as his.
Not trying to stir the pot, But... I personally didn't see the condition of the return myself. Is it not possible the installation was bad and all the return air wasn't being filtered? Maybe the return sizing was so small that the static is huge and sucking dust through a good filter. Would not a competent pro not check SC/SH and check for airflow issues before adding charge? I find it amusing that often times HO's are considered dangerous liabilities to their HVAC system if given to much knowledge (SC/SH info, how to check their evap. coil if possible etc.) yet this tech would be considered a "Pro" here.
Originally Posted by bmathews
I just don't think the assumption of the HO negligence in this is a good idea, just like the assumption of a tech's is usually not acceptable.
Thanks for one vote of confidence! It seems I ruffled some feathers, which was not my intention. I was just asking some questions about the circuit breaker and making an observation that there's no feedback mechanism to educate bad techs that they are (probably unknowingly) giving the customer a bad deal.
Originally Posted by Daltex
For those curious, pictures, description and dimensions of my vent system are here in this thread:
Since then the bottom of the return has been replaced with a larger piece with an external filter and larger furnace opening.
As for my role in this, it's amusing because I'm a bit of a maintenance freak and always bought expensive filters. My 3 reasons for why the A coil linting up go like this, from least to most likely:
1. When the problem started in 2004 I had only owned the house only 2 years out of 7,
2. Previous owner had a big, long-haired dog, and
3. I had the ducts cleaned right before the problems started- something which the techs knew about.
Yes, I was holding out on that third one. Before anyone lays into me about the futility of duct cleaning, when your child has so much rash that the doctor can't give the grid allergy test because their isn't enough unbroken skin to work with, you'll do ANYTHING to try to address the problem.
Sadly, even though I gave the complete history to each tech that came in, no one thought (or bothered) to test airflow or superheat/subcool.
As for yearly maintenance cleaning the bottom of the A coil, kinda hard to do when it requires a pump-down and air handler disassembly to get to it. I may have gone for it anyway- if anyone had suggested it!
You better believe my next Heat Pump contract will dictate an A coil cleaning access panel!
Over charged systems will trip breakers.
There ae still too many techs that charge by pressure only. And some that just hook up teh low side, and add gas by how much of a pressure rating they see.
first of all if you've has annual service contracts and it was just rencently that your coil being dirty was brought to your attention you need to find another company. Lets admit right now alot of us techs are doing Spring PM checks, and that all we're doing ALLLLL day long. It doesn't take long before it becomes monotonous: checking indoor blower for cleanliness, fan amps, compressor amps, etc. IT'S BORING!!! Checking the inside of the evaporator (inside) coil is something that a technician performing a PM check MUST do. Airflow is critical in refrigeration. Now if you're breaker is tripping then either you have a bad breaker, or something, namely your compressor is pulling excessive amperage upon start up. This is an indicator that your compressor is on its way out. If your system has been overcharged for sometime then it is reasonable to assume that your evaporator has been flooded most of the time resulting in low superheat, which means all the refrigerant in the evaporator is not boiling off into a superheated vapor which means liquid is returning to your compressor. I'm still young in the trade but I hear all the time how "beer can cold" was the litmus test for charging systems. In todays day and age hvac equipment must be critally charged. I put my temp clamp meter on every system I work on, superheat and subcooling a invaluable toos. Compressors are not designed to pump liquid. It is reasonable to assume your compressor has spent alot of time starting agaist a load of liquid refrigerant and I wouldn't be suprised if your have high resistance withing your compressor Start motor windings. Maybe you weren't changing your filter often like someone alluded to earlier but hopefully this has been a costly lesson. Also be careful with those "expensive" filters they can create significant pressure drop which would again reduce indoor airflow across the evaporator causing floodback and it sounds like at this point you need to be as tender to your compressor as you can be. S
If you read my post. The last sentence says that both must take responsibility here. It is about a 50/50 split. We do not know the condition of the return, but the system was 7 years old when it started having problems, so I would think that they would have started having problems before this is the return was undersized. As far as checking coils every PM, that is ridiculous. Especially if you were the installing contractor and have been servicing it for a while. When you open the inside of the furnace/air handler and the blower motor and squirrel cage is clean and the circuit board is clean, as well as the lining of the chassis, that is generally a good indication that the coil will be clean as well. If it is nasty dirty, good chance the coil is as well.
Originally Posted by Daltex
Thanks, beenthere. That's what I figured, but I wanted to know for sure. Every day that goes by that the circuit doesn't trip any more, I am more convinced.
Originally Posted by beenthere
I just had different guy out to service my in-law apartment A/C, a newer unit. I told him the whole long sorry tale about the main house HP and how important sub/super was to me now. He proceeded to hook up his pressure gauges to hi & low and say "This tells me all I need to know."
Originally Posted by beenthere
Now, if the pressures are OK, maybe that's true? I don't know. I still wanted him to check the temps, but he didn't want to do it.
Last edited by hangfirew8; 04-30-2008 at 09:53 PM.
This tells me all I need to know. Is what the techs that worked on your other system thought.
Your paying the bill. Next time, tell him, if thats all you need to know. You can leave, and take your bill with you. I'll get and pay someone else to do it right.