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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    5

    Contractor Incompetency? Please advise asap...

    Hi-
    First time poster. Long-ish story, but I tried to highlight the important points. Basically, I'm looking for advice on whether I should allow a contractor to come into my home to finish a job which I believe he's royally messed up. FYI - This is not any type of DIY post.

    Background:
    Ok. I purchased and installed a Sanyo ductless mini split heat pump unit (24k outdoor unit and multiple indoor units) in September of 2006. Although I installed the unit (tore down the walls, ran the tubing & electrical, etc), I had a professional HVAC contractor come to do the system startup for me as this piece obviously requires some level of technical compentency compared to the other aspects of the install. They did a great, professional job in vac'ing down the lines and performing the initial startup of the system. Unit was running fine (with one recharge in summer 2008). One of my indoor units did need to get swapped out due to a damaged fan blade (in Sept 2006 - unit covered by warranty), and this contractor did the job in about an hour's time (1h 2mins to be exact).

    FYI - This unit I installed uses R410A refrig.

    Current Situation:
    This winter, it has seemed like the coil/evaporator on one of the indoor units was starting to get corroded/rusty. I had an extra indoor unit lying around (got it free under warranty and I replaced the broken fan blade), and I wanted to get the rusting indoor unit swapped out. The company which I had hired originally to do the system startup, although great, was a bit pricey, so I tried to find someone with a bit cheaper rates. I found someone who is a licensed HVAC contractor in Connecticut, and we agreed on the terms to the job and what had to get done.

    On the day he was supposed to come, I called him to remind him that my unit was a R410A unit, and that he would need an adapter for his gagues to work on my machine (I had told him it was R410A earlier, but i figured i'd call to make sure he was aware of the required adapter as the previous contractor back in 2006 had forgotten it). He said that he did not have one on his truck, but that he was going to come anyway, and that he'd do half the work today and half tomorrow. I didnt fully understand this (as the first thing I thought you needed to do was pump down the affected line) but I went along with it as I'm not the professional.

    So he gets to my house. He tries to identify the affected unit, and identifies it as "unit A". He says that R410A is environmentally friendly, and therefore you dont have to recover it properly. He proceeds to close off the line for "Unit A", and open up the flare connection, releasing all of the pressurized refrigerant into the atmosphere outside. Is this standard practice? If not, it gets worse.

    So he comes inside to work on "Unit A". When he opens up the lines in the back of the unit, ***PPPOOOOOOFFFFFF***, another massive refigerant release, this time indoors. Apparently the unit which needs to be swapped out is "Unit B". So, he closes the flare nut to stop the release, goes outside and closes off the lines for "Unit B" now, and then comes inside and re-opens the flare, releasing all of the R410A in the lines going to indoor Unit B into my house INDOORS. He again says the gas is inert and is no big deal and he does this all the time with R410A and not to worry. This piece kina pissed me off as I have my wife, kids, and pets all in this room when this chemical is getting released.

    He completes the swapout of Unit B, and leaves me for the next 2 days with a non-functioning system, as he did not have the proper equipment (adapter) to vac down the 2 busted lines and perform a system startup. His plan was to come back Monday at 5:30PM (yesterday) to finish the job.

    He arrives yesterday (Monday) at 7PM (about 1.5hrs late, but this doesnt really bother me). He now says that he'll need to open up all of the lines and "measure out" the proper refrigerant.

    At this point in the story, I start to lose track of exactly what he was doing.

    Basically, he first connects an open-ended hose to each of the 4 service valves on my outdoor unit, and vents them all to the atmosphere outside. Next, he tries to vac pump all of the refrig out of the system -- I am not sure how sucessful he was on this piece and/or what state the spindels on the wide/narrow valves were in (i think they were all open!!!)

    Then, he vacuum pumps down each line, and then does something I thought was odd. He connects his tank of R410A to each of the service valves, and lets the vacuum'ed tubes (and pressurized R410A) suck out the refrig until they're pressure balanced with the R410A canister. He says that "at least we're putting some refrigerant in the lines prior to startup."

    Then the system startup. We flip the power on. The thing starts up -- seems to be normal. About 30seconds later, he says "ya know maybe we should really talk to tech support before letting this thing start up as I wouldnt want to damage your compressor". And so he flips the breaker switch for the unit, and says he'll come back the next day (today).

    What I need to know, is... is this a normal way in which a professional would go about troubleshooting and swapping out a unit? As i said earlier, I had a previous contractor do this same work in 1h2m, and this guy is going on 4+hours, all the while venting my R410A outside and inside my house. I think I can draw my own conclusions, but just want to get some outside reassurance.

    Please advise. He is due back tonight or tomorrow. Sorry for the long story, but thanks for any advice.

    Also, I'd like to know just how screwed up my system may or may not be right now based on the description of work done above. If you could also comment on how each of the work items above may have been hurtful and/or no big deal, I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks much,
    Mike D, from CT

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,743
    EPA Regulations REQUIRE ALL Chemicals used as a refrigerant to be recovered.

    R410A is NOT inert.

    Its sounds like you got someone to do this as a side job.

    So far. From your description. Non of the work done has been proper, or correct.

    Anybody that doesn't have the adapter. Doesn't really work on mini splits.
    That was your first sign that you choose the wrong guy.
    Contractor locator map

    How-to-apply-for-Professional

    How many times must one fix something before it is fixed?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    6,454
    Not to be mean but,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,i bet the other contractor doesnt look so expensive now.
    Doing any job right takes time , the right tools , traioning etc, you dont want some monkey dumping gas , and running around like a chicken with its head cut off and you probably dont want to ever buy anything according to price.

    Had the time been figured into the job , it may have been done right.

    I ask my customers , if i was going to pay you to do an 8 hour job but only wanted to pay you for 4 hours , What kind of job would you give me?
    You sure are cocky for a starving pilgrim.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    6,454
    Btw , if he stars that unit , its done. One drop of old mineral oil and its instant refrigerant blood clot.
    You sure are cocky for a starving pilgrim.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    pittsburgh,pa
    Posts
    727
    someone with a bit cheaper !!! Not always the best solution

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    54
    Eat your pride. Tell him to go away. Call the first guys back to fix. Better to spend the money now and have it done right than replacing the entire system later.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,687
    "I found someone who is a licensed HVAC contractor in Connecticut" Is he? Sounds like a DIY hack to me. Don't have him do any more work, and have the previous company come out. Every time some low bid company (they have the low bid since they don't have license, insurance, education, other overhead) works on almost anything, it ends up costing the customer much more in the long run than just using a reputable company.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    4
    Ask for his EPA section 608 Technician Certification. If he cannot produce it, ask him to leave.

    If he can produce it, feel free to report him because he is knowingly is total disregard of EPA regulations, and ask him to leave.

    http://www.epa.gov/Ozone/title6/608/...ml#enforcement

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,292
    From a contractor's perspective, there's something to be said about "customer loyalty".

    From a customer's perspective, there's something to be said about "contractor loyalty".

    You had a contractor that proved themselves competent to you for the initial installation. You went with someone else to save a few dollars, who had no proven track record with you.

    Me? If I know someone is competent and has a track record to prove it, the few extra dollars I pay him are nothing. I don't mind paying a bit of insurance against catastrophe...not at all. While it is true there are contractors who charge more than they're really worth, the ones who lowball seldom deliver quality for the price.

    I agree with others...give this guy the heave-ho and go hat-in-hand to your previous contractor, even though it's gonna hurt in the wallet. Anyone who is flippant about releasing refrigerant indoors, which by the way can displace oxygen in confined areas to where it might be hazardous to one's health, does not need to ever darken your door again, IMO.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  10. #10

    I totally agree w/shophound

    Quote Originally Posted by shophound View Post
    From a contractor's perspective, there's something to be said about "customer loyalty".

    From a customer's perspective, there's something to be said about "contractor loyalty".

    You had a contractor that proved themselves competent to you for the initial installation. You went with someone else to save a few dollars, who had no proven track record with you.

    Me? If I know someone is competent and has a track record to prove it, the few extra dollars I pay him are nothing. I don't mind paying a bit of insurance against catastrophe...not at all. While it is true there are contractors who charge more than they're really worth, the ones who lowball seldom deliver quality for the price.

    I agree with others...give this guy the heave-ho and go hat-in-hand to your previous contractor, even though it's gonna hurt in the wallet. Anyone who is flippant about releasing refrigerant indoors, which by the way can displace oxygen in confined areas to where it might be hazardous to one's health, does not need to ever darken your door again, IMO.
    Its kinda like mechanic loyality, but more. These guys put in your system and I think they're owed at least major consideration in case something goes wrong. If their prices has become exorbitant then look elsewhere.
    Yeah I could get our maintenance guy at work to look at my house's new HP, but is that really what I want for the long run?

    These are tough economic times and they're not getting better, I can understand wanting to save some bucks, its still better to be pound wise than penny foolish.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,687
    There was a good quote on another thread that said,"why does using the cheaper company always end up costing more?"
    I think this situation is a good example of that quote.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Washington
    Posts
    7,405
    Oh man. This is ridiculous.

    Showing no loyalty to the original installing contractor by hiring Joe Blow to come and screw it up?? Because he is cheaper?? REE-REE-diculous.

    The problem is, there are too many guys like you out there who can't see what this type of crap does to the economy. Maybe if customers would start being loyal to the true professionals in the trades then maybe things could start getting better.

    This numb-nut you hired will not pay any taxes, surely isn't insured, and now has cost you a bunch of money, and time I'm sure of. Meanwhile, the honest and ethical company is getting the shaft.

    What are you going to do when it comes time for maintenance on your system?? Look for someone cheaper then too??

    This crap really burns me.

    Oh, and please turn that SOB in for venting to the atmosphere. Or did you not get his last name?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Western PA
    Posts
    25,400
    Hey, isn't there a reward for reporting EPA violations?

    Maybe that will cover having a pro clean up this what this hack did.

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