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  1. #1
    We got regular 6 month service today and the service guy said our heat pump unit has no freon and the unit must be replaced. He said the unit had been running on no freon for a while (last service was 1/25/05-no problems) and because the freon also lubricates the system, it is probably un-fixable. He also said the unit is 10 years old (Trane manuf. in 1995) and units only last 12-15 years. He a gave me a price for trying to fix the unit that was 20% of the price of a new unit. Given the age, and the probability of a successful fix, he recommended we buy a new unit.

    We bought the house 5 years ago and went with the contractor that the previous owner recommended (I assume they installed the unit as well, but I'm not sure). They are a large regional outfit that seems to have a good reputation.

    Being a typical homeowner, I don't have a clue if we are being shammed, or the guy is speaking the truth.

    Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Office and warehouse in both Crystal River & New Port Richey ,FL
    Posts
    18,836
    Hard to say ,without knowing what the repair will be .

    Did he find the leak?

    At ten years old it could go either way,repair or replace.

    Is his price to replace the indoor and the outdoor unit,or just one piece?

  3. #3
    thanks dash for the quick response...

    He didn't find the leak, that would be part of the repair cost. He talked alot about cost of the freon just to find the leak.

    He didn't say anything about the inside unit.

    We have a hydrokinetics(?) heating system in the basement. We get off-peak electric that heats up a big water tank that then gets forced air to heat the house. I think the heat pump is backup? I've never truly understood how it all worked.

    All I know is the kids are learning what it was like when I grew up. We fight over the one fan we own.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    2,635
    There's regional influence to consider as well. In parts of the southeast where humidity and temperatures force people to use a HUGE amount of air conditioning then a ten year old unit has already been well worn. In my part of the country a 10 year old unit has maybe seen the halfway mark.

    Running on no refrigerant is hard on the compressor. Typically if I fix a machine like yours it will be fine. But once in a rare while the abuse of being without refrigerant causes the compressor to fail not long after the repair. That worst case scenario has definitely been a small minority of the cases.

    I just don't like the tone. 12-15 years? If installed by a hack installer (who leaves contaminants in the system) and if abused by a homeowner living in Houston... then sure. But they can go one hell of a lot longer too. And he'll "try" to fix it? If you pay me to fix something there is no try! And to be technically accurate, the refrigerant lubes nothing. The refrigerant cools the compressor. Without it the compressor runs pretty darn hot. The compressor has oil for lubrication. It has to be VERY low on oil before it really matters.

    Sounds like a selling technician working for a consolidator.
    (BTW, if you do fix and your compressor takes a dump later then don't call me. Free advice is worth what it's worth. )

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    2,635
    The cost of the Freon to find the leak? Oh man. You use a trace amount of Freon and then pressurize the system with dry nitrogen to find leaks. You do NOT fill the system up with all new Freon. He knows that. The wholesale cost of the nitrogen and trace refrigerant might buy you a Happy Meal - two Happy Meals if it's a big system.

    Yeah. Sounds like a consolidator.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    2,635
    You really need to educate yourself on your system. If the heat pump is only a backup source of heat then it may have run little or not at all while it's been without refrigerant. It depends on how your system determines when to kick in the backup heat.

  7. #7
    Irascible...

    We live in Pennsylvania. Its been 90+ for the past few days and high humidity, typical for summers. Home is 2600 sq ft two story with attic roof fan to reduce heat up there. We don't typically run AC for days at a time, and often only turn it on at night for comfy sleeping.

    Also, we've got wood insert and pellet stove for heat in the cold months. I ran the pellet stove all winter (except short breaks to clean) and wood insert on weekends when I could tend it. I noticed the unit running over the winter, but like I said in first post, the unit checked out in January. We have not missed a 6 month service in 5 years.

    Thermostat has a blue light for backup heat that was lit frequently, maybe that meant the heat pump was running? Way too frickin complicated if you ask me, but still better than lugging a window unit up and down the stairs twice a year.

    [Edited by jfowlerpa on 06-09-2005 at 01:20 PM]

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    1,042
    The heat pump would have to be the primary heat source when outside temperatures are above about 35 degrees. The hydrokinetic system is the backup that kicks in when the heat pump isn't keeping up in colder weather. Of course, the same heat pump also acts as an air conditioner when you call for cooling.

    I wouldn't make a flat answer of fix or replace at this point. Find somebody else, though, because it sounds like this guy isn't competent enough to fix a leak anyway. Once somebody worth their salt has a look at the system, then we may have enough information to make a recommendation on the repair versus replace question.

    If you don't know exactly how the system decides when to use the heat pump and when to use the hydrokinetic, we are going to have a hard time determining how much it may have run without any refrigerant in it. We also don't know at this point if it has a low pressure switch that would prevent it from running at all when it's out of refrigerant. One way or another, don't run it any more until it gets fixed. It may still be repairable now, but continuing to run it with no refrigerant could kill it in short order.

    You mentioned that the backup heat was lit a lot this winter. When it was lit, was the outdoor unit still running, or did it shut down during those times?

    Tell us where you are and we'll see if we can't recommend a better service outfit to look at it.

    [Edited by wyounger on 06-09-2005 at 01:24 PM]

  9. #9
    irascible, when trying to find a leak ,why not just use pure nitrogen instead of mixing it with refrigerant?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    2,635
    wyounger has good advice.

    You use a trace amount of refrigerant because electronic leak detectors can sniff the leak out that way. Using only nitrogen would mean that you're stuck using only liquid soap. That's impractical. We can't dunk the entire system in soap. But the wholesale cost of the trace refrigerant would not even get you into a early afternoon matinee to see that piece of crap Episode III!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,880
    LOL...

    Where about in PA.

    Your heat pump is your primary heat, and the hydro is your back up.

    You should also have an 80 gal water heater, and the control for it should be mounted on the hydro.

    In case your wondering, we service hydros, and keep some parts for them in stock.

    Including a control board, and the DC relays.

    By now your water coil above your air handler should be pretty dirty also.

    I'm in lancaster, if your out of my range, i'll still be glad to tell you any info you need for your hydrokenetic system.

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

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,880
    Oh, and are you any relation to willaim fowler, he use to live in akron.
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    How many times must one fix something before it is fixed?

  13. #13
    I'm in the Allentown area. Although I've got relations named William, none in Akron.

    I think the unit was running while the blue backup light was lit. First time we noticed no AC was in March during a short warm spell.

    When the unit was checked out in January, the guy left equipment at my house (some kind of gauges with hoses), I had to call them to come pick it up. It makes me wonder if the guy knew what he was doing. Maybe he left a valve open, or broke something. What bothers me is the unit was running flawlessly for the 5 years we've been here.

    I've got another local outfit scheduled to check the system next week.

    I appreciate the help, I'll post a followup next week.

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