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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Pacific NW, USA
    Posts
    4

    HVAC install that's never worked properly - Please help.

    Hi all-

    Let me say on the outset, while I'm very upset about this situation, I'm not going to name any names. I'm primarily concerned about getting my issue resolved with as little cost to my family as possible. I'll also say that, while I'm slightly handy, this is not remotely my field if expertise and I always hire folks to do this kind of work when I'm out of my league. In the world of HVAC, I'm way out of my league.

    The basics: I live in Portland, OR in the Pacific NW. My home, built in 1926, consists of 2 stories and the basement. I did a big construction project at my house in 2006/07, a large basement remodel, and as part of the remodel we installed a new HVAC system consisting of the following:

    - American Standard Heritage 16 Heat Pump
    - American Standard Freedom 90 Comfort-R Variable Speed Furnace
    - American Standard Accuclean Whole House Air Filtration System

    The ducting was also reworked to allow for greater headroom in the basement, which was the room being renovated. This was not a budget build out and the materials used were good throughout as far as I know. The ducting rework was gone over by the architects, the general contractor and, presumably, the HVAC sub-contractor hired by the general, who will remain unnamed. To account for the loss of large ducts, they decided to use multiple smaller pancake (rectangular) ducts that would replicate the same volume of air as the larger ducts that were being replaced.

    I think it's worth noting that at the end of my project I was left with no documentation re: the units except for the basic manuals. I had no contact info for the company who did the HVAC install and no offer of any extended parts or service warranty. I don't know whether to ding the contractor or the sub for this, but it left me with very little info about my units and who to turn to with any issues.

    To attempt to summarize, the system has never properly worked for any length of time, primarily in summer when we need to maintain cooler temps in the house. The initial obvious failing was that the 2nd story didn't cool at all - low/no air pressure and zero affect on the space. However, after living with it a while it was also apparent that the first floor only cooled moderately well and that the unit's performance was hit and miss. I live in the Pacific NW and hot days here are pretty mild compared to most of the country, so this was surprising having grown up in Alabama with AC units being punished and performing all day. The basement has almost always cooled well, but it's got the shortest run from the ducting, the best insulation and close proximity to the unit, so that was less surprising.

    The company who did the install has been onsite several times a year (3-10 times a year, easily) since 2007 trying to make the unit work as spec'd. The system sometimes seems to work for a short stint, but then always fails to maintain any sort of consistent performance – cooling struggles or failure, heating failures, etc... When the tech comes on site, there's always some small discovery of this or that that should hopefully help things, but nothing every makes a huge, lasting improvement and before long I'm on the phone calling them again. The upstairs has never cooled properly, even after the installation of a dedicated thermostat (something not done during the initial work) and finishing/insulating the two remaining unfinished attic spaces, the only remaining factor that could have accounted for an "un-cool-able" space.

    It's worth noting that all of these above calls to the company and all of their visits resulted in no bills or service fees, just a constant stream of problems and them coming on-site to try and troubleshoot some more. It's also worth noting that I've never received any documentation of the work being done, so I can't offer you specific details of the unit's history.

    Last year between July-Dec. 2010 the heat wouldn’t work and the tech had to force the furnace to stay on, as opposed to the heat pump being utilized when "heavy lifting" wasn't needed. During this episode of troubleshooting, 3 years after its initial install and countless calls for service, the tech finally found a manufacturing defect - a bad welding joint in the "indoor coil" that was evidently causing a leak that he'd never been able to find before. He replaced the part in the heat pump and the unit did a fine job of heating the house the remainder of winter. There was talk at the time of the unit being out of warranty, but they said they'd be able to get the parts taken care of, but not the labor for some reason. However, nothing ever came of that - No bill, no paperwork, no nothing. I was puzzled as to why I should have to pay for service on a part that was evidently defective from the factory and that had been missed during all of the repeated service calls I had made over the years, but I wasn't being offered options. Regardless, no bill ever arrived and my newborn son (now 15 months old) was all I could really focus on during this time period.

    Fast forward to the start of spring & summer 2011 and turning the unit on to cool the house for the first time. Nothing. No air pushing out the vents, no unit spinning up outside. Dead like a brick. After a couple of service calls and tech visits, the unit worked on the basement and first floor for approx. 3 days and then stopped again. The outside unit wouldn't spin up at all. Ironically and likely not coincidentally, maybe 1-2 days after this failure, I finally get the bill from the company for the July-Dec. 2010 services for over $XXX in labor for the replacement of the defective part. This bill also had the first formal offer I had seen of a 10 year parts and warranty for the unit (AAYWAR0362). There had been some talk of an extended warranty being offered to me during the July-Dec. 2010 time period, but nothing was ever formally emailed or mailed to me.

    I then decided to take a bit of time deciding how to proceed before having them continue to service the unit.

    I now have a $XXX bill, a dead HVAC unit and very little certainty of why this system is so completely unable to deal with the most basic of cooling or heating tasks without regular visits throughout the year from a tech. The fixes never seem to stick for very long and if they do, I'm not at all sure what the technician does one season doesn't completely undermine the config for the following season. Is it unreasonable to expect to not have to call this company for over a year with a service issue?

    I'll now take a moment to apologize if I seem like I'm ranting. As a consumer, I feel quite helpless here and I'm not sure what I should have done differently through these passing years since the unit’s installation. I'm uncertain if the unit is a lemon, if the tech isn't well suited to service the unit or if something was botched during the installation in such a way that no one would every be able to get it to work properly. I feel it’s important to note, I don't mind paying to appliances serviced. I understand appliances need TLC and I understand that people's time is valuable, but this situation feels unreasonable and has been extremely time consuming and stressful.

    Now I’ll pause and note, I drafted the original post above about 2 weeks ago or so to help collect my thoughts and then decided it was best to wait to post it. On July 24th, 2011 I sent the HVAC company an email outlining the situation from my perspective. I let them know I felt re: their services, my family’s frustrations and asked if they thought it was unusual for a unit to perform so poorly. At the end of the email, I asked that they waive the $XXX+ in labor charges for replacing the defective part and said that if they would do so, I’d be happy to immediately purchase the 10-year parts and labor warranty. My hope would be that having the warranty in place would allow me to use a different company that I could feel confident was actually capable of troubleshooting what sounds like a complex issue and/or, a faulty installation. Unfortunately, I’ve lost confidence in this companies ability to problem solve and I’m concerned something was perhaps fundamentally flawed in the installation that isn’t really understood by them or perhaps just not being disclosed. Unfortunately, it's hard to say at this point.

    I could really benefit from some perspective about how some of you might have handled the situation and how I might be able to handle it moving forward. I am uncertain what to do and also very skeptical that any real solution can be found by this company. I feel like my next steps are locating a trusted, dependable local company with a proven track record to come out, evaluate and document the system and then hopefully transition my system’s care to them. In the meantime, it’s 80+ degrees outside and my HVAC is still dead, so we’re using window units upstairs…

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for your time.
    Last edited by Stamas; 08-03-2011 at 06:35 PM. Reason: Removed Pricing

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    354
    sometimes in life, whether it be a car problem, a plumbing problem, a medical problem, having a second set of eyes looking at an issue , can be a good thing! jmho'
    years ago i had a guy fixing my van, allways something, so one day had a front brake job, that turned into a project, gave him a BIG check$ then had a problem on the way home with the brakes! i NEVER went back there again!, saw someone else,and that guy has been taking care of my van ever since, jmho.good luck.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Southeastern Pa
    Posts
    19,571
    It might not be a bad idea to have a nice long talk with the manufactures customer service people, and have the district rep come out and see if he can go over the records with the company and then meet with you regarding a resolution.
    HTH.
    [Avatar photo from a Florida training accident. Everyone walked away.]
    2 Tim 3:16-17

    RSES CMS, HVAC Electrical Specialist

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Under a bridge if things don't pick-up
    Posts
    397
    I've got to draw the line somewhere. This OP is way to long to read.
    Don't go away angry... Just go away.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    354

    Hmm

    Quote Originally Posted by HoneyDo View Post
    I've got to draw the line somewhere. This OP is way to long to read.
    ya have to read it in sections!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    831
    The long and the short is it has never worked right. Duct work in the basement was remade and the top floor doesn't cool. Now the system doesn't work right at all. Techs have been in and out looking at it and the home owner has a 700 dollar labor bill for replacing a factory defective heat exchanger. He also believes he is missing paper work for the work done.

    I still say timebuilders got the best idea. Call American Standard with your problem. Have a rep come out and look at everything.
    Get money, get paid.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    354

    Hmm

    Quote Originally Posted by RayD8630 View Post
    The long and the short is it has never worked right. Duct work in the basement was remade and the top floor doesn't cool. Now the system doesn't work right at all. Techs have been in and out looking at it and the home owner has a 700 dollar labor bill for replacing a factory defective heat exchanger. He also believes he is missing paper work for the work done.

    I still say timebuilders got the best idea. Call American Standard with your problem. Have a rep come out and look at everything.
    the other thing the post says iis this install was 2006/2007, 4-5 years ago.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Pacific NW, USA
    Posts
    4
    I'd like to thank you guys for the feedback so far. It's been very helpful.

    I certainly apologize for the length of the post. I participate on a number of technical forums for my trade, audio engineering, and I know there's a fine line between not enough info and too much. I personally prefer too much when attempting to assist folks with troubleshooting.

    Re: the paperwork - there's is none They've provided no documentation of any of their services prior to the $XXX bill.

    Anyhow, thanks for the thoughts. I went to the AS website and found a certified service group they recommend. They're willing to come out and evaluate the entire system for $XX which I'm more than happy to pay. Hopefully I'll get a better idea of what is actually going on and what can be done going forward.

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by Stamas; 08-03-2011 at 06:37 PM. Reason: Removed Pricing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Under a bridge if things don't pick-up
    Posts
    397
    Ha! Thanks for the synopsis guys.

    It may be tough collecting on one that was installed 4-5 years ago. It comes across as "it was good enough to this point" now warranty is coming up and I need attention right NOW!

    But I'm rooting for you. Keep posting follow-ups please.
    Don't go away angry... Just go away.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    354

    Hmm

    Quote Originally Posted by HoneyDo View Post
    Ha! Thanks for the synopsis guys.

    It may be tough collecting on one that was installed 4-5 years ago. It comes across as "it was good enough to this point" now warranty is coming up and I need attention right NOW!
    YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

    GOT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    5,035
    Somewhere in his post he indicted they used two ducts to replace one, & they were flat & wide.

    Well, that has to be figured right or there will not be near enough duct capacity.

    E.G., two rd 8" ducts equate the carrying capacity of one 16" rd duct; wrong!

    One 8" is 50.26-sq.ins, two 8" ducts is 100.52-sq.ins., one 16" rd is 201-sq.ins.
    16"*16"= 256 * .7854= 201-sq.ins.

    Then U go to a different flat configuration & U lose even more...

    The duct designer's appear to have messed-up big-time.
    Last edited by udarrell; 08-03-2011 at 06:09 PM. Reason: Clarity

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Southeastern Pa
    Posts
    19,571
    Quote Originally Posted by udarrell View Post
    Somewhere in his post he indicted they used two ducts to replace one, & they were flat & wide.

    Well, that has to be figured right or there will not be near enough duct capacity.

    E.G., two rd 8" ducts equate the carrying capacity of one 16" rd duct; wrong!

    One 8" is 50.26-sq.ins, two 8" ducts is 100.52-sq.ins., one 16" rd is 201-sq.ins.
    16"*16"= 256 * .7854= 201-sq.ins.

    Then U go to a different flat configuration & U lose even more...

    The duct designer's appear to have messed-up big-time.
    As soon as I read the part about the duct redesign, I said to myself that it must have created a big problem.
    [Avatar photo from a Florida training accident. Everyone walked away.]
    2 Tim 3:16-17

    RSES CMS, HVAC Electrical Specialist

    AOP Forum Rules:







  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Delaware
    Posts
    3,824
    Has anyone ever measured the static pressure? I realize the furnace is a variable speed but sounds like the duct is too small. Has anyone ever put a flow hood on any vents. I used to hire independent balancing contractors to balance commercial projects. They give you a good price after a while, but they aren't that expensive in the first place on this small residential project, but back to my thoughts. Go hire a company that is licensed as a certified air balancing contractor and have them come out and just take the reading (air) of each vent on the top floor (or the whole house). It will not cost you an arm and a leg. Me, I would want them to use a digital flow hood. When this is complete hire another company (Your utility co may have this service for free) to check the duct system for leaks. This is when you use a test instrument called a "Duct Blaster" (google that) it will tell you how tight or "sealed" your duct system is. When you present these findings to the general contractor and HVAC contractor they will know your serious. They will also realize they are possibly at fault. You only need evidence of the systems inadequate performance and documentation to prove it. You don't need to know how to repair it. They do. Also this info makes it easy to pass off to your attorney. You need experts telling you it's not working, your vote is not as strong as their's.
    Last edited by energy star; 08-03-2011 at 09:38 PM.
    Always here

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