A NATE certified tech from a local American Standard recommended heating/cooling just left. He went into the crawl space and did a 1.5 hour eval of the system just getting a quick overview of what he saw. Here's the bullet points he's pointed out to me:
* Duct tape used on much of the ducting. In fact, when tech gently touched a duct to point out the duct taping, while I watched, it fell to the ground of the crawlspace. It was barely handing on.
* Ducting is installed questionably with some runs laying on the ground of crawlspace.
* The system has 8 dampers and requires two transformers to function properly without overloading. However, only a single transformer was installed and it therefore cannot properly power zoning system, which would lead to failure.
* The panel had previously died and been replaced on 2/11/09. We received no bill for this and it was covered under warranty presumably, despite having been incorrectly installed. Let me also add - this was not fine print stuff. It clearly states on the panel and in the install instructions "if using more than 4 dampers, 2 transformers must be installed."
* The single transformer that's currently in there is fried.
* The unit's circuit board was never properly modified @ install to operate with multiple stages.
* Unit is a two speed, but was never correctly config'd for 2 speed, so it cannot operate correctly when low fan speed is on and high cool is on, only when high fan speed and high cool are on.
* Sloppy wiring, several loose terminations.
Next steps would be for the tech to check out some schematics, get up to speed on how things are config'd and start mapping out the system and actually understanding how it's put together.
After that he'd have to start rectifying the obvious issues - replace the dead transformer and add a second transformer so the panel can actually work as specified, clean up ducting installation, check condition of the unit, etc... I was able to pull out photos of the construction process and luckily the ducting runs in the ceiling look clean and not compressed in some way that would make them fail in an obvious way. Whether or not capacity was properly calculated remains to be seen.
At this point it's obviously clear I've been getting screwed for years. It boggles the mind why a company would do such a hack install and create a system doomed to fail and then keep coming out and trying to get it to work again and again, but I'll have to assume they didn't really have a choice.
I'm kind of excited that there's a simple explanation as to why it's never performed correctly though
Thanks for all of the feedback thus far. I've found all of the suggestions re: system measurements very interesting and I wish I was dealing with problems that far upstream. Unfortunately, things are much more fundamentally wrong at this point.
It looks like I am a little late to the party but if you need any help I own Sky Heating & Air Conditioning located in the Sellwood Area of Portland and we are a Certified Trane Comfort Specialist(same as american standard equipment, both are made by the same people in the same factory) Portland General Electric heat pump certified, NW Natural gas certified and much more. It sounds like somebody has already got you started and I don't want you to jump ship in the middle of getting things fixed but we are here in case you need us. Our information is on the contractor locator map or www. my user name here .com will also have our info. Good luck in your servicing.