soft solder vs brazing AC line sets
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    46
    Please help a consumer.

    I have a four ton Lennox A/C and Lennox furnace that was manufactured in 2000 the same year my house was built. In 08/05 my A/C started freezing up. The tech that worked on my system stated the contractor that installed my system used "soft" solder on the line set of the A/C. The flux that is used when "soft" soldering is acid based and this acid corrodes a closed refrigeration system. After injecting an approved dye the next day the tech showed me multiple pin hole leaks in the condenser coil and two of the "soft" soldered joints were leaking as well.

    I contacted the contractor that installed my system. He used "Stay-Brite" solder, and said Lennox recommends this solder.

    I contacted Lennox, they do not recommend any solder, except that the line should be brazed. "Stay-Brite" is not a brazing solder according to the Harris website.

    I had another Lennox dealer inspect the system and he stated the contractor that installed the system is not supposed to use "Stay-Brite", and should have used braze rod.

    I had a Trane dealer give me an estimate for system replacement and he indicated the work done by the installing contractor should not have passed inspection.

    I am trying to resolve this issue with the contractor that installed my system. Who is telling me the truth? Is there any type of text book that would indicate the proper procedure for soldering AC line sets? Does anyone have any recommendations on what recourse I should take.

    Please help the Minnesota guy hunting for the truth.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Location
    Upstate, SC
    Posts
    2,919
    Not sure I can say, but I seen stay brite used for several years and never ran into the problems you describe. We used to have a contractor who used soft solder around town and we had all sorts of problems with leaks on heat pumps he installed, but the straight a/c's held up pretty well. But that was plumbing solder, not stay brite. I have never heard of the flux eating up the coils, but I guess it could happen with any flux, if you let it enter the system. Anyway, after 5 years, I don't know that you are going to have much recourse except pay someone to make the needed repairs. Afterall, if the flux and solder were the main problem, I'd think you would be having problem with more than one of the four systems.

    Bobby

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Rapid City, SD
    Posts
    7,414
    I know a lot of people use the solder instead of the brazing rod.

    If done properly you shouldn't have any problems with the solder. No different than if they did a really poor job with brazing rod you could have some big problems too.

    No doubt about it, the flux creates acid inside the system, thats why you go the extra distance to make sure none ever gets in there when you do it.

    I hate to say it, but after 5 years I kinda doubt there's much you can do about it in a legal mannor anyway. If you contact the company and they're good to deal with they might help you out getting something fixed up and replaced.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    108
    On 2 of my rent houses the hvac people used plumbers silver solder, that was 12 years ago and never had any problems with those particular units. Now another rent house that was brazed did have a compressor go out after a year, but dont know if it was related or not.

  5. #5
    A proper "Stay-Brite" or "Brazed" joint will create no problems.

    Like bobby stated, you'd be having problems with more than 1 out of 4. That's only 25%...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    204
    Silver solder is to be used on many , many units. Any time your joining together steel to copper, or copper to brass, silver solder has to be used. So lets not get soft solder confused with silver solder. And you are required to use a special flux with that solder. So i am not to sure about the claim of flux creating enough acid in the system to cause damage. I guess anything is plausable.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Posts
    3,400
    What does Trane use to fasten copper to aluminum on their outdoor units?

    Hint: It melts way below 840 degrees F.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Ft.Worth,Tx
    Posts
    4,584
    Stay-Brite flux and silver solder depends on the % amount really..

    But, I only use 15% silver with small amount of flux unless I am repairing TXV or bullet driers,then I also use silver solder.Has worked well for me for 20+ years..No leak problems yet..If nitrogen is used when brazing most of time I have great welds, maybe if I'm tired I might miss one but catch it with micron gauge and vacuum..
    "Everyday above ground, is a good day".
    "But everyday that you have made a difference in someones life, may insure you stay above ground a little longer".<aircooled>

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Rapid City, SD
    Posts
    7,414
    Just to make things clear I think he only has 1 4 ton unit, not 4 units.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    46
    This is correct, I have a (one) 4 ton unit.

    I appreciate the feedback from everyone. Although it seems a bit strange that everyone that has posted thus far hasn't seen or heard of any problems with "soft" soldering line sets.

    I have contacted over 20 contractors in my area, they all braze the line set joints and do not/would never use Stay-Brite on line sets. Almost all of the contractors have either seen or heard of my situation elsewhere.

    I have confirmation from an inspector that this work should not have passed inspection.

    I have asked an instructor at a technical college for any text book references or documentation regarding this situation.

    There seems to be a lot of mixed information available.

    Again, I would appreciate any help.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    46
    In contacting Lennox they recommend a solder with a content of silver between 5% and 15%. Stay-Brite has a silver content of 3.4% to 3.8% according to the Harris website.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    424
    Like someone said before soft soldering is different then silver soldering. A 4 year old ac unit was it 410 system or r22 unit. Probaly 22 silver solder is fine with r 22 and works fine with 410 systems as well. Some oem do not want flux from silver soldered joints to get in with there compressor oil. Brazing rods actually have some flux in them also. Oem also dont want dye in there either. Staybrite has a staybrite 8 that is 8% silver. Sometimes people brazing create a weaker joint brazing then using a silver solder. It might be a local code in your area.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    burlington county n.j.
    Posts
    9,683
    lennox install manual says 5or 6% silver bearing alloy to BRAZE copper to copper joints. staybrite is not mentioned for use in the manual.

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