Air handler cleaning service....should I do it?
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  1. #1
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    Jan 2009
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    Air handler cleaning service....should I do it?

    I have a Lennox system. It is variable speed fan and a two speed compressor. Recently upon my annual inspection my tech said the handler fan blower was dirty and proceeded to sell me a package that involved him removing the blower to clean in. It also involved cleaning coils both inside and outside as well as calibrate the system and replace any capacitors or wire ends that were corroded or needed it. My system seems to work ok but the dirt on the fan I nasty. The system is 10 years old. My question is, should be be done as normal maintenance or is it unnecessary? I ask because it's quite expensive but have no problem with it if it's standard maintenance for unit and personal health.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
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    Lancaster PA
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    Pics of it would help. Depends how dirty it is, it may be well worth it or not.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    Round Rock
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    I think you said the fan was nasty. If it was pretty disgusting. Chances are you need the blower wheel and evaporator coil cleaned. If it's nasty enough and the motor is pretty clogged. You might be replacing it soon as well. Changing those $3 filters regularly would have prevented this from happening and saved a few $$$.
    I like DIY'ers. They pay better to fix.

  4. #4
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    Not sure what to say about the filters. This unit uses a box filter. Since I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy, the box filter has been changed religiously every 6-12 months, depending on how dirty it is. I ALSO install a cheap fiberglass filter in my air return every 30 days to catch the big stuff.

    So...filters didn't seem to cause this. I have had a service contract on the unit since the day it was installed that included checking/replacing filters and coolant charge twice a year..once in the spring and once in the fall. I have animals, so I am usually the one that inspects the air handler filter between service visits to make sure it doesnt need an interim change. I was told it was perfectly normal for a 10 year old unit. Whether thats true or not, I don't know.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jed1154 View Post
    Not sure what to say about the filters. This unit uses a box filter. Since I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy, the box filter has been changed religiously every 6-12 months, depending on how dirty it is. I ALSO install a cheap fiberglass filter in my air return every 30 days to catch the big stuff.

    So...filters didn't seem to cause this.
    Is it a mold growth? Can you post a picture?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jed1154 View Post
    Not sure what to say about the filters. This unit uses a box filter. Since I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy, the box filter has been changed religiously every 6-12 months, depending on how dirty it is. I ALSO install a cheap fiberglass filter in my air return every 30 days to catch the big stuff.

    So...filters didn't seem to cause this. I have had a service contract on the unit since the day it was installed that included checking/replacing filters and coolant charge twice a year..once in the spring and once in the fall. I have animals, so I am usually the one that inspects the air handler filter between service visits to make sure it doesnt need an interim change.
    May not be as nasty as you think then. I've serviced units where I change the box filters on customers houses every 6 months. The stuff is spotless 10 years later. Post some pics.
    I like DIY'ers. They pay better to fix.

  7. #7
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  8. #8
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    Jan 2009
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    I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but based on what I scientifically reasoned out in my head, and what you have told me, coupled with the fact that my cell phone has never taken that clear and good a picture in complete darkness, even with a light, it seems to me that perhaps a panel pull and visual inspection by the homeowner (me) is in order before scheduling and committing to it. :/

    Cause that picture looks absolutely filthy. Now...I am not the original homeowner, but I DID transfer the warranty and service from the exact same company, and their records have shown that the service has been done twice a year every year because they supplied a warranty with this unit for 10 years that required it.

    That's neither here nor there. If its that dirty I assume it's worth paying up and letting them clean it. However I'm a little concerned about dirt if you say it should be clean with filter changes.

  9. #9
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    Jan 2006
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    Powell River, BC, Canada
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    At that age with 'less than optimal' changes of cheap filters I see lots of units in about that condition. IF the filtration is as you say (2 filters, one a 4-5" pleated) and have been maintained as often as stated for the entire time, then you must have major return air leaks after the filter or air bypassing the filter. That amount of crud on the blower is probably cutting it's efficiency by about 30%, and if the blower looks like that the coil must be nasty too. Either way it needs cleaning. And my blackberry takes surprisingly good pictures at that range even in the dark.
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  10. #10
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    Jan 2009
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    Fair enough. Shouldn't my tech make mention of leaks or something other than "it's totally normal for a 10 year unit, even with filter changes?"

    Should I bring it up and ask them to look for leaks or something?

    Either way, the service comes with a 1 year 'deal' where they come back and re-inspect to make sure its clean at that time. That should provide the answer.

    I think you guys are on to something with the bypassing of the filter. I know the last time I checked the filter personally, they had slightly crushed it putting it in, which would create a less than optimal seal (imagine a 'V' across the top), and since there isnt much of a filter in the return, judging by what it DOES collect, there is a lot to make it past and be deposited on the blower and then coil. Ill have him clean it up and the coils.

    There is not much that can leak 'after the box filter' in this unit that would not be glaringly obvious to a novice tech. I mean, the blower is just about right next to the filter in a giant metal box, so the air must be bypassing it from poor installation. I have cats and dogs inside, and while my place is vacuumed twice a week, that little fiberglass filter is caked after a month of service. Before freaking out, Ill let them clean it, and get my free re-evaluation after a year from them. If its clean at that time, then its probably safe to assume it was poor maintenance sometime during the period I was not the owner...which was most of its life.

  11. #11
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    I crawled up and took a look. Sheesh...the pics the tech sent and I posted here look BETTER than it does in person...pretty gross. Coil...however, is shiny clean...wierd.

    The screw holes are rusted out on the access panels, so they don't all hold tight. I am more than certain that this is where the post filter air leaks are coming from. There is no other place for it to leak.

    I will see if the tech can re-drill holes so it sets tight. Thanks folks.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmathews View Post
    May not be as nasty as you think then. I've serviced units where I change the box filters on customers houses every 6 months. The stuff is spotless 10 years later. Post some pics.
    taht's what I was thinking. Heck, the 8 year old unit in my attic has all sorts of leaks in th return and the blower didn't look too bad when I checked it out just after I moved in. Now the ID fan... that's might be different. It's piped inside the attic. I guess a co-axial pipe was too expensive of an option.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jed1154 View Post
    I crawled up and took a look. Sheesh...the pics the tech sent and I posted here look BETTER than it does in person...pretty gross. Coil...however, is shiny clean...wierd.

    The screw holes are rusted out on the access panels, so they don't all hold tight. I am more than certain that this is where the post filter air leaks are coming from. There is no other place for it to leak.

    I will see if the tech can re-drill holes so it sets tight. Thanks folks.
    Just using larger sheetmetal screws might work too.

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