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Thread: No refrigerant in system?

  1. #1
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    Angry No refrigerant in system?

    I'm a home inspector and recently performed a visual only home inspection (operated thermostat, checked splits). The AC appeared to be functioning properly (10 yr old packed unit). The seller gets home later and finds the AC isn't working, and had an HVAC technician evaluate and determined the system was completely out of refrigerant. Since the HVAC technician did not find indications of a refrigerant leak, the seller's conclusion was that I drained/removed the refrigerant from the system! Obviously I didn't do such a thing, nor would even know how to if I wanted to. My question is though: if the tech couldn't find a leak, what other explanation would there be for a system with no refrigerant??

  2. #2
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    What did the tech do to find a leak? I'm assuming he did a pressure test.

    I don't think the refrigerant could leave the system and then reseal itself, I can't think of a way that's possible.

    Perhaps someone else did take it? seems unlikely though, Doubt there's much money in recovered refrigerant.

  3. #3
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    Depends on how he checked for a leak.

    Some techs will mistakenly say a system is completely out of charge, even when there is some left in it. Just because its very low.

    Other will say that, just so they get to charge more money.
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  4. #4
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    If he puts 200 PSI of nitro in there and it stays at 200 PSI for 20 minutes, i'll be surprised.

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  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by homeinspector2 View Post
    I'm a home inspector and recently performed a visual only home inspection (operated thermostat, checked splits). The AC appeared to be functioning properly (10 yr old packed unit). The seller gets home later and finds the AC isn't working, and had an HVAC technician evaluate and determined the system was completely out of refrigerant. Since the HVAC technician did not find indications of a refrigerant leak, the seller's conclusion was that I drained/removed the refrigerant from the system! Obviously I didn't do such a thing, nor would even know how to if I wanted to. My question is though: if the tech couldn't find a leak, what other explanation would there be for a system with no refrigerant??
    You probably turned the AC on and the compressor didn't run but the outdoor and indoor fans did. If you don't have an ear for that you might not catch it. and unless its hot outside/in the house the air moving through the vents can feel cold. Unless you tested the air temp?

    I despise home inspectors since myself and customers talk about all the crap they miss just about every damn day....

    That said, I'm glad you posted here. But I wish it was under the guise of learning things so you could be better at your job, instead of your in hot water how could this be....

    If you don't have any intentions of learning more about the systems you inspect than do yourself and the customers a favor and advise them your no expert and they should contact an HVAC company independently....ANd probably a plumber and an electrician....

  7. #6
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    That's very kind, Troll Jacob. The compressor kicked on and the loosely measured home inspector differential was 18-20. I also noted the system was aged and should be serviced by a professional. The reason for my post was to understand why there'd be no refrigerant in the system (that's me trying to learn, and to be better at my job).

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  9. #7
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    best you can do is report your findings that the system had a near 20F temp drop supply to return. your notes show you did not use any refrigerant testing methods, so you do not check refrigerant.
    it obviously had refrigerant at the time of inspection, evidenced by the temp drop.
    speculating where refrigerant went is not your job. but since the unit is outside, ANYBODY could have drained it after the inspection was complete.
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  10. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by homeinspector2 View Post
    That's very kind, Troll Jacob. The compressor kicked on and the loosely measured home inspector differential was 18-20. I also noted the system was aged and should be serviced by a professional. The reason for my post was to understand why there'd be no refrigerant in the system (that's me trying to learn, and to be better at my job).
    Nothing troll about it! Thats me being sick and tired of following behind home inspectors that don't know squat about what they are doing and misleading new home buyers.

    But sadly, the few that do actually try to do their job well end up not getting called out by real estate agents.

    SO your in a pickle. Or what I refer to as a learning experience. Personally, I would pay out of my pocket to have another HVAC guy come out and confirm the situation.

    Truth is, There is HVAC guys that know as much as you do in the field holding trade school at customer's houses.

    Really only a couple things that could be happening.

    1. Your temp probe is wrong or you read it wrong.

    2. Someone knew the system was badly leaking and filled it up a day or so before you got there.

    3. Someone actually came and removed, let the refrigerant out while the house was unoccupied.

    4. tech that came didn't know what he was doing. The system is actually full of refrigerant but needs kind valve cracked to read it or he didn't have his hose shutoff turned on, compressor not running due to bad capacitor.

    One thing I do to cover my butt is wear a body camera. Might be a good investment to record everything you do on an inspection "Just in case" your accused of stealing the leach field! Cause people are getting really weird

  11. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jacob-k View Post
    Nothing troll about it! Thats me being sick and tired of following behind home inspectors that don't know squat about what they are doing and misleading new home buyers.

    But sadly, the few that do actually try to do their job well end up not getting called out by real estate agents.

    SO your in a pickle. Or what I refer to as a learning experience. Personally, I would pay out of my pocket to have another HVAC guy come out and confirm the situation.

    Truth is, There is HVAC guys that know as much as you do in the field holding trade school at customer's houses.

    Really only a couple things that could be happening.

    1. Your temp probe is wrong or you read it wrong.

    2. Someone knew the system was badly leaking and filled it up a day or so before you got there.

    3. Someone actually came and removed, let the refrigerant out while the house was unoccupied.

    4. tech that came didn't know what he was doing. The system is actually full of refrigerant but needs kind valve cracked to read it or he didn't have his hose shutoff turned on, compressor not running due to bad capacitor.

    One thing I do to cover my butt is wear a body camera. Might be a good investment to record everything you do on an inspection "Just in case" your accused of stealing the leach field! Cause people are getting really weird
    Telling it like it is!

  12. #10
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    Really depends on where this is happening. Kids huff refrigerant and vacant homes are targets. Are there locking caps on the service valves?
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    Apostle Paul inspired by GOD.

  13. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by homeinspector2 View Post
    That's very kind, Troll Jacob. The compressor kicked on and the loosely measured home inspector differential was 18-20. I also noted the system was aged and should be serviced by a professional. The reason for my post was to understand why there'd be no refrigerant in the system (that's me trying to learn, and to be better at my job).
    Sounds like you did what your supposed to.
    If you recommended that it be snow inspected prior to purchase, was that performed?

  14. #12
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    last time I heard, HIs dont fool with going into the unit, so couldn't cause a leak. we get blamed all time for stuff that's coincidental.

    If it lost that quickly, like others said, should be easy to find if you bother to look. we don't know that the guy even checked for leak, or well. Maybe just said buy new one and you're getting half the story
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