Central A/C question

My first posting to this group. As a layman, I'd like to get some general info from the knowledgeable. Since moving into my newly built house 13 years ago, my central A/C cooled well and electric bills were never too high. In San Diego we dont run the A/C more than 4 to 6 weeks per year.
I've always been in the habit of feeling the larger, cold fitting when walking by the back yard unit to check the coldness. Nice and cold until a few days ago. It then was only somewhat cool and had a little oily substance on the cold fitting. I turned off the A/C right away until I can get it checked. From what I gathered lurking here, a tech needs to at least evacuate the entire system, ensure there are no leaks, and recharge with brand new freon. I have some questions...
1) Generally, how much should I expect to spend if thats all that is needed? Its a long run from the back yard compressor to the attic furnace system towards the front of the two story house.
2) How do I find a reputable company with competent technicians?
3) Any other periodic maintenance that should be done?
4) From day one, the lines in the outside wall by the back yard unit have occasionally produce a pressure-relief-like swishing sound that lasts for about 20 seconds. Is that bad?
5) Are service rates seasonal? Higher rates in the summer?
Thanks to the group.
Jerry
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A 13 year old home is not "newly". Its more like "oldly" now. How are you cooling your "well" and your "electric bills?"

Uhhhmmm, Im not a rocket scientist here but if you make a habit of feeling larger cold fittings, then you've got a much bigger problem that what you think you have. Might I recommend grabbing a nice pair of breasts instead?

It doesnt need to be evacuated if it hasnt been running in a vaccum. Although you will need to find the leak and repair it which would require an evacuation...............unless you dump some leak sealing product into it.

Generally.......between $100 and $6000. That close enough?

Then Id suggest you walk.

Ask friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers how satisfied they are with their HVAC company.

Yes, A "tune-up" Once in the spring and once in the fall for the furnace and air conditioner.

Dont know. Could you send a tape of that sound? We could have it analyzed at the FBI-HVAC lab and get back with you.

Sure you can get seasonal rates. In the off season, we dont pay as much for our gasoline, truck payments, vehicle insurance, health insurance, groceries, Schools, taxes and all our other operating expenses so we would be happy to do your work for free during the "off" season.

Your welcome, Bubba
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You need a psychological evaluation.

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I see. This newsgroup is actually an exercise in flaming.
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C'mon Jerry, you said you've been lurking here for a while... and you seem surprised???
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You're right.
Murdentech wrote:

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Sounds like somebody forgot their flame-proof underpanties. Bubba
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Jerry, This is NOT a Flame! You will need some knowledge in this field before you will know the qualifying questions to ask potential contractors' & their techs. However, be careful or you will tick them off! - udarrell
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I've always been in the habit of feeling the larger, cold fitting when walking by the back yard unit to check the coldness. CY: As you'd noticed, a good running AC has enough cooling power to cool both the house, and also the cold refrigerant helps cool the compressor.
Nice and cold until a few days ago. It then was only somewhat cool and had a little oily substance on the cold fitting. I turned off the A/C right away until I can get it checked. CY: That's a cautious approach.
From what I gathered lurking here, a tech needs to at least evacuate the entire system, ensure there are no leaks, and recharge with brand new freon. I have some questions... CY: From what you write, I'd expect a tech to use a leak detector while the freon was still in the system. See if he can detect a leak. After beeping to find a leak, then put the gages on and see what pressures, superheat, adn so on. And, then, remove the freon and fix the leak if a leak was found.
1) Generally, how much should I expect to spend if thats all that is needed? Its a long run from the back yard compressor to the attic furnace system towards the front of the two story house. CY: Trip charge, plus labor, plus probably five or six pounds of freon. Wild guess would be $300.
2) How do I find a reputable company with competent technicians? CY: Ask your neighbors and friends who they use, and if they are happy wtih the service.
3) Any other periodic maintenance that should be done? CY: Change the air filter. Have a tech check the freon level in the spring, and clean the condensor every couple years.
4) From day one, the lines in the outside wall by the back yard unit have occasionally produce a pressure-relief-like swishing sound that lasts for about 20 seconds. Is that bad? CY: If it happens when the outdoor unit shuts off, that's just the pressures equalizing.
5) Are service rates seasonal? Higher rates in the summer? CY: Yes, I'd expect so.
Thanks to the group.
Jerry
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What if the problem isn't caused by a leak??

5 or 6 pounds of refrigerant?? What about the actual repairs?? What about a new filter dryer?? What about torch and filler rod?? What about evacuating the system down to 400 microns??

ummmm Chris, ya think it might be a heat pump?? or might be grossly overcharged?? or both??

Nope... rates are the same but they can be adjusted depending on the customers attitude.

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when
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fix
What if the problem isn't caused by a leak?? CY: you ask a freon based question, you get a freon based answer.

is
5 or 6 pounds of refrigerant?? CY: As this is usenet, it's not possible to know precisely how much.
What about the actual repairs?? What about a new filter dryer?? What about torch and filler rod?? What about evacuating the system down to 400 microns?? CY: All those are included in "plus labor".

happy
ummmm Chris, ya think it might be a heat pump?? or might be grossly overcharged?? or both?? CY: Very possible. From his "I shut it right down" it didn't sound like he'd had soemone else working on it. So, grossly overcharged is unlikely.

Nope... rates are the same but they can be adjusted depending on the customers attitude.

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Since when does "material" fall under "labor"? One is taxable, the other isn't.
Do we throw N2 in "plus labor" as well?
CY = Clueless Yapper
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All are included as seperate line items, and each has its own fees. But then you don't have a clue about the business of doing business. You just want to give it all away for free. I can't help it if you don't charge enough and leave WAYYYYYY too much money on the table.

Actually here in Mississippi its *all* taxable

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First, you're wasting your time by expecting any reasonable response from this newsgroup. You probably already know this but were hoping that one of the more reasonable posters would weigh in. Paul the cat hag must be on vacation or he would have told you to post elsewhere or try to sell you a CD of his pedestrian keyboard playing or simplistic PDA programming.
I don't know where you live but Angie's List can be a good resource of reviews for local providers (HVAC and other trades). My guess is that folks like Bubba (assuming that he even finds any HVAC work to do) would probably rate out a solid 'D' or so. Angie's List can be flawed but it does weeds out some of the idiots (Bubba).
Good luck. This newsgroup doesn't exist to really help anyone. You should know better but good luck.
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Your clueless

How does this diferentiate you from any of the other flamers? DOH!

This is not a Homeowner helpline... Try alt.home.repair
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Oh Goodie, Goodie. I have another fruit cake fan. Must be another dumber than dirt inbreed hillbilly that could muster up enough brain power to figure out that he had a dirty filter. So he grabbed the yellow pages and call the hvac guy with the biggest ad. The tech fixed it and he charged him over $100. Must suck to be as stupid as you. Bubba
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Jerry, This is NOT a Flame! You will need some knowledge in this field before you will know the qualifying questions to ask potential contractors' & their techs. However, be careful or you will tick them off! - udarrell
--
Air Conditioning\'s Affordable Path to the "Human Comfort Zone Goal"
http://www.udarrell.com/udarrell-air-conditioning.html
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