Problems with air conditioners, etc

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I have to respectfully disagree with some members of alt.hvac who seem to imply that any A/C problem requires a "specialist", and that chumps like those who frequent rec.crafts.metalworking have no business even looking at A/C problems.
Just one case in point. A year ago my A/C sometimes would not start. (most of the time it would, but it kept getting worse)
A symptom was that in those cases, it would start if I gently kicked the outside unit.
After asking on newsgroups, and receiving responses from alt.hvac members about the need for "experts", and other responses from alt.home.repair boiling down to "open up the damn thing and use your multimeter", I opted for the latter.
Opened it up and quickly discovered that, drumroll, the quick disconnect that connected a 24V line to the contactor, simply broke from too much vibration and being made cheaply. It still kept contact most of the time, enough to operate the coil, and when it did not, the "kick" would bring it back into contact.
Another quick disconnect crimped on, and guess what, the A/C unit is operating quite trouble free since then.
If I simply called some "service company", I can imagine that the less scrupulous ones would try to sell me a lot of crap I did not need. The most optimistic scenario would be that after taking a day off work, and paying $75 for a service call, a tech would replace that same quick disconnect for free. Whether that optimistic scenario would be realized, is not clear.
So, while, no doubt, sometimes learned experts are necessary, they are not always necessary, and should not be called without some preliminary investigation.
i
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I agree, I kept my old unit running replacing wires and capacitors & even fans and blowers for 10 years before replacing the whole thing. I've found that unless you can find an open connection it is likely a capacitor & often a bad capacitor will fry a wire which will also need to be replaced. Caps are a good first try, and much cheaper than a house call. The main thing is that after you run through it with the multimeter, turn off the power before poking around and still you should treat it like it is hot.
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Count me in too....My AC stopped working once and in a moment of weakness I let the wife call a service company out of the newspaper. The guy came over, poked around inside and out, then declared the compressor dead and started to sell me a whole new unit.
I told him I'd think about it, then did some poking around of my own. Re-opened up the panel on the outside unit, looked inside for about 30 seconds and found the problem.
A very unlucky mouse had found his way on top of the start cap and in the process of frying himself also burnt one wire off its terminal. A couple minutes of stripping and crimping a new terminal and its been golden since.....
I really wanted to deliver the smoked mouse carcass to that service company, I gotta tell ya......That's the last time I'll ever call anyone without at least LOOKING myself !!!
No guts, No glory, Right?
And of course I did all this with the power OFF....I may have moments of stupidity but I'm not dumb ;)
Jeff
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wrote:

The story is typical of these assholes. (I mean service persons, not mice).
I had a lightning fry my A/C once too. See pictures of an exploded oak tree at
http://igor.chudov.com/tmp/lightning /
I did some "poking around" with a multimeter and found out that the speed controller board was bad, but the main control board was likely good.
Called a tech. Told him to carefully check what is wrong.
He came in, called me at work, and said "I think that we should replace all electronics".
I asked what is the basis of his conclusion. He mumbled some nonsense.
I did not hire him. Asked another company to look and told him that I did some dicking around and that I think that the speed controller board is bad.
He looked, agreed with me, replaced in on warranty, charged me for labor and that was it.
So, there is no shortage of "unscrupulous" people in that business.
i
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That story shows that there is a difference between unscrupulous and incompetant. It's much easier to jsut rpelace "all the electronics" than it is to train SMART people how to minimize the costs.
Ignoramus18860 wrote:

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Never_Enough_Tools wrote:

The last time I calls a "professional," he proceeded to rip the wires off all the terminal blocks and then pronounced I'd need a whole new unit. When I asked him to instead put it back the way he'd found it so I could get a second opinion, he refused, got in his truck, and drove away.

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No guns in your house?
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Hm, why did he do it?
i
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Ignoramus18860 wrote:

I assume he hoped I'd buy as he proposed.
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Just goes to show you that there are crooks and asshats in every profession. If you get lucky, they out themselves BEFORE you've signed any commitments or handed over a big wad of cash.
But the big decision I'd see in the above situation is: Do I call the local Cops and get him arrested for Vandalism, or the Contractor's State License Board to cash out his Bond for the damages and get his ticket pulled? Or both?
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On Tue, 18 Jul 2006 05:03:43 GMT, Bruce L. Bergman

As a C7-C10 holder..I vote for both.
Gunner
The aim of untold millions is to be free to do exactly as they choose and for someone else to pay when things go wrong.
In the past few decades, a peculiar and distinctive psychology has emerged in England. Gone are the civility, sturdy independence, and admirable stoicism that carried the English through the war years . It has been replaced by a constant whine of excuses, complaints, and special pleading. The collapse of the British character has been as swift and complete as the collapse of British power.
Theodore Dalrymple,
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wrote:

call him out somewhere else. maybe he'd get a flat or something.
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Bruce L. Bergman wrote:

Coulda, shoulda, woulda ... but I was more intent at the time on getting the thing fixed, and once that was done, I had cooled down (both literally and figuratively) so he was free to strike again elsewhere (I'm sorry to report).
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Hi I just joined the group so please forgive any unintended rudeness on my part.
Oh and don't let my nickname be misinterpreted as my being any sort of self-proclaimed electrical genius.....It is a spin on our breed of dogs ..Wire hair fox terriers.
My question is this: I am about to replace the dual capacitor on my heat pump. I have a vague understanding that it contains a charge that could be lethal or could otherwise knock me on my @ss. What should I do/not do as I remove the capacitor.....I know to turn the power off to the outside unit but beyond that welcome any and all honest advice.
Thanks
Wyredog (fox terrier)
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In most cases, there is a resistor across the terminals of the capacitor, so that it loses its charge in a few minutes (or sooner) after being turned off.
You cannot assume that it is the case for YOU without knowing for sure (ie, seeing and identifying the bleed resistor).
The first thing to do is to identify two terminals of the capacitor. If you cannot do that, safety considerations suggest to put everything back and call a "qualified expert". If you see two terminals, take an isolated screwdriver by its isolated handle (without touching metal) and make sure that you connect two ends of the capacitor with the screwdriver.
Most likely (as would be in the case of a bleed resistor), nothing would happen, but if the cap holds a charge, you can hear a loud discharge. After you make 100% sure that the cap is discharged, it is safe to handle it (and if you like to be really careful, you do not have to touch the terminals anyway).
Why do you think that you need to replace the caps?
i
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Thanks for the info!
I think the cap is the cheapest thing that may be the likely fix. See what you think:
A few days ago I cam home to a silent outside unit (no fan no compressor nothing). Found that the 30A breaker was thrown. Turned it back on and it flipped off after a couple seconds. Later I tried it again jsut because I was hot hand had nothing else to think about. This time it worked...the heat pump turned on and ran as if nothing were wrong.
So I replaced the breaker hoping it was just to weak. Same scenario with it. The AC will run ..on ...off on...off through several cooling cycles then one time it will throw the breaker and that's all she wrote until I go into the crawl space and turn the breaker on again.
Other relavent factors: The unit is only 3 years old, Arco Air made by Carrier. And it has been record heat here since just before this began......causing the unit to run very frequently
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Do you have a wife or anyone else who can turn on the breaker from inside while you are outside, listening? Does it pop instantly or after some little time? Does the A/C make a humming noise during that time?
i

The breaker has to match the A/C, you know.

I dunno, it possibly is not the capacitor. If you have a multimeter (as you should) with a capacitance, tester, you can test it (it could be bad at 220VAC even if tests OK by the tester, but still it is good to test).
Do not assume too much too soon. Could be that something makes the motor run harder than it should, for example. Some good investigation and careful writing down of the facts could help.
You may need to "hire a pro", eventually, but you would run less of a chance of being taken to cleaners if you form a good picture of what is going on. Or maybe you can just fix it.
i
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wrote:

I hate working on stuff *after* some fool (the home owner) has screwed with it..... thats even worse(and a lot more expensive) that fixing jackleg screw-ups. A breaker that trips is NOT a good thing... a breaker is a SAFETY DEVICE...if it trips, there is a reason. Call a competent tech to find out WHY the breaker tripped, and get it repaired correctly.
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Noon-Air wrote:

" Professional " wanted to charge me $950 to replace the compressor (which is under warrranty) and dryer and cap. Schwew...ran the same stuff by antoher and got a 350 estimate...thought a cap and breaker were good simple places to start
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But what did the professional say, did he give you a coherent explanation of what he thought was wrong? Did he explain what problems cause what symptoms?
He may be right, maybe, or maybe he is not, it is good to know details.
i
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