Evaportor Coil Needs Replacing

Hello,
I have a 15 year old York unit.
Last summer I had a tech add about 2.5 lbs of freon. He didn't do any leak testing. Last week, a tech from the same company added 5 lbs of freon. He also did an electronic leak test and said that the evaporator coil was leaking and that it should be replaced. I guess the only concern I have is that he didn't attempt to pinpoint the exact leak, since the coil itself is not easily accessible. Should he have pinpointed the leak to determine if it was repairable? Or at least looked at the coil??? He didn't even do that. Of course 5 lbs of freon is alot and the thing was iced up before he came, so I guess there's a good chance the coil is shot.
He quoted about $1700 to replace the coil. I assume this is the cost to replace the entire indoor unit, since he said he can't find a matching York coil. Is this reasonable? Shouldn't he just be able to replace the coil with a York coil? Instead of the whole indoor unit?
If the indoor unit does need to be replaced, should I replace the outdoor unit as well?
Thank you, RAJ
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RAJ wrote:

With a 15 year old coil I would be thinking about two things. A new system is going to be more efficient and today that can be big money and save you even more in coming years. Second it is 15 years old. Fixing one leak may find another. Replacing the coil may be the last thing you do right before the compressor dies.
My system is also 15 years old and I know I would not repair or replace a coil. I would take the opportunity to upgrade to a two zone system with a more efficient A/C and furnace. However the only problem I had with the A/C so far was a lightning strike about two feet from the system and the tech (who I will call for any other service I need) fixed it with in the service call fee and that was not high.
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Joseph Meehan wrote:

That's impossible to say without more facts. For instance, even though I live in a warm climate, I only spend about $800 per year on cooling. Even if a completely new unit saved 50% (unlikely, IMHO), that would only be about $400/year. If the new unit cost $6000, and the cost of money were 10%, it would probably _never_ pay for itself. (Of course, you can construct an energy cost scenario where it might, but how do you know your scenario will happen? Maybe somebody will invent some great gizmo tomorrow that will revolutionize HVAC -- or the price of energy, for that matter. So you're faced with a risk evaluation problem beyond the capabilities of most people.)
Second it is 15 years old. Fixing one

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I doubt a new unit would cost $6k. Plus it would save heating and cooling if he replaced all. Plus power bills are likely to go up. Plus expensive parts will have 5 years or more coverage with new unit.

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A new full up HVAC will cost in the range of $6K depending on brand, size, and installer it could vary as much as 50% to 100%
However, I tend to agree that a 15 year old unit with evaporator coil problems is more likely to need more repairs in the future. Depending on where RAJ lives this could be a significant cost saving measure as operating costs will drop, and the house will eb more comfortable.
The cooling season varies greatly across the USA, so saying that the payback is infinite is NOT always true. In some areas of the country, YES, you can live without A/C and be even more frugal, using fans and curtains, opening and closing doors/windows per a certain schedule. Those of us who grew up in the Deep South don't want to go back to those hot, sweaty, miserable days of our youth. Took a bath and got clean, then climbed into bed and got the sheets damp with all the sweat running off.
AC only replacement will cost less than $6K in most cases, depending on size, brand and installer.
Art wrote:

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CJT wrote:

Maybe I should have been more clear.
A new system is going to be more efficient and today that can be big money and save you even more in coming years." That saving is on operating cost, and may or may not fully cover the full cost of a new unit. Considering the likelyhood of future failures of the existing 15 year old unit, I believe the best investment in most areas and situations is replacement. Your mileage may vary.
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RAJ writes:

The part will cost him perhaps $300. You can analyze yourself whether he's adding $1400 in value by retailing you the part and installing it.
If a 15-year-old evaporator shows a leak, diagnosing it to a certain spot on the plumbing is not worth the effort. At that age it is likely to spring leaks all over, and can't be cost-effectively repaired.
If you are diligent enough to get a fair deal on the remove-and-replace, consider doing it. You may get years more service out of the system. I did exactly this years ago on our old system, and it still runs great with no leaks in its 18th year. This is in SE Florida where it runs more or less constantly during the summer days. Compressors can be really long-lived.
Be suspicious of claims that "you will save money buying a new system because it is so much more efficient". Every salesman wants you to believe that today's models are wonders of efficiency, and everything a few years back was junk. You get the same pitch with water heaters and refrigerators. Everything was redesigned after the 1970s energy crisis based on expensive electricity and a crying need for efficiency. There has not been that much progress in the actual technology lately, just in the marketing and pseudo-testing of "efficiency". Lately the self- serving industry has talked the gummint into banning low-end units so all you can buy are overpriced "efficient" ones, that is, ones that have been awarded a gummint sticker for efficiency, regardless of true efficiency.
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Yes Richard, I heard higher SEER units tend to be more complex, with more that can go wrong. But then again, if I replace just the indoor air handler, I would have a mismatched system, which can also lead to problems.
Richard J Kinch wrote:

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RAJ writes:

Mismatched how? What problems?
It's not that difficult to match a given split system and stay entirely within the design envelope. It's like you need new tires on your car, and the dealer says you need a new car to avoid having a "mismatched" vehicle.
The usual meaning of A/C "mismatch" is "a bugaboo to extort the homeowner into buying an overpriced replacement system." As long as you aren't knowledgeable, you are subject to this extortion. Your choices are (1) become knowledgeable, or (2) pony up.
Sometimes we want to pay servicemen for material and labor, when what we really should value most is a correct diagnosis.
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Thanks Richard, I will keep this in mind. Is it possible to replace only the coil, or will I probably need to replace the entire air handler unit? When you say $300, are you talking about the whole air handler unit? Sorry for the ignorance.
Richard J Kinch wrote:

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RAJ writes:

Typically a bare replacement coil for a given air handler can be matched up and go into the same chassis, or the coil and its chassis. You shouldn't have to replace the fan or furnace components, which would spoil the economics.
You can look up prices somewhat above wholesale for these components at Grainger's Web site (http://www.grainger.com/). Do a search there for Grainger item number 2AC50 as a typical 3-ton cased coil for $220, and then view its catalog page to see other sizes and cased/uncased varieties:
http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/wwg/itemDetailsRender.shtml?ItemKey*C50
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Richard J Kinch wrote:

Does this article make any sense to you, or is it all BS? Doesn't seem that hard to "match" a coil.
http://www.achrnews.com/CDA/ArticleInformation/coverstory/BNPCoverStoryItem/0,6152,92728,00.html
I got another quote today for the coil. $880. A little more reasonable. He said it was half a day's work. Assuming $125 an hour in labor and $300 in parts, that equals $800. I guess that's a reasonable assumption for labor rate in an expensive market like DC.
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RAJ writes:

I understand what they're saying, which is basically, the tradesman makes more money replacing a whole system than just one part, so scare the customer with "mismatch".
The article is using a bit of verbal trickery. Does "mismatch" mean replacing with "not original brand but a good fit technically" (good repair), or "wrong size evaporator or wrong type of expansion device" (not a good repair). They seem to use it both ways, so that the former looks bad when it is actually OK.
Even more confusion in the article when they talk about "mismatch" when they mean an otherwise sound system deliberately chosen to be undersized for the house so that it runs a higher duty cycle and lowers humidity. That's a judgment call which has pros and cons, and the guy just opines that he doesn't like it. So what.
So it is not BS in the sense that they really state any basic untruths, but the analysis is twisted to prove that you should never repair any system, only replace the whole works.
Look, from the evaporator's point of view, the condenser is nothing complicated, just a certain flow rate of liquid refrigerant that arrives via some tubing. Sure you can be an incompetent technician and choose a mismatched evaporator (wrong size, wrong expansion) for that flow rate, but the answer is to have the basic knowledge to not make that simple mistake. While there are always complicated practical considerations like how old the other components are and how likely they are to fail, or finding a product for sale that will fit the casing, etc., this "mismatch" argument is just a way to dismiss the customer's objections with no more than a wave of the hand.
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RAJ wrote:

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5 pounds.? I think I might look for another service company. Hint: maximum freon charge information can usually be found on the unit or unit paperwork. Most likely you do have a leak and I agree that if it is not at a connection point your best bet is to replace the coil after establishing that is where the leak actually is.
Unless you are in a very high cost of living area. I think you can do a lot better than $1700 for a new coil.
Colbyt
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I have never seen a max charge on the unit nameplate. What I have seen is the unit charge and that is the refrigerant to make the system work properly including the condensing unit, the evap coil, and about 15 feet of the copper line set. I have seen resi stuff with 75 plus feet of line set.

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1700? For just a coil. Sounds steep but I have very limited exposure. I am in an area where things are a bit cheaper. Had to replace a coil on a 1.5T heat pump. Guy said typically, including installation, 400-500. It was a real oddball coil and had to be ordered from the factory. Apologized and said because they are soaking him he has to pass it along. Total was 800.
Even if you are in a higher priced area and have a much larger coil that's still some difference. Did he say this was the whole air handler AND coil?

Hold on. If he can't find a matching York coil how is he going to replace the coill for 1700? Or is it for 1700 he can find it?! Anyway, like I said, I have VERY limited exposure to this but my understanding is that the coil has to match the exterior unit. If it doesn't you will not get the rated capacity of the unit and/or run inefficient. If he can't find the matching coil how is replacing the entire indoor unit (including some coil) gonna help match the outdoor unit. Maybe there are good answers to all this. For 1700 I'd want them all answered...to my satisfaction.
When you find someone you believe to be reliable and trust and if the coil/air handler does need replacing you might wanna ask... if next year the outdoor unit goes kaput, will a new proper sized unit be available that matches the air handler/coil you are putting in? For instance, in my state they recently made it a law that new units must be SEER 12 or more. Something tells me your older system is running 6-10 SEER and there is no way the "replaced" coil is going to work with that. When you replace the outdoor unit it will need a new matching coil. Just a WAG hunch.
Get the model & s/n numbers off the outside unit plate. Call a York dealer and ask if the coil you seek is available. See if Mr 1700 is BS-ing.
http://www.yorkupg.com/homeowners/dealer_locator.asp?prodLine=0&ProdID=0
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RAJ wrote:

Id make them show you the leak....before its removed from service.... It could be a mechanical connection that just needs to be tightened or a brazed joint that can easily be repaired....could be a couple of distributor tubes that just rubbed a hole thru one or the other.....BUT....it could also be a leaking tube within the fins...which is fixable but means that other leaks are not far behind....or a leak at the metal tube sheets that holds the coil tubes together....when its starts leaking here you are in for more leaks.
15 years old....Id replace the whole system....AFTER I found a reliable and competant company to do the replacement.....10 year warranties are common now even on lower end equipment...having a 10 year warranty on a decently installed system goes a lot toward peace of mind down the road....
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