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?
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.
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.
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
AC only replacement will cost less than $6K in most cases, depending on
size, brand and installer.
Maybe I should have been more clear.
A new system is going to be more efficient and today that can be big
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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:
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
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:
Does this article make any sense to you, or is it all BS? Doesn't seem
that hard to "match" a coil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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