Ouch. Outside Amana central air conditioning unit. Compressor. $4000?

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I need our advice about my air conditioning unit in northern California.
After a power outage, the compressor in a small outside Amana central air conditioning unit (circa 2001) wouldn't turn on. I paid almost $100 for a service call, and the guy the whole time tried to sell me on an entirely new A/C (new outside unit, inside evaporator, and lines).
I just want the thing fixed.
There are apparently only a few parts (all but two are 'good'): * freon R22 <=== he says he got no liquid reading * compressor (outside) <=== he says this is bad * fan (outside) * capacitor (outside) * controller (outside) * cooling coils (outside) * fuses & circuit breakers (outside) * evaporator coils (inside) * house blower (inside) * thermostat switch (inside)
The cooling was working fine before the power outage. But the A/C wouldn't go on afterward.
Seems to me he can't blame both the freon R22 and the compressor - but he did. Then he said it would cost $2800 to fix or $3800 to replace the whole thing. He was selling me on the whole thing, of course.
I just want the compressor and, if needed, the freon R22.
I called Amana, who has the compressor for $500. They discontinued the parts for the capacitor ($12) and controller ($47) but I'm told that I can second source them. I've already removed the capacitor & controller and will replace (pictures available upon request) them.
But, my question stems around the compressor and freon R22.
Will it really cost $2800 to replace a compressor? I don't suppose I can do it myself - but what do you think? Note: I will have to pay for a second opinion but I was hoping to get your advice before I do that.
Thanks and I do need your expert advice!
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I would not start buying random parts and replacing them. I would get another tech out there. You could just be throwing money away. The first step is seeing if the unit is getting power, turn on signal, voltage to the compressor, etc. It doesn't sound like you have the skills to do that. Ask friends, neighbors, other tradesmen you know, etc for recommendations. This guy is a scammer.
If it is just the compressor, it should not cost anywhere near $2800 to replace it. Amana already told you that the compressor costs $500. Allowing for R22, misc parts, labor, etc I would think you could get it done for around $1000. I did exactly that on a Ruud for $600, but that was 17 years ago.
There is also a lot we don't know. Like how old the unit is, how much you use it, how long you intend to stay there, what shape the furnace or air handler is in, etc. If it's 20 years old, you use it a lot, have high electric bills from it, etc, then it might not be worth putting $1000 into it. Consider the cost of new eqpt and factor in any state, utility, etc credits available. For the price of new eqpt, you can find the price for Rheem and other eqpt online. That will give you an idea of what that portion of the install is costing.
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On Wed, 07 Sep 2011 06:46:30 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

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You're in northern california so you're going to pay top dollar for labor. I still would expect you should be able to get a quote around $1500 including parts to replace the compressor.
When he said he wasn't getting a "liquid reading" on the r22 he may have meant he was not seeing any pressure on the high side of the compressor. Should be between 250psi and 350psi depending on the outside temp. Confirming power to the compressor and checking for high output pressure are two things to confirm a bad compressor diagnosis.
No you can't replace it yourself.
The r22 will need to be evacuated before replacing the compressor and reinstalled afterwards. Checking that the proper amount of r22 is installed will be part of the post replacement work.
A lot of the techs are pressured to sell new installs. You are a candidate. Life expectancy of most units is about 15 years. You are looking at a major repair cost on a unit that may only last a few more years. It's not completely unrealistic to replace it entirely.
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On Wed, 07 Sep 2011 19:09:25 +0000, Red Green wrote:

I had a long conversation with the repair guy's boss: - It has probably a bad bimetallic switch which is INSIDE (they say) the hermetically sealed compressor. - That switch may have been blown by the power surge (he said he can't tell). - He said he banged on it with a mallet to no avail. - He said the voltage was within 5% at the compressor (i.e., good). - He said he couldn't 'run' the compressor so he couldn't get pressure readings of the R22 but that he should have seen liquid but didn't. (He was iffy on what that actually meant.) - He said the controller was good (it worked when he set the thermostat to cool), as was the capacitor (it didn't have any bulges).
So, what's wrong, is the compressor.
What I guess I need to do is find someone who will replace the compressor for less than it costs for a brand new system!
Note: I already bought a new capacitor ($12) and controller ($45) just by way of maintenance. They are plug and play.
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arkland wrote:

    Get someone else to look at your unit without mentioning the other guy. It may be the best money you ever spent.
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On Wed, 07 Sep 2011 10:03:11 -0500, Ken wrote:

Long story short, the first guy said he'd refund my money when I complained to him that he didn't provide any diagnostics and he didn't call me before hand so I could be there when he tested the unit (which we all agree, I had stipulated when I called for the repair).
The one thing I should have done is asked them to put in writing the fact they think the PG&E spike caused the failure. I'll ask the next guy I send out. But, at this point, I already KNOW it's the compressor.
So, maybe I'll just ask for a quote for what to do to fix the compressor!
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I'd invest another hundred and have another service tech look at it. Could be something simple and no new unit needed. Could easily be a scam for the first guy.
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arkland wrote the following:

Start with checking the fuses on the outside unit. http://www.ehow.com/video_7524729_replace-fuses-central-air-conditioner.html
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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Practically no outside unit has fuses.
He had a tech there. While there are variations of skill levels I think we can assume the tech made sure the outside unit had power.
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jamesgangnc wrote the following:

I guess you don't have a fuse box outside on your CAC, but I do. Did you see the video on the link I provided? That's not my fuse box, so I guess there is at least two units that have outside fuse boxes.

There was a sting operation by some TV company that I saw some months ago. They had a home CAC unit completely checked by their own techs to make sure all was working. They then disabled some small inexpensive thing and called in several local AC techs to 'fix' the unit. The 'inspection' by some of these 'techs' resulted in a wide range of unnecessary repair costs, including replacing the whole unit (like in the case of the OP). The one redeeming feature on the show was one case where the TV crew just pulled the disconnect in the outside fuse box out a hair where it wasn't making a connection. The last tech that arrived looked over the unit, then went to the fuse box, saw the disconnect out a little and pushed it back in. The AC then turned on. The cost for this 'repair'? $000.00. Nothing! He didn't charge for his time, nor the gas used to get to the house. The TV crew interviewed him afterwards and he said that he didn't think it was right to charge for doing nothing.
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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Installs with fuses haven't been done for 30 years. Move on.
Yes, the hvac business always has had problems. Just like the auto repair business. But from the op's report the guy hooked up guages and did some troubleshooting. Is it a good idea to get a second opinion, sure. But even decent techs are encouraged to suggest replacement on any repair likely to be over a grand involving a unit more than 10 years old. Sometimes it's not a bad idea depending on other factors. It's not just for the sale result it also reduces complaints. An older unit is more likely to have another problem not long after the first one is fixed. Even when the two problems are unrelated many homeowners still are unhappy and have an urge to blame the service company.
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That's a bit dismissive, isn't it. I don't think they've been used in a long time either, but that doesn't mean they are practically non-existent. There are still a lot of old systems out there. I had one that used fuses that I just replaced last year. Also, not only does willshak's video have fuses, but also the one in Phoenix that Dateline used for their sting did as well.

Which unfortunately doesn't mean he's not a scammer. Did you see the Dateline video? One scammer did hook up gauges, the other did not even check for power at the unit.
Is it a good idea to get a second

I think we all agree that it's perfectly fine to tell someone that a needed repair will cost $1000+ and it's better to get a whole new unit. It's another thing where they scam you and claim the unit is shot, when it's actually working perfectly like in the Dateline sting.
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On Thu, 08 Sep 2011 10:33:05 -0700, Oren wrote:

I'm not sure about this fuse discussion; but I'll describe what I have.
- There is a circuit breaker in the main panel outside the house that will shut off the power to the a/c and to the dryer. This breaker is actually four smaller breakers, wired together. I'm surprised that all four operate at once; but that's what's there.
Then, right in front of the A/C unit outside, on the outside wall, is another box. This box has a black square plastic thing with a handle molded into it. On top it sais "ON" and on bottom it says "OFF".
When I pull the handle, that entire square plastic black box comes out, and behind it, affixed to it, are two 'fuses' the size of your thumb (or so). These I tested and are good. The a/c tech would also have tested this, I would presume, as he noted there is power at the compressor.
Right now, of course, I have that box reversed. The "OFF" is on top and the "ON" is on bottom (upside down wording).
So, if 'that' is what you guys mean by fuses, they have been checked, and they're good.
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On Thu, 08 Sep 2011 07:56:38 -0700, jamesgangnc wrote:

The tech said it voltage was 'within 5% at the compressor" (the compressor just didn't go on when it should have).
I'm not sure what that 5% means, but that was taken to be a good sign of the power at the unit.
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On Thu, 08 Sep 2011 10:48:50 -0400, willshak wrote:

Thanks. The fuses are good at the unit. And the circuit breaker, which also works the dryer surprisingly, are also good.
I now know it's the compressor.
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arkland wrote:

    You probably have more information than you need, but I will add one more comment and a story:
    Comment: If the serviceman measured proper voltage at the compressor leads, it is almost certainly the compressor. This means the wires going into the compressor, NOT at the point of crimp on leads.
    The story: I bought a newly constructed home back in the 70's, and the next year one of my two AC condenser units failed to start. Knowing the unit was still under warranty, I called the firm who had installed it when the house was built. The fellow came out and in less than 5 minutes told me the compressor had gone bad. This without having taken a single measurement with a voltmeter. (I was astounded, as my field is electronics and I knew he could not possibly make such a diagnosis without having taken such a measurement.) I watched saying nothing until he said the compressor was bad, to which I said "Since it is under warranty, then replace it." He then told me it would cost me $500 since the warranty only covered parts and I must pay for the labor. I told him I would think it over, and he left. I got my voltmeter and measured no voltage at the coil leads of the contactor. So I followed the leads from the coil back to a spot where they met with the leads coming from the thermostat and electrical tape existed. The problem was the installer simply twisted the control wire from the thermostat to the leads leading to the contactor and oxidation prevented contact. I cleaned the leads and soldered them. My effort took about 5 minutes total. The unit ran for another 29 years!!!!
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You can't confirm a compressor is bad just because it has voltage at the compressor terminals. There is a run cap and possibly a start cap. You need to make sure those are ok. It's also possible to get more life out of a compressor that wants to strat but can't by adding a hard start kit. You can tell if it's trying to start by pushing in the large relay (called a contactor in the hvac business) and listening. Helps if you disconnect the fan motor. You can hear the compressor trying to start. It will do that a bit until the internal protection kicks out. Usually will try for 10, 15 seconds or so. If you have done it before you know the difference in sounds a running compressor makes from one that is trying to start.
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On Thu, 08 Sep 2011 12:53:25 -0700, jamesgangnc wrote:

Hmmm... That's what the service tech said. He said the voltage was good, but even a whack with a mallet didn't start the compressor (I'm not making this up even though that sounds strange).

I have the old cap and the new cap in my hand.
It's fist sized, with three terminals on top, one marked "G", the other "HERM", and the third "FAN".
The parts counter guy said if the cap it bad, it will look bulged. Mine looked fine; but, of course, I didn't test it.

Tell me more!

I also bought a new contactor (it's on order) but the old one, while pitted, was still working. It moved in and out with an audible click and visible motion. But there was NO SOUND whatsoever from the compressor; and the fan didn't go on either.
I wonder why the fan won't go on?
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Sir, or madam:
I can tell by the way you wrote your post that this is all WAY over your head. You clearly do not even have a basic idea how a refrigeration system works. That said, you should get at least two more opinions from reputable professionals before deciding what to have THEM do.
Refrigeration is not a DIY thing unless you do that kind of work professionally. Obviously you do not, so you are lacking the proper (EXPENSIVE) tools to deal with the system properly.
FYI, the "freon R22" is the refrigerant, which is compressed by the compressor. If you yank out the compressor you will lose what freon is still in the system. R22 is hazardous to you and the environment. It is also VERY VERY VERY expensive because they are not making any more. To properly service your AC unit the R22 needs to be removed with a special set of valves and a special vacuum pump.
By the time you buy all the proper tools for this ONE TIME use, you may as well pay the professional. Normal humans cannot purchase R22 anyway; only licensed professionals.
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