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

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I sympathize with you problem getting a competent guy to llok at it. But you shouldn't have just started removing parts you did not know what did or have any reason to believe the were bad. You really don't need the compressor oil heater if this is truly just an AC. You generally only need those on Heat Pumps. Once you start running an AC it's warm enough outside that you do not need to heat the compressor oil. Or is this another item you failed to tell us, this is really a heat pump?
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On Sat, 17 Sep 2011 14:42:49 -0700, jamesgangnc wrote:

I don't know what a heat pump is, but this is 'only' an AC unit which is only used in the summer when it's hot.
Greg at Northaire, in San Jose, also told me that it's not 'needed', because it only heats the oil.
Please realize the ONLY reason I was 'removing things' is because the licensed technician was sure it was the compressor; otherwise, I wouldn't have removed the heating plug at the bottom of the compressor itself. (I thought it might be the bi-metallic strip they kept mentioning 'must be out'.
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He's right, you do not need the compressor heater if it's straight ac. Once it's hot eough for you to need ac then it's hot enough for the compressor oil.
The bimetalic strip is a overload switch inside the compressor. Completely non-servicable.
The tech and you may have both been mislead if you used a newer high impedance meter and the unit was turned off. A bad connection can still allow enough current to make a meter think it has 120vac. As soon as you put an actual load on the cicuit it will drop way down, sometimes to zero. It always pays to turn whatever you are testing on when measuring voltages. That way you have a load on the circuit.
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On Sun, 18 Sep 2011 18:41:09 -0700, jamesgangnc wrote:

What 'was' weird, was that, at first, before I called in the licensed technician, I read off my Fluke 77 DMM 120 VAC on both the black and white lead coming in ... but zero volts between them.
Again, that was not what I expected (I had expected 220 VAC between them), but, at that time, I wasn't sure how the wiring worked. (Now I know better - and so should have, IMHO, the licensed technician).
Then the licensed technician came in, and said the compressor was bad. When I called the company to ask why then the fan wasn't also working, they said the technician, "Matt", had tested the voltage to be "within 5%" and that he was sure it was the compressor that was bad.
I spent the next week or so tracking down compressors ... but about ten days after the first measurement (after the circuit breaker had been turned on and off perhaps a dozen or more times during the tests of the compressor), the voltage changed!
It was then 120 vols at one wire, and only 25 volts AC at the other wire. Across the two was about 85 volts. Weird!
I instantly knew now, that the problem had NOTHING to do with the AC; it was all about the input voltage (and I'm embarrassed to say it took me this long to figure something that simple out - but again - I had trusted the LICENSED technician who said the voltage was "within 5%").
Back at the circuit panel, the same 120v, 25 volts existed, until I disconnected the wiring and then the one side went to zero.
When I replaced the 30/30amp ganged (two in the middle, two on the outside) breaker, everything worked just fine.
BTW, why would 25 volts exist on the circuit breaker output terminal when the circuit breaker wires were connected, but zero volts on that line when I pulled the wire out of the circuit breaker output terminal?
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That's one of the things you have to watch for with high impedance digital meters. A very bad connection that is megohms will give you enough current flow to show something on a meter when there is no load on the circuit. Always test with the device turned on. In your case I'll bet the reading would have been zero if the contactor was engaged.
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You should give that Fluke to someone that knows how to use it. If you can't use it to figure out that 240V is not at the outside unit, you should not be screwing around with it. End of story. Taking parts out of a working AC without figuring out if it has power is just plain stupid. The tech you had out is a crook. But you are a fool to be working on something that you haven't got a clue about.

Yeah, the tech should have. And so should you if you're gonna start screwing around with it.

What;s weird is someone screwing around with eqpt when they are clueless.

It's not about trusting someone else. It's about knowing what you are doing. You think if you took you car to a service shop they would say, well the last guy said the O2 sensor was OK, so no need to look there?

Frightening to think you're inside the panel.

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On Thu, 15 Sep 2011 22:42:19 -0400, Stormin Mormon wrote:

Heh heh. I love that idea!
There may be a bigger (hidden) point in the joke which is that it's just not worth the time and energy.
You may be right. I've never filed a complaint before but I'd really hate to see someone get reamed by Comfort Energy who doesn't at least have the friends like you guys helping out.
What if a little old lady or someone too busy to double check them gets told their $4000 AC is out when all it is is a $25 bad circuit breaker?
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On Sun, 18 Sep 2011 08:26:09 -0400, Stormin Mormon wrote:

SOMEBODY must 'license' these licensed technicians.
I'm sure there must be a board specific for AC licensing that would care about the facts of this situation.
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On Sun, 18 Sep 2011 17:38:53 +0000, arkland wrote:

To update the team, the company manager of the technicians called me on Wednesday and said they were re-training their technician, Matt, and that they would pay me $200 for my out-of-pocket and other expenses in addition to not charging me for their initial service call.
I must say they appeared 'reasonable' when confronted with the facts (only the technician himself, and the Comfort Energy VP, who is the husband of the owner of Comfort Energy) 'argued' with me that the compressor was definitely bad. He only backed off when I told him I wasn't paying anything until I had that, and the measurements, in writing.
I guess a moral of the story is to get in writing all measurements, whenever you're in an area beyond your expertise (which I clearly was, in this case).
Without you guys, I would never have been able to track down the problem (and the helpful counter guy, Greg, at Northaire in San Jose!).
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Are you totally stupid? They clearly tried to rip you off. That isn't a mistake, it;s deliberate. And now you're implying that you'd pay them if they had "measurements in writing?" WTF? They told you the compressor was shot and the power to the unti was OK. You found out that it was a bad breaker and after replacing it, it's running OK. So, WTF are you talking about?

Yeah, that's for sure. You're not even an educated consumer let alone competent to work on an AC. Give the Fluke to someone who can use it.

It's remarkable you didn't get killed in the process.
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On Sep 15, 10:42pm, "Stormin Mormon"

I'd say there is no question they were lying. It would be almost impossible to misdiagnose a bad circuit breaker for a compressor failure.
I'd ask for a refund of the service call fee. If they won't refund it, I'd sue them in small claims. Should be an interesting case to defend. With the receipt for the breaker, some photos of the compressor and/or a video camera showing the system working you'd have a very credible case.
BBB is an option as well.
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For what it's worth, that is more commonly called a ganged breaker and you do not need all 4 to be ganged if two are for your hvac and two are for your dryer. You can use the much more common two ganged breakers from lowes or home depot. They are ganged so that a short on either leg causes both legs to disconnect. You don't need a short in one appliance taking the other off line.
In your case I'm guessing the electrician had a 4 gang breaker handy and used it.
Glad to hear your compressor was not bad. If you mentioned that he fan was not starting either earlier in your post many of us could have told you that does not suggest the compressor. Both are powered from the contactor. It's unlikely that both would have failed at the same time.
While it was a learning experience had you known a reliable service guy you could have got it fixed on a single call for less than you have spent. It might be worth your while to talk to your neighbors about who they have had good results with.
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On Fri, 16 Sep 2011 07:33:21 -0700, jamesgangnc wrote:

Actually, Home Depot and Lowes only had 20/30 "ganged breakers" and they do work exactly as you noted. Since every other position on the main panel is the other hot lead, the two inside breakers are ganged with a metal clip (for the AC) and the two outside breakers are ganged with a U- shaped metal (for the dryer).
I had 30/30 breakers, which are much harder to find. But they're replaced now, one for one, and it's all testing and working fine. If only I hadn't trusted the LICENSED technician, I would have solved this problem ten days ago as soon as I figured out that the 120V reading of the fan and compressor was not correct (it should have been 240 volts).

Now, embarrassingly, I realize that's an obvious sign that it's NOT the compressor! But remember, I TRUSTED the LICENSED technician (and spoke to him for 40 minutes about it). He couldn't explain why the fan wasn't working; but he was positive the compressor was the culprit. How can I possibly second guess a LICENSED technician, especially when he's the ONLY ONE allowed to fix the problem (I'm not allowed to fix it, by law!).

My real estate agent referenced this company, Comfort Energy. She has been my savior with MANY problems, so I had every reason to trust the recommendation! Also, I must repeat, these people are LICENSED by someone. And, I'm not allowed to work on this unit. So, I have to trust them.
Of course, in hindsight, that trust was badly misdirected, but, all this time I had trusted their very definite opinion. In fact, the VP called me when I complained that the licensed technician's explanation made no sense to me, and he attempted to prove that the compressor was bad also as he said the voltage was "within 5%" and provided other details (saying the thermoswitch inside is bad because it didn't click) convincing me that the compressor was bad. That's when I went on my ten-day journey to find a good compressor to replace the 'bad' one.
PS: I use one nym per unrelated thread when I have more than one at the same time; but accidentally used the other nym in the previous post. Sorry for the confusion.
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I'd say the embarrasing thing here is that you did not check for voltage at the unit as the first step. It doesn't get any more basic than that. Outside unit not running, first things to check are if it has voltage and if the contactor is closing.
Also, while from what you've described I think the compay is crooked, I don't see how they did anything to damage your compressor.
But remember, I TRUSTED the LICENSED technician (and spoke to

I second guess every contractor that I don't have a good deal of personal experience with. Also, you are legally allowed to fix some of the system. You just can't work on the refrigerant section doing anything that could possibly result in the release of refrigerant. In your case, the problem was something perfectly legal for you to fix, ie it not getting power.

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On Sat, 17 Sep 2011 10:21:35 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Actually, I did. I checked voltage at the fuses right next to the A/C beforehand, and 'both' leads were the same 120volts! I thought that was weird, as there were 0 volts between them! (Now, I know, the circuit breaker must have been broken inside to allow that!). But I didn't know then that that's the way this thing worked (as I couldn't comprehend it so that's why I called the AC guy in).
Once the AC licensed technician told me the voltage was fine, I 'assumed' (yes, that's my mistake) he was right and therefore, the 'same' 120 volt line must be split up on the white and black lines going into that AC-only fuse panel. How wrong he was and how wrong I was to trust him.
A week or so later, when we finally had concluded the original licensed technician was either lying or outright incompetent, we measured again, and guess what? It was 28 volts at the one lead, and 120 across, and something like 85 volts between them!
By now, I knew enough to go to the circuit breaker, where I saw the same thing; and then, removing the outgoing wires from that circuit breaker, I could finally see the 0 volts on one lead and 120v on the other (with 120 on both leads going in).
Once the breaker was replaced, the normal 120 on each and 240 across resumed, and, the A/C unit worked (which never had a problem in the first place!).
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On Sat, 17 Sep 2011 10:21:35 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

THEY didn't damage the compressor. I damaged it by trusting their licensed technician, but, not understanding why he said the compressor was clearly bad but he then couldn't explain why the fan wouldn't go on.
He was lying, of course, so none of his licensed bullshit made any sense to me, but he was VERY CLEAR on the compressor being definitely bad and the voltage input being definitely good!
I trusted this LICENSED technician but couldn't understand him fully (but I figured that's just the way AC works). It didn't help that everyone I called would barely talk to me once they found out I wasn't a licensed trusted technician myself.
So I had to figure it all out from you guys, and, the four store's parts people: - Appliance Parts Equipment Distributor (Stevenscreek Blvd, San Jose) - Appliance Parts (El Camino Real, San Jose) - Marcone Appliance Parts (Race Street, San Jose) - NorthAire (Zanker Street, San Jose)
If it weren't for you guys, and those four counter people (and multiple calls to Amana, Hier America, Emerson, & Copeland Compressors), I'd never have figured out the problem and would have gone with replacing the entire system.
The problem now, is that the little old ladies are getting fleeced by this company. Unless they tell me otherwise on the call next Wednesday!
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