Predictions on all the freon leaked out and need AC system replaced

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A couple minutes ago, I got a call from a man I know from church. He said a company came out to do the annual AC check over. They say that the system had all the freon leaked out, and the system is shot. They want to replace the entire system.
He knows I do some refrigeration work, and wants me to come out Saturday and look over the system, and see what I find. Wants to know if I am qualified to replace the entire system if it needs it.
Yes, I'll go out Saturday and have a look see. And yes, I can replace it if needed. I am now taking entries for what I will find as the real problem, or if I will find any real problems.
I'll let you all know on Saturday evening, after I get back from the job.
--
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Christopher A. Young
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

The freon did not leak out.
It was stolen.
Church A/C units in the USA are prime targets for theft. I'm surprised they didn't steal the entire unit for scrap value, but stealing the freon is probably more lucrative.
And no, it's not shot. But HVAC industry is full of criminals that want to sell you a new system when the real problem is you need to change the air filter.
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If the sysem is depressurized when you get there, do you have some way to p ressurize it and then using soapy water look for leaks?
I have heard that there are non-flammable gasses that you can use for this purpose, you pressurize the system with this special mystery gas and then u se a hand-held toch and scan around the pipes and if the mystery gas is lea king out, it will change the color of the flame of the torch.
Is this true, or just someone's happy dream?
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On 5/15/2014 12:09 AM, snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net wrote:

water look for leaks?

with this special mystery gas and then use a hand-held toch and scan around the pipes and if the mystery gas is leaking out, it will change the color of the flame of the torch.

1) Yes, use a little R22, which is legal for leak checking. Soapy water works, and can help locate a leak. Also used, are leak detectors, which use a sniffer, and make a beeping noise.
2) Propane flame halide leak detectors can still be found, though they are a bit "old school" and don't detect some of the new refrigerants. The chlorine content in the older refrigerants turns the flame green.
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Christopher A. Young
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snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net;3235749 Wrote: >

Nowadays, Air Conditioning techs use an electronic leak detector to check for refrigerant leaks. It's far more sensitive than looking for bubbles or comparing the colour of a flame.
'leak detection' (http://www.cpsproducts.com/site/productshtml/leakdetection.html )
--
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On Wed, 14 May 2014 23:38:30 -0400, HomeGuy

That assumes the A/C company didn't ice pick the system themselves. Was it blowing cold air before the clean and check?
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On 5/15/2014 12:48 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I neglected to ask if he'd tried it this year. The HO said he called for yearly maint on the system, and they told him it was out.... and he needed to replace the entire system. I suspect they want a pile of money to replace a system that still can be made to work.
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On 5/15/2014 6:29 AM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

After rescheduling from Saturday to Wednesday I did get out to the house. The outdoor fan and compressor did run, so I put a gage on the low side. Find 10" mercury. About 4 or 5 PSI with the system not running.
I put in 20 PSI and beeped, found no obvious leaks. After half hour or so, down to 18 PSI.
The condensor is a three ton Trane with christmas tree coils, and filthy packed with a massive layer of dust. Cottonwood, and what looks like pet fur. Made 9/95, so most likely a recip compressor.
The plan for now is to clean the condensor, and try a pound to pound and a half of R22 (system charge is 5 pounds 12 ounces) to see how it runs. Of course the superheat will be way off the scale. But, if it doesn't leak out, we'll consider put some more in.
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On 5/21/2014 8:49 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

they're tough high quality systems with interchangeable parts. The compressors are very good. Those Christmas tree tinsel coils can be difficult to clean but if you spray them with foaming cleaner and allow it to soak for 10-15 minutes, you should be able to gently, very gently rinse the condenser coil with a fan spray from your garden hose. Like shampoo for your hair, you might have to repeat the process. In warm weather and the system not running, the static pressure will be around 100psi for R-22. One thing you should check is the crankcase heater which will keep the compressor warm and help prevent liquid refrigerant from collecting in the crankcase and causing damage to the compressor when liquid refrigerant hits the valves and pistons which can cause breakage. I've actually seen liquid slugging break connecting rods and the only sound you'll hear is the whine of the motor running free under no load inside the compressor can. ^_^
http://preview.tinyurl.com/oq5xxzp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crankcase_heater

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9glGeGaOsE

If your Trane compressor does not have an external wraparound crankcase heater it will probably have a ceramic cartridge heater that slips into a well in the side of the lower section of the compressor. The heater is like the one in the link below.
http://www.johnstonesupply.com/storefront/product-view.ep?pID1-868
TDD
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On 5/22/2014 1:50 AM, The Daring Dufas wrote:

SM: Might be worth knowing. Thanks.
Those Christmas tree tinsel coils can be

SM: I'm goinig to start with shop vac and brush. And then alki foam and garden hose.
In warm

SM: Yes, that's a good idea. Thanks.

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Return to the house. Brought my brushes, shop vac, cleaning chemicals. HO provided electricity through a window and around. And garden hose.
Pull the unit apart. Brush and vacuum the dry coils. Apply coil cleaner, and wait. Rinse, repeat.
Set thermostat for cooling, and weigh in 1# 8z of R22. Suction pressure about 19 PSIG. Didn't read the high side.
Indoors ambient 73, vents about 64.
They will run for a couple days, and see if the freon holds. I suspect it will.
Advised customer, that's not really enough R22 to be proper, but we'll test it for a couple days and see if it all leaks out. Yes, I beeped for leaks. No, I didn't find any leaks.
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On Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:02:51 PM UTC-4, Stormin Mormon wrote:

If there are no leaks, where did all the freon go?
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On 5/22/2014 10:31 PM, trader_4 wrote:

Same place as socks in the clothes dryer, and my ball point pens.
Since the system says on it, manufacture date of 9/95, I suspect a slow leak some where. It's also possible that neighborhood kids have been huffing, or that an earlier tech let it all out. Then, there is the leprechaun theory.
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trader_4 posted for all of us...
And I know how to SNIP

Stormy sucked out the freezone to use in his system or sell...
--
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On 5/15/2014 6:29 AM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

It's been about 10 days since I worked on the system, and not heard from the fellow. I will call one of these days and ask if things are well.
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On Wed, 14 May 2014 21:09:43 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net"

Back in the olden days the leak detectors were a propane torch that heated a metal plate and in the presence of CFCs the flame turned green. The gas produced was toxic. Freon was so cheap in those days there was no reason to use any other gas to test the system. The real cost of freon is pennies a pound. It is only the taxes that make it so expensive today.
BTW the "ozone hoax" was just that. We stopped using freon but the chinese didn't and they have produced more since the western ban than we ever did. The ozone got better.
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Saturday was cold, about 50F. Not cold enough to need AC. I had a call in the other direction, so I didn't get out to the house to look at the central AC. I'll let you all know what I find.
When I get there.
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Christopher A. Young
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On Wednesday, May 14, 2014 9:33:08 PM UTC-4, Stormin Mormon wrote:

I saw Dateline do a sting like that in Phoenix maybe 10 years ago. They had a reputable AC service guy come out and verify that a system was working perfectly. It was like 10 years old, but there was nothing wrong with it. Then they removed one fuse and called 3 repair companies, with a lady making the call as the homeowner. Two of them checked the system, spending some time doing so, eg VOM being used, etc. Both of those guys told them the system was shot and needed to be replaced. The third guy was so honest that he not only told them the real problem and put the fuse back in, he didn't even want to accept payment for the visit.
I'll be interested to see your findings. My guess is that the percentage of cheats out there is substantial. How substantial, who knows. Any idea how old the system is? I think for these cheats, if a system is 10+ years old, the odds of them scamming increase.
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On 5/15/2014 8:09 AM, trader_4 wrote:

I may have seen a similar show. Yes, and that's my memory of how things went. One company, the tech used a pair of diags, and snipped the coil wire of the contactor, so that had to be replaced before they could call the next place. The show I watched, they took a wire nut off of the low voltage wire to the contactor. Same concept, easy fix. The estimates were all outrageous.
Don't know the age of the system. I concur, doctor, I suspect a money grabbing scheme to replace otherwise good equipment. I'll write when I find out.
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On Thursday, May 15, 2014 9:37:50 AM UTC-4, Stormin Mormon wrote:

The cops should run this sting occasionally, on HVAC, auto repair, etc. You would think that the fines collected could help pay for the cost of some, or all of it. And it would help keep businesses honest.
About 10 years ago, I obtained an exec car for my gf at the time. One of my friends at a high tech company had a Pontiac that was coming off lease. She needed a car, so I arranged for her to buy it. It was 3 years old, maybe 70K miles. Less than a year later, the ABS warning light came on. She also told me that the power steering was making noise. I drove the car and the only noise from the PS was the typical noise you get if you turn it all the way to the stops, left or right.
So, she took it to the local Pontiac dealer for those two problems. They told here that the ABS computer was shot and the power steering was leaking and needed to be replaced. I asked her if there was any fluid on the garage floor, and she said no. I looked underneath and saw no evidence of anything leaking either. The ABS computer was like $900 for just the part, total repair cost would have been like $1600.
I called up my buddy and he said he'd had the ABS light go on and had taken it to a dealer near him and it was a wheel sensor. So, I told her to take it back to them. The only problem they found was..... a bad wheel sensor. Total cost $160. And you know that it wasn't a case of mis-daignosis either. That ABS computer has a long list of fault codes, things like "open sensor circuit RR wheel", "no ground RR wheel", etc. And it for sure has a diagnostic code that says the ABS computer itself is shot. It's not going to say the puter is shot, when it's just missing a signal from one wheel sensor.
Now, the interesting thing here, that I couldn't figure out until recently, is how can this be going on? I'm thinking it's the dealer running the scam, but what dealer would be dumb enough to do this and how long can they get away with it? If you have a bunch your employees doing this, all it takes is one pissed off employee that your fire, whatever, that knows about it, to go running to the cops. They could even just send an anonymous letter to the cops.
More recently, I became aware that it's not necessarily the dealer that's behind it. For example, in many dealerships, the service advisors are getting compensated on the cost of the tickets they write. I'm not sure exactly what incentives a mechanic has, but I would not be surprised to find that they have some compensation involved in jacking up the bill. So, it doesn't have to be a grand conspiracy, but potentially just one or two dishonest employees. And that's probably not hard to find at any repair place.
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