Repair or Replace?

I have a 7 year old Carrier split heat pump system that has been diagnosed with a leak of the indoor coil. I've been advised by a heating and air company that it will cost approximately $1,300 - $1,500 to - drain the refrigerant, fix the leak, refill with refrigerant, etc. It would be warrantied for 1 year. OR, he can install a new unit for about $1900 minus the service call of $168 to diagnose the problem for a net of about $1732. The new unit would be a Train and would come with all the standard manufacturer warranty, etc. So far this is a no brainer IMO – I'd go with the new unit. My question is – does the repair of the leaking indoor coil sound reasonable? I'd call some else for a 2d opinion but they'll likely charge me a service call to perform a leak test.
Thanks
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MK wrote:

The numbers don't pass a reasonableness test. In order to install the new system he has to:
1) evacuate the system and reclaim the refrigerant 2) remove the old evaporator coil 3) install a new evaporator coil 4) install a new lineset (one would hope) 5) install the new condenser unit 6) evacuate and then charge the system (new refrigerant comes with the condenser)
To fix the old system he would only have to:
1) evacuate the system and reclaim the refrigerant 2) remove the old evaporator coil 3) install a new evaporator coil 4) evacuate and then recharge the system using your old refrigerant
The delivered (not installed) price of a low-end (10 SEER) builder's grade Trane (XB 10) condensor is about $450 - 600, depending on size. A new coil is probably $200 or so (uninstalled) depending on size. So the new condenser and coil installed for $1900 sounds about right, but the R&R of the old coil sounds high. What is the SEER rating of your 7-year old system?
I'd get a second opinion from a reputable contractor. Ask your neighbors who they'd recommend.
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If the old system just has a leak then the line set should be ok. Some times running a new line set involves ripping out walls to get the stuff in. In my home development you can not run them down the outside of the wall.
If your going to replace the unit. I would get the highest SEER that you can afford. Standard now days is 10seer. Good is 12, 14 is better. If the condenser is replaced then the air handler needs to be replaced. They work as a matched pair. You would not put truck tires on your wife's car would you? I just got a bid for replacing my unit both the coil and compressor for $5400. it was also a trane and it was a 14 seer. Sounds to me like they are planning on replacing the indoor air handler and not the compressor. If you have any issues with how the home is heated or cooled now is the time to address them. Do some googling and you can find sites that will tell you how much money you will save from one seer to an another. Good luck and may your project be completed before you really need it.
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Near me they run replacement HVAC copper disguised as downspouts and no one notices even in the strictest subdivisions if it cannot go thru the wall.

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That is a very neat trick. One I shall remember. In fact I would rate it the best trick I have seen this month!
Colbyt
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OK..I had the 2d opinion today. This is really weird. I met the guy at the truck and quickly explained that I was looking for a second opinion. I told him I had another company out Sunday and they found I had no refrigerant in the system. They installed refrigerant and performed a leak test and found that I had a leak of the indoor coil. I told him that apparently all the refrigerant had leaked out by Monday afternoon because the unit wasn't cooling when I got home from work Monday so I just cut it off. He asked me what kind of system it was and I told him Carrier. He said hmmm…don't usually see that severe of a leak in the indoor coil that all of the R22 would be gone in a day. He said with Carriers he sees leaks of the suction line king valve a good bit and in fact his next job was to replace one of those. He went up in the ceiling to perform a leak check and came down a few minutes later and said there wasn't any refrigerant in the system and he'd need to put some in to do the check. So he goes to the truck and I meet him at the side of the house where the outdoor units are. He walks up and points to the king valve and says "see how shiny this is? Well, it shouldn't be. You got a leak there". He pumped in some R22 and then pulled the circuit breaker to my downstairs unit so we could hear and he told me to stick my ear down there by the king valve and I could hear it leaking. Like air leaking out of an inner tube. Then he showed me the king valve on the other unit and pointed out how it looked dry and weathered. So after putting in some R22 he goes back in the attic and does another leak check with his electronic leak checker. Came down and told me there was not a leak up there. I asked him if it was possible that the R22 he just added leaked out or there wasn't enough to get an accurate check and he said he felt sure there was no leak up there. So he gave me a quote of $412.25 ($485-15% - don't know what the 15% discount was for but I'll take it) to replace the suction line king valve and hopefully he'll get that fixed in the next day or two. So I called the first company that came out and told them I wouldn't be needing that $1900 mismatched air handler just yet. The service manager seemed befuddled and assured me they weren't trying to do anything dishonest. He is refunding my $168 from the Sunday service call. He is going to talk with the technician and call me back with an explanation. I hope my problem is just the king valve. I hope I don't find I still have a indoor coil leak problem after fixing the king valve. Thanks for the advice guys. I'm generally a trusting person and I would have gone ahead with the recommended repair if you had not raised some red flags. I would have probably ended up paying the $1900 for the new air handler and another $500 for one of those "oh by the way we found another problem" deals. I just don't understand how they could have misdiagnosed the problem so badly. They are supposedly a reputable company and I know someone who knows the tech and he has worked with this company for about 7 years or so. Thanks again.

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MK wrote:

Glad to hear that you got a second opinion and that you are getting a refund of the first service call. It will be interesting to hear the first tech's explanation.
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Are you sure they are using R22 to check for leaks? It is highly ilegal to knowing put freon into a unit that is leaking. To do a proper leak check if there is no freon in the unit, it should be done with nitrogen. Then repair the leak and evacuate the system and recharge with freon. You can get yourself and your company in a lot of trouble these days using freon in this manner. As far as the cost of repairing a leak in a coil, line set etc... The price you are quoting is right out of this world. If anyone can't fix something like that including brazing, and refilling the unit for a couple of hundred bucks, I say they are just ripping people off. I am a refrigeration tech in Canada and can't believe this story, it's just plain scary, like something you would see on Sixty Minutes as an HVAC ripoff.
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No. I'm not sure it was R22. I just assumed it was.
MK

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I'm very glad you got a second opinion, I would have liked to see soap bubbles put on the leak to show you. Not to nitpick, but a king valve is a valve located at the outlet of a receiver so it's actually the suction line service valve. :-)
- Robert
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