I just had my central air unit recharged with refrigerant and a leak
was found in a very accessible area, on the discharge tube.
The repairman said he would fix the leak for $450.
He said it would take some time because the refrigerant had to be
pumped into the condenser before he could fix the leak and then the
system would have to be restarted.
Does $450 sound reasonable?
Starting with the misinformation about 'pumping the refrigerant into
the condenser' and the rather high price for a couple hours work, you
ought to contact another AC firm for a quote on the job. IIRC,
refrigerant is pumped into a recycling machine, repairs made, tests
conducted, and then system refill and adjusting. Of course, my
experience is in automotive, so I could be wrong.
On home systems you can use the compressor to capture most of the
refrigerant. You close the high side, trip the contactor, and watch
the guages. You will hear the compressor start to load down as the
suction pressure starts to drop. If the lines are fairly short you
can get just about all the refrigerant back into the outside unit.
Close the suction side and release the contactor. If you have some
residual pressure outside the unit that will need to be recovered.
Difficult to estimate this because there s not enough info to kow if
the leak can be fixed by simply brazing the existing system or if
something will need to be replaced. If it's done properly the tech
will purge with nitrogen and keep a slow flow going wihile brazing.
Then the rest of the system need to be vacuumed for a while. It would
be easy to spend several hours on this doing it completely by the book
so the estimate may be a little high but it's not extreme. I'd guess
you migh get down into the 200's maybe with some more estimates. Some
guys will skip the nitrogen part. Some guys might want to add a
filter/desicator or relace the existing one if there is one. That
could easily get you back into the $400 range.
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