At least 4 times wihin the past of couple of years, i had called A/C
maintenance people to take a look at my a/c unit for not giving cool
air. They all found freon level was too low. Filled the freon,
tightened the valve here and there. But few weeks later, the same
problem again. One a/c guy said coil was leaking and gave me an
estimate of $3000 to replace it. i called other a/c guy for his
opinion. He said there was nothing wrong with coil system. Coil is in
my attic. i did notice, attic gets cool when i run the a/c although
there is no a/c vent in attic. then i found out there was cold blow of
air coming from joints around the coil system box. is it normal to get
cool air blowing out from coil system? I taped all those joint
openings. i also hear some hoarse/dry noise coming out of the coil in
the attic that i do not hear from another coil system in the first
floor (we have two a/c system, one for each floor). Eveytime a/c guys
show up they fill up the freon, clean the shrubs around compressor,
tightens the valves, but the problem does not go away. i wanted to put
this problem here before calling a/c guy for the fifth time. what
should i ask him? why they can not fix the leak which is the obvious
problem? How do i find out the leak and fix it?
Obviously you have a leak that needs to be fixed. The $3K price will
probably do it because they will likely also replace some fittings and such
and catch the problem. It may be sort of like changing the engine in your
car for an oil leak. Maybe not too good of an analogy. Anyway - Have someone
find the leak. Show you where it is and ask them how they identified it. I
think there are dyes that can be added to the system that can be detected in
leaking areas with certain lights or some such thing. As you call around to
find an AC service tech ask them how they go about finding AC leaks. If the
answer is they just start replacing stuff till it goes away then move on to
the next guy. There must be a better way.
That time frame looks like atleast once a year. The AC man should be
finding the leak. He should have a device usually called a sniffer. It is
a handheld device to check for leaks and he should be able to use it to find
the leak and fix it. Often when you are low on the freon the cooling coil
will become very cold and have ice on it. This seems like the opposit of
what you would think, but that is the way it is. Then the air flow gets
blocked with ice and no cool air can get through the unit. While not likely
it may be a dirty air filter. Friend of mine had a problem with the air
flow in his house. He had an electronic air filter and when it was
installed they forgot to remove the regular filter. Over teh years it
clogged up and cut off the air flow. He found that and removed the filter
like it should have been and all was fine.
Like the others have said, INSIST that whoever you have service the
unit find the leak. You might even tell them BEFORE they come out what
you want. It could become a constant source of income for them if you
let them get away without finding it. I had a unit that was leaking
freon a couple of years ago, and although it was not as bad as yours, it
became a nuisance having repeated calls for the same problem. I put my
foot down and after they screwed around with dye and other tests, found
the leak at the Schrader valve where freon is inserted. The choice was
to replace the Schrader valve (a costly procedure) or wrap the threads
for the cover for this valve with Teflon tape so that freon could not
escape. I chose the latter and it has held freon for several years now.
It cost me about $200 to find a problem that in my estimation should
have been found on day one.
I wish I could say that most heating/cooling people were honest and did
good work, but that has not been my experience. If you find such a
person or company, write down their phone number so that you can call
them again when needed. If you want proof of this, go to the news group
alt.hvac and read the comment by many of the "Pros." Although there are
a FEW who try to answer questions, most are jerks who think their
knowledge is special and not to be shared by the "Unwashed." I wish I
knew precisely who the businesses were, for I would make it a point to
NEVER patronize them.
Finally, your discovery of cold air escaping your ductwork or furnace
unit in the attic only reinforces my comments about poor workmanship. I
had much the same problem and solved it like you did. Rest assured that
the units belonging to the installers or service personnel do not leak
at their homes!!!
Yes, plenum leaks tend to occur over time as do leaks in the duct
distribution system. Go through the whole thing and check and tape
all. When you do be sure to not compress or remove the insulation or
you will potentially get condensation that will leak onto your ceiling
and stain or ruin it (assuming you have attic duct work).
Depending on the size of the unit $3000 is a little strong for
replacing the evap coil. If it is an old unit you might want to
replace the whole thing with a high efficiency unit, take the tax
credit and let the energy savings pay for the balance. I just
replaced a whole 5 ton packaged heat pump for $3900.
At the very least, get a second opinion from some one else if your AC
guy is not getting the job done.
C'mon guys. Dont fall for this either. This lady (if she is) has been
calling out the companies that advertise the lowest $29.95 tune up
special. When the new "green" zit faced kid shows up at her door, he
eagerly tries to head to the basement. She then points him to the 120
degree + attic with no lighting, no easy access and no walkboards. He
wants to do a quick brush off and get the hell outta the attic. As he
works, she yells at him, "Hey, while you are up there, can you see if
I have a leak or something because it doesnt seem to cool well". He
dumps in a shot of freezone and runs for the door. All the while, Ms
thinks she is getting a deal because she didnt have to pay for a
service call or diagnostic call.
Its the same old story. Ive had it a million times. I just tell them,
"I'll be happy to look for your leak. It'll cost you an additional
(XX.xx ) for the diagnostic fee and (XX.xx) for the electronic search.
Then I'll tell you how much it will be to replace your attic coil or
attic unit. :-)
It just takes the newbies a little longer to learn that.
It cost me lot more than that for freon fill up plus what they call
regular maintenance. The fourth a/c guy tells me freon should "never"
run out as it runs in a closed system. i wish i was told that by the
very a/c guy who not cheap either!
There is no basement here!
It is hot attic, alright! I did not take a/c guy there. They went
there temselves as coil system is located there!
Only one out of the 4 a/c gut told me there was leak in coil system and
he quoted me $3000.00 to replace it. Obviously, i did not want to throw
away that money without 2nd opinion. The other three did not find any
leak (yes, they had leak testers in their hand) in that coil system.
What do i call that first A/C guy?
They all not only dumped freon, they also tested for leaks at all the
valves, joints. Tightened them. Two of them said, If the problem
persist, they will do leak test using uv light! One of them never
showed up! The second one was willing to come, but weather was too
cool and was still cool until a week ago. He is coming again next
times. I just tell them, "I'll be happy to look for your leak. It'll cost you an
No one has ever quoted me for leak test! Why not to quote if they
suspect big leak?
Thanks for your help! You sure sound like one of thosee A/C guys!
times. I just tell them, "I'll be happy to look for your leak. It'll cost you an
Look Sweetie. Its real simple. If you call me for a service call
because your system is not cooling and you think you have a leak, I
quote you a service call over the phone. When I get there, I look over
the system, run it and see what kind of problem/s it has. I then tell
you, "according to the pressures and temperatures I saw, your unit is
low on freon. Freon does not wear out. It Leaks OUT". I now ask you if
you would like me to do an electronic leak search and I quote you the
price ahead of time to do it. I also at that time give you an idea of
a few things it can be and some prices of those repairs. If your
system is old, I also quote you a price on a replacement system. NOW,
you are armed with most of the info you need so that YOU can make an
informed decision on how you wish to spend your money. If you choose
to do nothing and would like me to leave, you only owe me for the
service call. An electronic leak detector is my friend. I dont think
Ive ever NOT found a leak. Sometimes it takes a little more time than
others but with the proper tools, its not that hard. For the record, I
think the UV light leak search is a bit of a waste. Ive seen a lot of
guys, come out, install the UV dye (possibly introducing air and
foreign matter), charge you and then say they will be back in a week
or so after the dye has gotten a chance to circulate. When they come
back, they charge you again to do the actual leak search. THEN, you
still get charged to do the actual repairs. An electronic leak search
eliminates one of those steps , thus eliminating one of the charges to
you. Anyways, leaks in residential units are easy to find. It does
SUCK though to do it in a hot dark cramped attic that has no easy
If you were in my area, Id be happy to provide that service just as I
do all my customers.
Happy hunting for a good technician.
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