I need our advice about my air conditioning unit in northern California.
After a power outage, the compressor in a small outside Amana central air
conditioning unit (circa 2001) wouldn't turn on. I paid almost $100 for a
service call, and the guy the whole time tried to sell me on an entirely
new A/C (new outside unit, inside evaporator, and lines).
I just want the thing fixed.
There are apparently only a few parts (all but two are 'good'):
* freon R22
I would not start buying random parts and
replacing them. I would get another tech
out there. You could just be throwing money
away. The first step is seeing if the unit
is getting power, turn on signal, voltage to
the compressor, etc. It doesn't sound like
you have the skills to do that.
Ask friends, neighbors, other
tradesmen you know, etc for recommendations.
This guy is a scammer.
If it is just the compressor, it should not
cost anywhere near $2800 to replace it.
Amana already told you that the compressor
costs $500. Allowing for R22, misc parts,
labor, etc I would think you could get it
done for around $1000. I did exactly that on a
Ruud for $600, but that was 17 years ago.
There is also a lot we don't know. Like how
old the unit is, how much you use it, how long
you intend to stay there, what shape the
furnace or air handler is in, etc. If it's 20
years old, you use it
a lot, have high electric bills from it, etc, then
it might not be worth putting $1000 into it.
Consider the cost of new eqpt and factor in
any state, utility, etc credits available. For
the price of new eqpt, you can find the price
for Rheem and other eqpt online. That will
give you an idea of what that portion of the
install is costing.
You're in northern california so you're going to pay top dollar for
labor. I still would expect you should be able to get a quote around
$1500 including parts to replace the compressor.
When he said he wasn't getting a "liquid reading" on the r22 he may
have meant he was not seeing any pressure on the high side of the
compressor. Should be between 250psi and 350psi depending on the
outside temp. Confirming power to the compressor and checking for
high output pressure are two things to confirm a bad compressor
No you can't replace it yourself.
The r22 will need to be evacuated before replacing the compressor and
reinstalled afterwards. Checking that the proper amount of r22 is
installed will be part of the post replacement work.
A lot of the techs are pressured to sell new installs. You are a
candidate. Life expectancy of most units is about 15 years. You are
looking at a major repair cost on a unit that may only last a few more
years. It's not completely unrealistic to replace it entirely.
jamesgangnc wrote the following:
I guess you don't have a fuse box outside on your CAC, but I do.
Did you see the video on the link I provided?
That's not my fuse box, so I guess there is at least two units that have
outside fuse boxes.
There was a sting operation by some TV company that I saw some months ago.
They had a home CAC unit completely checked by their own techs to make
sure all was working. They then disabled some small inexpensive thing
and called in several local AC techs to 'fix' the unit. The 'inspection'
by some of these 'techs' resulted in a wide range of unnecessary repair
costs, including replacing the whole unit (like in the case of the OP).
The one redeeming feature on the show was one case where the TV crew
just pulled the disconnect in the outside fuse box out a hair where it
wasn't making a connection. The last tech that arrived looked over the
unit, then went to the fuse box, saw the disconnect out a little and
pushed it back in. The AC then turned on. The cost for this 'repair'?
$000.00. Nothing! He didn't charge for his time, nor the gas used to get
to the house.
The TV crew interviewed him afterwards and he said that he didn't think
it was right to charge for doing nothing.
Installs with fuses haven't been done for 30 years. Move on.
Yes, the hvac business always has had problems. Just like the auto
repair business. But from the op's report the guy hooked up guages
and did some troubleshooting. Is it a good idea to get a second
opinion, sure. But even decent techs are encouraged to suggest
replacement on any repair likely to be over a grand involving a unit
more than 10 years old. Sometimes it's not a bad idea depending on
other factors. It's not just for the sale result it also reduces
complaints. An older unit is more likely to have another problem not
long after the first one is fixed. Even when the two problems are
unrelated many homeowners still are unhappy and have an urge to blame
the service company.
Sir, or madam:
I can tell by the way you wrote your post that this is all WAY over
your head. You clearly do not even have a basic idea how a
refrigeration system works. That said, you should get at least two
more opinions from reputable professionals before deciding what to
have THEM do.
Refrigeration is not a DIY thing unless you do that kind of work
professionally. Obviously you do not, so you are lacking the proper
(EXPENSIVE) tools to deal with the system properly.
FYI, the "freon R22" is the refrigerant, which is compressed by the
compressor. If you yank out the compressor you will lose what freon is
still in the system. R22 is hazardous to you and the environment. It
is also VERY VERY VERY expensive because they are not making any more.
To properly service your AC unit the R22 needs to be removed with a
special set of valves and a special vacuum pump.
By the time you buy all the proper tools for this ONE TIME use, you
may as well pay the professional. Normal humans cannot purchase R22
anyway; only licensed professionals.
That's a bit dismissive, isn't it. I don't think they've been
used in a long time either, but that doesn't mean they
are practically non-existent. There are still a lot of old
systems out there. I had one that used fuses that I
just replaced last year. Also, not only does willshak's
video have fuses, but also the one in Phoenix that
Dateline used for their sting did as well.
Which unfortunately doesn't mean he's not a scammer.
Did you see the Dateline video? One scammer did
hook up gauges, the other did not even check for
power at the unit.
=A0Is it a good idea to get a second
I think we all agree that it's perfectly fine to tell
someone that a needed repair will cost $1000+
and it's better to get a whole new unit. It's
another thing where they scam you and claim
the unit is shot, when it's actually working perfectly
like in the Dateline sting.
I had a long conversation with the repair guy's boss:
- It has probably a bad bimetallic switch which is INSIDE (they say) the
hermetically sealed compressor.
- That switch may have been blown by the power surge (he said he can't
- He said he banged on it with a mallet to no avail.
- He said the voltage was within 5% at the compressor (i.e., good).
- He said he couldn't 'run' the compressor so he couldn't get pressure
readings of the R22 but that he should have seen liquid but didn't. (He
was iffy on what that actually meant.)
- He said the controller was good (it worked when he set the thermostat
to cool), as was the capacitor (it didn't have any bulges).
So, what's wrong, is the compressor.
What I guess I need to do is find someone who will replace the compressor
for less than it costs for a brand new system!
Note: I already bought a new capacitor ($12) and controller ($45) just by
way of maintenance. They are plug and play.
Long story short, the first guy said he'd refund my money when I
complained to him that he didn't provide any diagnostics and he didn't
call me before hand so I could be there when he tested the unit (which we
all agree, I had stipulated when I called for the repair).
The one thing I should have done is asked them to put in writing the fact
they think the PG&E spike caused the failure. I'll ask the next guy I
send out. But, at this point, I already KNOW it's the compressor.
So, maybe I'll just ask for a quote for what to do to fix the compressor!
The tech said it voltage was 'within 5% at the compressor" (the
compressor just didn't go on when it should have).
I'm not sure what that 5% means, but that was taken to be a good sign of
the power at the unit.
I'm not sure about this fuse discussion; but I'll describe what I have.
- There is a circuit breaker in the main panel outside the house that
will shut off the power to the a/c and to the dryer. This breaker is
actually four smaller breakers, wired together. I'm surprised that all
four operate at once; but that's what's there.
Then, right in front of the A/C unit outside, on the outside wall, is
another box. This box has a black square plastic thing with a handle
molded into it. On top it sais "ON" and on bottom it says "OFF".
When I pull the handle, that entire square plastic black box comes out,
and behind it, affixed to it, are two 'fuses' the size of your thumb (or
so). These I tested and are good. The a/c tech would also have tested
this, I would presume, as he noted there is power at the compressor.
Right now, of course, I have that box reversed. The "OFF" is on top and
the "ON" is on bottom (upside down wording).
So, if 'that' is what you guys mean by fuses, they have been checked, and
This I am starting to understand.
In fact, in California, they won't even let me 'buy' the compressor. The
sold me the $12 capacitor; and they sold me the $45 controller; but they
refused to even tell me the specs on the compressor!
The compressor plate says:
- Model CR32K6-PFV-270