Thursday, July 30, 2009

HVAC repair

We have had four service calls on our home air conditioning this summer.

The first was when we returned from vacation at the end of June. The “old” part of the house would not cool below 80 degrees. I called out a company, but they charged us $200 for two pounds of Freon.

Two weeks later and the “new” part of the home, the compressor was not running when I returned home from work. New is relative, as the system is 10 years old. Just the day before the compressor quit, I was at a friend’s house and three of us were talking about HVAC repairs. The other guy had his home built 13 years back and the AC had never really worked well. He had contracted a local Trane dealer to “do over” and was very impressed with the professionalism, the work and the energy savings. So when I got home and that unit was not running, I gave them a call. I explained the issue and they said it would be $200 for them to come out now, since it was after 5 PM already, or $175 the next day. I picked the next day. We could set up some fans and turn down the “old” part to try and cool some of the “new” area. About 6 PM, the phone rang and it was the service technician. He asked for the symptom, and then said that if he drew a line between where he was, and his house, we were on the way and would it be OK if he came now? If not, then it would have to be after 1 PM the next day. I told him I didn’t want to pay for off-hours, but he said NO PROBLEM, this was his choice. So, 20 minutes later he and his helper show up, and in 15 minutes the unit was back among the living AC units again. I was impressed. Then he handed me the bill. $157. CHEAPER than they had said. I paid them and told them I’d want a bid on replacing the older system, but later in the fall. They said to just ring them when we needed.

Two days later and I get home and again the old part of the house is not cooling. I called them again. They came by and sure enough, the unit was again two pounds low on Freon. It was leaking it at the rate of two pounds in three weeks. It was just the middle of July, in Texas. The technician climbed up into the attic and looked over the system. Bad news, which was expected. The coil up in the attic was leaking. It was 14 years old. The outside compressor was 19 years old and the furnace was original, 25 years old. The fan in the attic was also squeaking badly, even after he oiled it. I told him about my friend and how please he was with their Trane system, and he went to work on a bid. He asked some questions about the home size and such and then came up that we needed a 3.5 ton unit, not the 3 ton we had. Except in the new energy efficient unit, they only had 3 and then 4 ton units. I opted for the 4 ton, which is a really neat compressor. It is really two, two ton units. The “intelligent” systems in it, can work alternating compressors on mild days, and both at full capacity on really hot days. I also opted to go from a 16 SEER to a 20 SEER unit, with a 10 year warrantee. Since we have two asthmatics in the home, I also added a clean-air filtration system. Built into the unit, it was $400. Adding it later would be $600 plus installation. So we signed up for a full system change scheduled for July 23. It was July 15, so we all crossed our fingers that the system would limp along eight days.

Two days later, the system AGAIN refused to work. Since we were under contract for the new system, the HVAC company came right out, no charge, to trouble shoot us. He found some relay had overheated and shorted out, due to the fan bearings being so bad. He had a used relay on the truck and wired that in to attempt to get us into the next week.

So that was FOUR service calls, by two companies, in three weeks time!

On the appointed day for the system change out, three service trucks rolled up. Along with a pickup truck loaded with all the new equipment. There were five service technicians and the owner of the company. They then proceeded to unload the gear and crawl up into the attic and over the outside compressor to remove all the old gear. About 9:30, I went out and they had all the old gear sitting on the garage floor. I offered them some Gatorade. Then there were two discoveries that had the technician’s eyes wide! One technician decided to dump the rust out of the furnace. He got a small bucket and asked one of the other guys to help him pick it up and dump it. It HALF FILLED the bucket with rust. One of them made another comment about that being about the worst he’d ever seen. The owner cracked me up with his reply. “That unit has been in that attic since before YOU were born!” But then the owner noticed something and asked for a screw gun. He went about removing the natural gas control valve from the furnace. Even his eyes got wide as they started singing “Burning down the house!” The inside part of the control value, had evidence of a fire! He said if it had burned a hole in the gas line, you’d see our house on the evening news with the attic blown off.

They finished their Gatorade and went back to work putting in the new gear.

The next wide-eyed moment was an hour later. Since the new compressor was larger than the old unit, it required a new breaker in our fuse panel. The owner was attempting to get the old fuse out and I was watching. It didn’t pop right out. When he got it out and examined it, it also showed signs of being over heated! There was some light corrosion on the fuse and also some plastic fatigue from heat! Another round of “burning down the house”.

Around 12:30, they were almost all done. We were down to just one truck, two technicians and the owner. He started the new unit up. With it’s built in electronics, it would actually sense things and tell them to add or remove Freon. It was 84 degrees in the house at 12:30. At 1 PM, we heard the one compressor shut down. The temperature was already dropped to 78 degrees, heading to the thermostat setting of 77. A few minutes later, and we were at 77 degrees and the unit shut down. It had pulled it down so fast, they actually had to lower the temperature a few more degrees to take some more readings and tune the system.

We are beyond impressed. I can’t wait to see what our electric bill will drop to. My friend said his dropped in half, but we still do have the “new” part of the house running with an older AC system. If you are about the Flo-Mo-HV-Lake Dallas area, check these guys out, Allied American Service.

I plan to have them out again this fall to replace our worn out duct work.