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SavvyCat 09-01-2010 03:10 PM

Condenser Replacement Question
I'm afraid to call an HVAC company because I won't know if I'm going to be bamboozled or not. The last time I had one out for a system tune-up, I forgot to keep an eye on him and I don't know if that $200 capacitor replacement was legit.

As some of you know, we had a massive heatwave in north Texas. I don't know if it was just the oppressive heat being too much for any a/c unit, or just too much for mine. I had my thermostat programmed to 85 degrees during the day so it wouldn't get too hot to cool off, and then changing to 78 degrees 45 minutes before I would get home. The thing is that it could never pull off the 78 degrees. Not until after the sun went down. It would hit 80 or 81 and stay on the whole evening, or shut off at 80 degrees to regroup and try again. I had it set for 74 degrees at 10:15 for bed, and it could manage it, so it's not like it's totally broken.

Here is my concern: The 3-ton air handler was replaced when I bought the house, so that's just over two years old. The condenser is original for all I know. The house was built in 1982. One person gave me a heads-up that the new handler was probably charged with R22 because of the condenser, and that they have now stopped making R22 condensers. Am I screwed? If I try to replace this unit because it's just not good enough anymore, are the R22s still around? Will I have to replace an essentially new air handler? Or were they anticipating the refrigerant switch and the air handler can convert to R410a? It's a Goodman ARUF364216. Would it be really stupid to get an R22 condenser just to avoid converting the handler?

Help, help, and more help! Before I place that call, I need a better education than the one I have. I need to know what I need, the best to get, and the most cost-effective approach.

Many thanks!

kok328 09-02-2010 06:06 AM

Well let me start with saying that I've never seen a $200 capacitor. Must have been some steep markup and labor charge on top of it.
Secondly, don't automatically go for the A/C unit. Make sure your thermostat is working correctly (although it sounds like it is) and more importantly, is the home adequatley insulated?
If not it would like your trying to cool the outdoors with a 3-ton A/C unit.
However, you should be able to upgrade your condensor to R410a and not have to worry about air handler compatability. Although they are phasing out R22 (freon and equipment) it will still be around for some time to come. It will become more expensive as the rarity increases. If you take R12 for an example, it can still be obtained but, your going to pay a pretty penny for it. Good Luck

SavvyCat 09-02-2010 09:58 AM

Thank, Kok, that's helpful. That capacitor was really iffy, but what was I supposed to do? I was going to hover when he was playing with the unit, but before I got out there, he was walking back with a test meter and a capacitor he supposedly (out of his pocket) that didn't register anything.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the thermostat. I bought it in 2009 and swapped out the piece of junk in my apartment. When I had a pre-walk-thru, the manager said, "Oh! I didn't know we had those. Nice." I said, "No, no, no! Yours in in the drawer and I'll reinstall it. That one is mine and it's coming with me." She was so disappointed. :D

Honestly, I think my insulation likely sucks. It looks like a home job up there (the former owner was a DIY, but not a very good one) with pink snowdrifts rather than an even, cohesive dispersement. When the a/c first starts on a really hot day, I get a blast of hot air first. I'm considering getting radiant barrier, but in the end my electric bill never reaches $200 a month, so I don't feel this strong motivation to invest.

I may just wait to see if the condenser goes out and then it will be under my home warranty. Yeah, that's the ticket. What can I tweak to make that happen that won't be obvious? ;)

kok328 09-02-2010 12:29 PM

In that case it sounds like the ductwork itself needs insulation.

SavvyCat 09-02-2010 05:16 PM

You know what? Now that you mention it, capacitor dude said something about that. You're probably right. I just wasn't going to take HIS word for it.

But thanks for the condenser info. As long as there are still parts around and the system matching isn't an issue, I feel better.

silentdub 10-01-2010 12:16 PM

$200.00 to replace the cap really isn't that bad.

depending on the cap, it was certainly under $100.00, about 125 for the service call.

average price.

R22 systems are still being sold untill the end of this year.

You CAN use the new R410 condensing unit with the air handler inside as long as you evacuate the system. A lot of contractors just want to replace everything since it is easier for them.

R22 is going to be made until 2018 if I am not mistaken, then like R12, the price per lb will cost you a fortune.

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