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Old 01-19-2012, 09:17 PM  
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Default Heat Pump Repairs

I am a relatively new home owner, young, and somewhat inexperienced. That being said, my spouse and I decided to purchase a relatively new home so that we would have fewer repairs to worry about. (Ha..) Our HVAC system is currently about 6 years old.

After a dreadfully sticky, sweaty summer in which our heat pump was failing miserably at cooling our home, we finally called in a repairman who determined we were low on freon, refilled it, charged us a fortune, and left barely saying a word. Needless to say we never called that company again.

Fast-forward to the winter when a different company offered us a free tune-up. We took it, figuring we could ask them about the freon issue at the time. They were MUCH nicer, and found a leak in the evaporator coil which was causing the low freon. They replaced it and did a few other small things, and in the process we got a 'membership' because the cost of the membership was less than the discount we were getting from it. [A few weeks later we also had a minor plumbing disaster and a nice bill from that.. Hurray for our newer house saving us money.]

The membership includes a free A/C, heating, and plumbing tune up every year and needless to say, they always find things that are either wrong or that they strongly recommend. We are smart enough to know we don't need special de-clogging fluids in our pipes, but the HVAC stuff really gets to me. Our heater seems to be working fine, but today the tech told me that the defrost board is not going into defrost when he tests it, and that usually means it's broken. He recommended replacing it to the tune of $457.

In addition to the defrost board, the dual capacitor is dying (running at 33.5 instead of 35.3) for $197, we need a new pan treatment ($29, know this is unnecessary), and the contactors are burnt ($197).

How do I know when to trust them? How can this much break every year? Is there a good resource online for looking these kinds of things up? Should we quit having them come out every year? Thanks. Sorry this is long.

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Old 01-27-2012, 11:53 PM  
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You'll know when defrost mode isn't working anymore, because your condensing coil will turn into a block of ice and your home will be cold. If you say your heat is working fine, it's working fine. Burnt up contactors usually weld themselves into the closed position, forcing your unit to run constantly. If your unit cycles on and off, you're fine. As a former service technician, I can tell you that there isn't a system out there that I've looked at that couldn't use some new part or another because they looked old and worn, but as long as the system is doing it's job, there really is no reason to charge the customer an arm and a leg to repair a unit that is in good working order.

I certainly advise that you continue having your system checked annually, however (although I would go with another company): have your coils cleaned on the condensing unit and air handler, have your freon checked and charged properly, get the drip pan and drainage piping flushed out and cleaned up, clean up the wiring contacts, have fresh batteries put in the t-stat (if it takes them), etc.

Last edited by DIY_Mike; 01-27-2012 at 11:55 PM.
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Old 02-10-2012, 10:58 AM  
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Default DIY advice

You mentioned how can we trust them?

I am in Phoenix and have worked as an HVAC service tech doing all of it. I now work as a consumer advocate in the field.

#1 many companies pay service techs part or all based on commission.

conflict of interest, yes

Your defense? Get educated and asking questions is the way to start.

The first reply is right on. Contactors, run capacitors and defrost boards can and will fail at some point in the life of an a/c. I have seen 20 year old heat pumps with original run capacitors doing great. When they fail, get them fixed or if you are inclined get some advice on how to change them yourself. Run capacitors are 5$ to 20$ but in the middle of July expect your friendly A/C company charge you 100$ to 150$ for the pleasure of changing it. A word of caution, run caps can store a charge so get advice on how to change them first. Very easy just have someone walk you through it the first time.

Flushing condensate drain lines is very simple and can be DIY'd so easily with a shop vac and a little instruction. Outdoor coils can be cleaned by yourself with a little care and a garden hose. The indoor coil can too if you have the desire.

You had the freon leak patched up and that is major. If the leak is repaired than you should have no more issue with refridgerant loss. Remember it is a closed system so there is no need to "add" a little, like gas in a car.

Good luck in your A/C, heat pump endeavours!!
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