Replacing compressor oil?


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Old 03-08-08, 11:14 PM
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Replacing compressor oil?

"Rheem Classic 2yr old 3-1/2 Ton A/C unit had freon leak from bad install brazing. Has been partially re-charged now about 8 times over until the leaks (2) were finally found and fixed.

Now has *intermittent* hard noisy start ups which our tech said is most likely being caused by low oil in the scroll compressor. He advised that the oil leaked out along with the freon. Tech wants to pull the compressor out of the unit and replace the lubricating oil by dumping out the old oil, then refilling w/38oz of fresh oil. Then re-install and re-charge.

My options (per the tech) are:

1. do nothing, wait and see if compressor goes bad.
2. refill oil ($240 labor)
3. buy new compressor ($700 installed).

Please advise on best course of action.

Thank you very much.
 
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Old 03-09-08, 09:50 AM
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You're in a tough situation here...unfortunately.
Tough to give you advice on one over the other alternatives.

You may opt for having oil added, but if the mechanical damage is already done, the extra oil won't prevent that compressor from a shortened life that it may already be destined to...and then you'll have to pay for the replacement anyway.

How long did that leak problem go unfixed?
Yes, some oil gets lost when leaks develop, but the amounts lost are usually small...More serious than a loss of oil is having an A.C. unit operate for long periods of time under low charge conditions, b/c that forces the compressor to run overheated.

So, if you waited a bit too long in between service calls, and had that baby running, waiting for one more week, or one more month, or whatever, prior to having it serviced and recharged, the ensuing overheating would cause far more damage in far less time, to the compressor, than oil lost. The biggest unspoken fact in Air Conditioning is that the refrigerant that keeps our homes cool, also is responsible to keep the compressor motor cool...run an a.c. unit low on refrigerant for too long and, inspite of having all of the oil it needs, its compressor won't last too long.

If that was my unit, I would just leave it alone. And when time comes for repair work, unless a condensing unit is 5 y/o or younger (your case), one is better off replacing the entire condensing unit than just the compressor
 
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Old 03-09-08, 11:08 AM
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Thanks for that. It is good to have another opinion.

Walton's in Corona CA. installed a new system for us two years ago as we wanted something more efficient. After the first month the unit was not cooling very well. We called them and they came out several times and added freon each time, saying that freon has to settle in new units and that we needed to replace every register in the house because they were too small. (even though the old unit seemed to do fine with them).

Later, after I pressed them, they acknowledged that there was a freon leak, they said it was not covered under warranty because the leak was in the pre-existing freon line that ran between the unit and the house, although they never checked to see where the leak was at. We were never given an option to use the existing line, they chose to use it. After that they dropped the ball. We were on our own.

I have since spent over $1,000 having freon added, and having the leaks tracked down and fixed. Which did happen to be (1) at the point where the condensing unit was brazed by them, and (2) where the factory joined the compressor to the service valve. The leaks were not in the existing freon lines. This has been a horror story for us.

Later I found that the supply duct that formally came from the old unit had never been capped and was venting conditioned air into the attic from the new system, and also that the old return vent grate had not been covered, so air from the attic was free-falling into the hallway through a big hole in the celing. Not to mention them leaving behind sharp sheet-metal scraps, tools, and the old large blower assembly still up in the attic.

Now I find that my compressor is damaged as a result of the freon leaking. We picked them because they had the christian symbol in their yellow pages add. So after all this they still get to go to heaven I guess. Go figure. :-)
 
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Old 03-09-08, 12:50 PM
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Hearing the explanation that "freon has to settle in new units" tells me they either do not know their jobs or are misleading you with a ridiculous statement.
It is possible that if the unit was charged in very cold weather a small adjustment need be made but not enough that you would notice a loss in performance.

If the compressor had lost enough oil that it would be noisy you would most definitely see the oil someplace.
Rather what I think has happened is that the compressor has been damaged by running for a good portion of it's life low on refrigerant.
As said, these compressors rely on cold refrigerant returning from the indoor coil to cool them which will not happen when the refrigerant charge is low.

I would say that your choices are to confront the installer with a well laid out complaint and insist on a new compressor for nothing or run from these guys and just see how long the compressor lasts.
 
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Old 03-09-08, 12:59 PM
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No a/c guy here, just wondering....

Was this company an 'authorized/certified installer/dealer'?
Would the manufacturer have any pull with something like this? In other fields, I've had manufacturers at least give the part (cheap goodwill for them), but not cover any sort of labor.

Just a thought, any comments?
 
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Old 03-09-08, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by slizzzzard View Post
Walton's in Corona CA. installed a new system for us two years ago as we wanted something more efficient. After the first month the unit was not cooling very well. We called them and they came out several times and added freon each time, saying that freon has to settle in new units and that we needed to replace every register in the house because they were too small. (even though the old unit seemed to do fine with them).
Good Lord! you guys have been through a long lasting nightmare, I feel for you. There is NOT such a thing as the Freon having to settle. It is sheer INCOMPETENCE to say that, whomever did say so from that company. Or worse, a blatant "lie" to get you guys off their shoulders and/or keep billing you for bogus work.

Originally Posted by slizzzzard View Post
Later, after I pressed them, they acknowledged that there was a freon leak, they said it was not covered under warranty because the leak was in the pre-existing freon line that ran between the unit and the house, although they never checked to see where the leak was at. We were never given an option to use the existing line, they chose to use it. After that they dropped the ball. We were on our own.
Any CONSCIENTIOUS service provider would FIRST pressurize the lines after a unit replacement, as a means to verify that the brazed joints are sound and leak free. These guys are unbelievable!

Originally Posted by slizzzzard View Post
I have since spent over $1,000 having freon added, and having the leaks tracked down and fixed. Which did happen to be (1) at the point where the condensing unit was brazed by them, and (2) where the factory joined the compressor to the service valve. The leaks were not in the existing freon lines. This has been a horror story for us.
As an FYI for the future, with home a.c. systems is not like with cars, where refrigerant had to be added after every few years b/c the refrigerant lines in cars are really hoses and the connections not brazed. At home we have metal pipe and brazed connections...you may be told once that the unit is low in refrigerant, and a competent+conscientious tech would find and fix the leak prior to adding more refrigerant.

Originally Posted by slizzzzard View Post
Now I find that my compressor is damaged as a result of the freon leaking. We picked them because they had the christian symbol in their yellow pages add. So after all this they still get to go to heaven I guess. Go figure. :-)
In your place, if you have been keeping documentation and records, I would take these guys to court. Christian symbol huh? wolves masked under a sheep's skin.


Last but not least, you indicate having a Rheem Classic, and Rheem has 3 different models of Classics...2 that run with R-22 and one that runs with R-410A. You don't tell which refrigerant your a.c. runs on, but if it is R-410A and you had that new unit replace an older one that worked with R-22, the entire line sets should have been replaced, else, the old lubricant contaminates the lubricant of the new unit and will inevitably kill the compressor of the new unit if the old linesets were left in place but were not first thoroughly flushed/cleaned. And from all you have stated about this contractor, they probably don't even have the word "flush" in their technical dictionary.
 
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Old 03-09-08, 01:54 PM
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AC Repair

The compressor is most likely making noise due to some other factor besides lack of oil if it was lack of oil it would stop making noise pretty quickly.
Most likely yout are overcharged and a slug of liquid refrigerant is hitting your compressor or some other situation like that, but apart from whatever is causing the noise the first thing you need to do is call someone else and never call these people again you are suffering with the greatest problem in the service industry, lack of qualified technicians. I am so sorry for your trouble but definitely you need to call someone else and good luck
 
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Old 03-09-08, 06:42 PM
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Thanks to everyone for your sympathy. I appreciate it.

I have indeed be using other techs since Walton's left me hanging over a year ago. The condenser unit is model Rheem RAKB-036JAZ, which uses R-22 I believe.

To Gunguy45 (whooaa, careful where you point that thing buddy) Yes, Walton's is an authorized dealer.

Pflor, thanks for the head's up on the refrigerant requirements of the newer compressors. My current tech has discussed that with me so I am aware.

I can't begin to tell you the frustration that company has caused me. It goes way beyond the money issue. They are a big company and run a lot of ads in the newspaper. I thought they would stand behind their install. Pflor, right again, they should indeed have pressure tested their install. I understand that is standard procedure... yet another thing I learned.

After learning that with a leak comes oil loss I found the first leak myself. There was an oil stain on the cement next to the condensing unit under the freon line, I removed the insulation material from the line which was soaked on the inside with oil. When I took a closer look at the joint, by holding a mirror under the tube at the braze point, I saw tiny bubbles slowly leaking out. Whoever did the brazing must have been pretty new because there was pretty much no filler metal underneath the joint.

And overcharging as a possibility of the compressor noise does seems plausible. Thanks Mike N. and Greg. That makes me want to hold off on doing anything as the unit now has a new charge. Perhaps a more correct charge now?

I just had a friend start it up while I stood outside and listened. It started with a bit of a rumbling sound that lasted about 2 seconds , not real dramatic, but not quite normal either, then about 10 seconds later with it up to speed and sounding pretty normal it made a very high pitched sound (not real loud though) which reminded me of a bad bearing sound. The high pitched sound lasted about 5 seconds, went away, then returned about 30 seconds later and lasted for about 10 seconds and then went away. The high sound could perhaps be coming from the fan motor, hard to tell the source right now.

The other day when my tech ran it I was hearing a tic sound coming from the compressor at about 300 beats per minute. I heard the high pitched sound then too. I don't recall hearing the tic sound before, but we did have the lid off the unit at the time. My tech said the compressor sounded abnormal. I did not hear the tic sound today with the lid on when I ran it. Towards the end of last summer I was hearing that loud rumble start-up sound pretty frequently from inside my house and it sounded very loud through the wall! Back then it made the loud sound even after being off for 12 hours upon first start-up. Today not so bad though. I know I will have to wait for it to get hot before I will really know what to expect from it.

I think I will just play it by ear and let it be for the time being. Greg and Mike, the cooling, or lack there of on the compressor sounds very reasonable as to the cause of the compressor having issues. Which consequently makes me think adding oil is likely to not help, and could even make it worse if the wrong amount gets put in there. At the least a wait and hear approach (as George W.Bush would say) seems to be prudent at this juncture.

Judging from what I saw, If I was to take a stab at the amount of oil loss encountered, I'd say perhaps 6 to 8oz. If that makes you change your opinion about adding oil then by all means do tell. BTW, have any of you ever had to add oil to a compressor after repairing someone's leaky system? I have never heard of anyone doing that before. But I am not in the business.

Sorry this post was so long. But thanks again, I do feel a lot better in talking to you folks.


Contrary to popular belief, not all slizzzzards like to be hot. (unless they're on a boat at the river)
 
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Old 03-10-08, 11:14 AM
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I found the first leak myself. There was an oil stain on the cement next to the condensing unit under the freon line, I removed the insulation material from the line which was soaked on the inside with oil. When I took a closer look at the joint, by holding a mirror under the tube at the braze point, I saw tiny bubbles slowly leaking out. Whoever did the brazing must have been pretty new because there was pretty much no filler metal underneath the joint.
Id say its all on them that its bad .

Judging from what I saw, If I was to take a stab at the amount of oil loss encountered, I'd say perhaps 6 to 8oz. If that makes you change your opinion about adding oil then by all means do tell. BTW, have any of you ever had to add oil to a compressor after repairing someone's leaky system? I have never heard of anyone doing that before.
YES: But there is a little setup you use to do it . Sure dont have to pull the compressor out and all that . Just to add oil
 
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Old 03-10-08, 09:18 PM
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My tech guy mentioned that we could just inject some oil into the line, but he said that would be risky because we are not certain how much leaked out, and if you over fill it then it can ruin the compressor?
 
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Old 03-11-08, 04:16 AM
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The Tech is right.
 
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Old 05-11-14, 06:45 PM
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Hi Gregg,
I think it might be worth qualifying the answer to the question about AC systems needing to settle before use.

Certainly the freon doesn't need to settle, but if during the course of moving the system the compressor is stored in other than the proper orientation, the OIL in the system can leave the compressor sump leading to compressor damage due to lack of available oil.

If the unit is allowed to remain in the proper installed position for a few hours, the oil will move back into the sump where it will properly lubricate the compressor.

Of course, if the compressor is never mis oriented prior to or during installation, there is nothing to "settle".

At least that's my understanding of the reasoning behind the general statement.

Doug
 
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Old 05-11-14, 07:42 PM
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Douglas, welcome to the forums! You are responding to a 6 year old thread, so hopefully the original poster got their problem straightened out.
 
 

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