HVAC Nightmare - Attic Unit

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  #1  
Old 06-02-11, 10:12 AM
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HVAC Nightmare - Attic Unit - Central Air

Hello all,

I would appreciate any and all advice you can offer.

In 2007, I purchased a house with a central air unit (two ton) that was about 10 years old (in the attic). Within two months, it became apparent that we needed a major repair or replacement. We opted for a replacement of the coil and the condenser (I have the make/model info at home – not available at this minute). Since I had no idea what the parts were or how they worked, I was unable to realize how shoddy the workmanship was at the time (I paid $2800 total – Now I have seen other systems and realize how poorly the job was done. Live and learn.

1) No emergency drip pan was installed (I had no idea this was even required). Last year we had a leak and the repairman (a new company – the install company refused to return our calls – which was odd as we had never complained about anything – the unit was now (then) 3 years old and we just assumed we needed a basic repair. After 3 days of “we are busy and will call you back” – we found another company. This company only suggested a drip pan with a flow switch and wanted $1000 to install it. However, at that time, they didn’t even bother opening the coil housing since the leak had stopped and we had no other problems last year – so they assumed it was just condensation (logical if not thorough – since there is NO insulation along any of the metal venting (another lesson learned!) – see No. 2 below re vent insulation.

2) This year we had another leak and again the original installation people refused to return our calls – despite repeated apologies from their receptionist. This time, our temporary drip pans aren’t helping. We found a great company to come out and this guy was fantastic – walked us through every step of the machinery and showed us where corners were cut. This guy explained that the plenum, handler and all duct work should be insulated, otherwise our system was not operating efficiently and cold air would be warm before it made it to our rooms and, in winter, warm air would be cooled in the attic before it made it to the rooms. Again – logical, but I had no idea.

3) The main drip line to the outside was VERY poorly done – rather than slowly transition from the height of the coil drip tray, they cemented the pvc pipe to the unit and forced it downward and bolted it there with bracing – thus allowing the water to flow out. It seems that the forced angling of the pvc eventually cracked the plastic drip pan under the now 4 year old coil. This repairman assured me he would try finding a replacement but it might not be available. Additionally, the installing company cut out a huge 1 foot chunk of the plenum (almost halfway into it) to fit the coil assembly where they wanted it rather than moving it forward to where it should have been. This guy explained that the plenum’s being cut also greatly reduces the efficiency of our system.

SOLUTION??? Now that our repair guy spoke to his boss, he said that his boss doesn’t want to fix the unit because it has too many issues – they will only give us an estimate (this weekend) for a complete replacement: venting, coil, blower and condenser. I am sure this will be a HUGE price-tag despite my explaining we don’t have that much to spare right now. Basically, they claim that they don’t want to touch the system and become responsible for all the other mistakes done to it. I can understand that, but is it really necessary to replace the whole unit? I am not sure whether to call other companies since they all charge about 100 just to come to the house (some are charging actual labor fees to provide the estimate). I certainly understand that they shouldn’t work for free and I am not putting down repairmen, I just need a fair opinion of what to do in this case. I DO want the system to be efficient but I don’t think I need to trash the entire system to do so – especially since I have been reading that many people keep repairing 10+ years old units. Any advice?

In the meantime, I threw a window unit in to keep the dog cool at least - I can run it when I am home but now that the guy retaped the whole thing, the water found five exit points - so I need to either get this fixed or replaced ASAP - let's hope they have good financing plans!

(I can post pics this weekend if anyone needs a laugh
 

Last edited by Wil234don; 06-02-11 at 12:22 PM.
  #2  
Old 06-02-11, 04:40 PM
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I'd love to see some pics so I could give you a good opinion. As far as a new system, thats the way it is done now a days, thats the big bucks
 
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Old 06-02-11, 06:11 PM
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ok we can help. in 2 or 3 sentences list your actual problems, its difficult to read all that and re read it to find whats actually wrong.
 
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Old 06-03-11, 07:37 AM
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Basics Issues:

- We have no emergency drip pan/line
- No insulation on main duct line (metal – leading from plenum)
- The regular drip line is forced down and braced in that position – which the repair tech said resulted in the crack from the stress on the pan
- The main drip line is also poorly devised, so that should probably be corrected to increase efficiency.
- The installers cut halfway into the plenum to cut down on work moving the unit itself. Had they explained what needed to be done at the time, I would have opted to do it right

Solutions:

I would like to have an emergency drip pan installed and have the ductwork all wrapped properly and, if need be, a new coil.

The latest repair company doesn’t want to simply fix the issues – they are pushing for a complete swap out and are coming Saturday (tomorrow) to provide an estimate – they went so far as to say they do not want to waste their installers’ time with a repair job when they could spend that time installing a whole unit somewhere else. I understand that from a business standpoint, but where does that leave people with repair needs?!

I saw on one thread that there is a spray sealant that we could try - $40 for a can. Anyone recommend this as a temporary fix?

I can’t get the pics to upload here.
 
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Old 06-03-11, 07:44 AM
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Old 06-03-11, 04:32 PM
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that job is pretty hack. thats probably why it costed so little. where are you located?
 
  #7  
Old 06-04-11, 03:41 PM
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You should have a secondary drain pipe (PVC) in addition to the primary one you have.
this secondary one should be right next to your primary pipe and drain the water to your drip pan. The primary pipe should have an opening at the top for cleaning purpose. You should have a large emergency drip pan under the WHOLE plenum, that drip pan should have a flow switch and/or another PVC pipe drain the pan water outside. (so you should have 3 PVCs, or 2 PVCs with one switch-- I prefer 3 PVCs) The plenum should be insulated from inside, all ducts should be insulated too.
 
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Old 06-04-11, 09:47 PM
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Possible Solution???

Hi all, thanks for the input so far! We are learning about HVAC the hard way. We now know all about the emergency drip pan and why it should be there (our fault for not doing more research when we initially had the unit "fixed"!

We had an install guy come today and provide us with an estimate for a whole AC swap out (House is small, about 1000 sq feet). They recommend a new system utilizing Puron in view of the scheduled elimination of freon as a coolant. They will install a 13 SEER Carrier Performance 15 AC Model No. 24APA5 (two ton), replace all ductwork (all custom - no prefab parts), with emergency drip pan AND they back the entire unit with a 10 year warranty. Estimate: $7694 (or $1000 off =$6694 if we accept terms by 6/5 (tomorrow)).

This seems like a decent deal but we will likely get at least one other estimate.

They also noted that the furnace and blower are aging and will likely need to be swapped out within the next five years. They gave us a price of $13781 or (or $1000 off =$12731 if we accept terms by 6/5 (tomorrow)). Neither of these installations currently qualify for any additional rebates. They noted that the furnace would be an infinity 80 Gas Furnace Model 58STA/58STX. Very basic system. $14,000 seems a bit high for a basic system for a small home. I was told a blower furnace for this house should be no more than $3000. Looks like I have more research to do!

In the meantime, I have thrown in a 12000BTU window unit to keep comfortable so I dont jump into anything. Gotta say these guys were very impressive (although, when he made fun of window units saying they don't last very long ($250 vs $6694 (plus the previous $3000 we threw away); makes the window unit look better
 
  #9  
Old 06-04-11, 10:24 PM
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Hey, we are located in southern/central NJ
 
  #10  
Old 06-05-11, 08:51 AM
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Unless money is not a subject, install a new system is not necessary. Since your system is only 3 years old, if you want to save money you can. Fix the current system is much cheaper. Here you only talking about duct, pan, pipe, and insulation, these are not major parts of A/C. should not cost much to fix. All you have to do is insulate the plenum from outside if not insulated from inside already, replace all your uninsulated metal duct with insulated flex duct (silver flex duct is cheap and good for A/C/Heat), install a big drip pan with drain pipe, replace primary drain with a p-trap and cleaning valve. This should not cost you much at all, And your system should have at least another 8 to 10 years of life.
 

Last edited by hvactechfw; 06-05-11 at 02:40 PM. Reason: You may not offer your services on this site!
  #11  
Old 06-30-11, 12:39 PM
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Personally I think you already spent more than you should on a 10 year old unit that, no matter how well you fix, will never run as efficiently and a new energy-efficient model.

Given the problems with the current unit, I wouldn't dismiss replacing the whole system, with a modern, energy-efficient, Energy Star TM compliant model.
Between the energy savings and the federal tax credit offered for installation of qualifying units, it might just worth the investment.

You can find information about it here:
Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency : ENERGY STAR

And since you are also considering a new heating system, I would look into a geothermal heating and cooling system, which qualifies for a 30% Federal Tax Credit with no cap and will significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs. These systems also qualify for many local and state energy efficiency programs, which include rebates, grants, low interest loans, green mortgages.

Take a look around available programs in your area. You can find some listed here:
DSIRE: DSIRE Home
 
 

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