Advice needed. How to handle issue of HVAC company misdiagnosing problem.

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Old 06-23-14, 12:07 PM
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Advice needed. How to handle issue of HVAC company misdiagnosing problem.

I have run into an unusual situation with a local HVAC company and I need advice. I am incurring what I perceive as unfair charges based on a failed diagnosis by a representative of said local company. Here is what happened:

Early last week I noticed that water was collecting at the base of my indoor unit. I am not a professional but I am familiar with the design of the system enough to know that I had a likely issue with my coil pan or the condensate drain.

Last year at about exactly this time I had noticed a few drips of water pooling on the top of the furnace so I called the company out and had them clean the drain line. The tech vacuumed the excess water out of the pan and ran water through the line and it seemed to be OK at the time.

So when I saw the significant amount of water leaking I called a sales representative of the company who I had previously purchased a system from before. He is also the spouse of one of my wife's friends. When he arrived the induction motor had also apparently shorted or something of the sort because it was running as well, while in AC mode.

He quickly unplugged the induction motor and said, "you need a new coil pan." He wrote down the model# of the coil and left. Some time later he texted me and told me it would be $865 installed price for the coil and pan. I said OK and told him to get it scheduled.

A day or so later they came out and my wife was home to let them in to get started replacing the coil. I arrived about 30 minutes later and saw my old coil laying in the drive way. I quickly asked the install tech if the leak in the pan was very bad. I could tell right away by the look in his eyes and his mannerisms that there was an issue.

He started off by saying, "well, I have a theory." My mind immediately went to, "oh crap there is nothing wrong with that coil." He went on to tell me that when he was cutting the coil out, he thought he stuck his finger in the condensate line where it exits the coil and he thought it "might have been plugged."

I asked him what we could do to test the coil and pan that was laying in my drive way. He said we could pour some water in it and see if it leaks. I went and grabbed some saw horses and some water and we filled up the pan. Two minutes...no leak. Five minutes.... no leak. You get the picture?

So now we are sitting there with my system all torn up downstairs and another tech down there making mods to it to get the new coil to fit. The original guy I talked to was very polite, and when asked what he would do, he said, "I would put the old coil back in." I had already pretty much told him that is what I wanted to do as I saw no need to replace a perfectly good coil for $800 + dollars.

He called the sales rep back a couple times and I don't know exactly what was discussed but there were a couple conversations before the plan was put in place to put the original coil back into place. So long story short, they put the old coil back in and redesigned and cleaned the condensate line.

This took them a little over three hours for two workers. When I asked the sales rep what this was going to cost me, he told me he would just charge me "sheet metal" labor which is $65 per hour. Unfortunately that is times two because there were two guys.

I haven't received the bill yet, but at minimum I assume they will try to charge me for 3 hours labor times $130 which equals $390 for labor plus materials. Chances are I could be looking at a bill over $500.

What should my financial obligation be in this? To me it seems that the original problem was a clogged condensate drain that was not diagnosed and was instead diagnosed as a bad coil pan. So I feel that should be my only obligation, to pay for the labor to replace and/or repair the clogged line?

How much would it typically cost to replace a condensate line that drains right next to the unit?

Additional info: They did send a tech out a few days later after this to troubleshoot why the induction motor was on. He found nothing wrong and theorized that it was probably just on because of the water leaking everywhere. All timing for heat, AC etc. checked out ok.

Also the unit has been completely dry for over a week. Not a drop of water anywhere other than in the condensate line and drain, where it should be.

Summary: It seems fairly simple to me: A mistake was made in troubleshooting. Not one representative of the company caught the mistake. As the customer, I had to catch the problem on my own. They were going to install a new coil and pan even though I didn't need it and charge me for it.

This is probably the most well respected company in town and that is one of the main reasons I always use them. Now I am stuck not knowing what to do...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E0oa-E7Hcw
 
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Old 06-23-14, 12:30 PM
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"you need a new coil pan."
It's actually a condensate pan.

They were actually in the process of replacing the coil ?!?!?!?!

That video you shoot..... is that what the guy saw when he came ?
The very first thing you do is remove the rubber plug from the aux or overflow drain port to see if there is water there. (in this case there would have been)
That video is a classic case of plugged drain.

Your question is what do you owe them after this afternoon's show. You had two technicians there so you should be liable for a service call for two people or two man hours.... PERIOD.

Now you could have other issues. They had to remove the refrigerant to replace/look at the coil. Hopefully when they resoldered it back in they checked for leaks, evacuated the system properly and recharged the system properly. Who knows if the pan was even replaced.

The draft inducer should not have been running.... PERIOD. You should check your heating system in several days to make sure it's still working. If water was running into the control box... that will be a future headache.

This is probably the most well respected company in town and that is one of the main reasons I always use them.
That's pretty scary.
 
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Old 06-23-14, 12:48 PM
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Old 06-23-14, 01:07 PM
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I should mention that the reason the coil and pan were both being replaced is because the sales rep said it was cheaper that way. I don't remember exactly why.

The service tech that came out a day later checked the system out in terms of heater, freon level, temps at condenser. He said everything checked out ok. There appears to be only one small circuit board on this unit.
 
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Old 06-23-14, 01:30 PM
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I guess you found out that "Professional" means someone who get paid for his work, not that he knows what he's doing.

When they were leaving and asked for payment, I would tell them, I would send a check.

If the system worked for a few weeks, I would send them a letter, telling them that because of the misdiagnosis (of one of the most common problems) I was sending a check for $130, which is, more than the cleaning of the condensate line should have cost.
I would write on check, "full payment" There is a legal phrase for it, but can't remember.

Putting a shop vac on the condensate line and sucking it out is one of the things I do, at the start of every AC season. That and the other basic AC "tune up" things that the "Pros" do.

Sadley there are a lot of unqualified "Pros" out there, and worse, there are also dishonest ones, like in other trades.
 
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Old 06-23-14, 02:32 PM
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Sucking the water out doesnt always ensure removal of a blockage. You have to cut the line near the furnace and blow it out. Mistakes happen. Thats why we charge a lot. To cover the cost of mishaps. So dont pay more than 130. They cant do anything except black list you for not paying. But chances are they wont charge you.
 
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Old 06-23-14, 05:28 PM
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First of all, you were dealing with a salesman and not a qualified technician. If this company is as reputable and respected as you say, the salesman should be calling you personally to apologize for the mistake and your inconvenience and to discuss with you an equitable charge for the actual services required to remedy the real problem. Everyone makes an occasional mistake so I wouldn't hold this against them if they are willing to make you whole and just charge for the actual service required. If they handle this unfortuneate situation this way I am sure this mistake will reap them future rewards from your recommending them to others in the future for their service and honesty in doing business.

IF YOU DON'T HEAR FROM HIM SOON, I'd wait till the bill arrives and then place a call to the salesman and have a heart to heart discussion with him about his mistake and what you are willing to pay for the actual service that was necessary. If it goes this way, I would not be willing to pay for excessive labor to remove and replace the coil and evacuating and charging the system. Remember, you still have the BBB on your side.
 
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Old 06-24-14, 08:43 PM
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As mentioned about $130 for cleaning the clog is reasonable not a dime more should they get.

I would love to be a fly on the wall during the conversation that has or will take place between the tech who told you the pan was good after removing it and the coil, and his boss or sales rep.
 
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Old 06-25-14, 03:21 PM
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Technician: Ah, does this mean I don't get my commission for all that unnecessary work?
 
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