AC line set replacement + Sealant removal


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Old 08-17-14, 05:23 PM
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AC line set replacement + Sealant removal

Hi guys,

A family member of mine had a bad ac install 3 years ago on a 2 zone ac+furnace Rheem systems. This post will only focus on the AC side. One unit is setup in attic and is a 3 ton ac. The other unit (the problem unit) is setup in basement and is a 4 ton unit. Every year, there would be an issue with the basement 4 ton unit where it loses its r410a charge. The first time we noticed an issue with basement AC was a year later after the install (2012). Basically the AC would run with the condenser but would not cool the basement or 1st floor.

We hired a tech in summer of 2012, who did not bother finding the leak and just recharged the system in 15 minutes and had his payday of $350. He made some excuse that it would take a very long time to find the leak etc.

We noticed the same symptoms happening last year (2013) so this time we hired a tech that works for a local hvac company that has been in business for 30+ years. We thought it would be a good idea to go for a company that's been around for a while serving the local community. So this tech comes in and inspects the refrigerant pipes...ignoring all the green joints on the big pipe and then decides to add a can of sealant into the condenser along with a new charge of r410a. 20 mins later and a payday of $850 (I'm sure he doesn't get the bulk of that). He gave us an excuse that this is the quickest solution and that the sealant would plug up any leaks in the system (brand new system by the way) and would not harm the compressor in any way. He gave us a 90 day Warranty. The AC worked that whole summer past the 90 days.

Now (about 13 months later) I noticed icing on the big pipe last week next to condenser and low and behold the system was not cooling again. The blower and condenser would run but not cool. This time I researched a good hvac tech that happened to have excellent references and one of those references was a friend of mine so I know it was genuine. This referred tech came in and inspects the pipes and points out the green joints and said this was a very bad install with bad brazing and recommended a new line set. I mentioned to this tech that we hired someone last year who put a sealant inside the 4 ton system. The tech recommended a new line set, a new liquid filter drier, and an optional vapor drier to get rid of any contaminants of that sealant in the system. He further explained that the vapor filter drier is optional because one can of sealant in a 4 ton unit is negligible and that Rheem units are built to last and the liquid filter dryer would be sufficient. He further explained that the vapor drier would have to be taken out after one whole summer season since it's not meant to be permanently be installed.

My question is that, should I let the tech install the new vapor filter drier or should the liquid drier be sufficient to remove the sealant contaminants that would be present in the condenser and indoor coil? Should I ask the tech to replace anything else such as the TXV valve since it could have been gunked up as well? I want this repair to be the last and final repair since this family member is losing confidence.

Any advice/recommendations to the tech would be greatly appreciated. This final job was estimated to cost us $700 (line set replacement, new r410a charge, new liquid filter drier, new and temporary vapor filter drier, carpentry/drywall repair).
 
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Old 08-17-14, 05:33 PM
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I don't understand why you've been paying to have the system recharged year after year? This should have all be covered by the warranty. What happened to the company that did the original install? They should be the ones being held responsible for the problem.
 
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Old 08-17-14, 05:34 PM
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All I know is I would get the suction line filter. To bad about having sealant in the system.Good luck.
 
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Old 08-17-14, 05:42 PM
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re:

tomf63,

the company we hired is no more and was from craigslist...they disapeared. We tried contacting them many times but we gave up. we really don't want to waste any more time and money to investigate and go through small claims court. We all work and aren't retired and like to use our vacation days for...vacation lol.

It's a 4 year old system. We just want the final repair to be done right without any issues. I've been through warranty claims on other electronics, it's not fun. I am pretty sure Rheem would be the same process. Just a personal preference, and this family member's preference as well.
 
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Old 08-17-14, 08:24 PM
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Wait, the system can run a full year that means the sealant did not cause any problem, your real problem is you have a very small leak somewhere, it can be anywhere, so do not just blame on the line set. I don't understand how come they (AC techs) don't try to find the leaks. I understand small leak is hard to find, but a good tech can find and fix it without too much problem, they have all kinds of tools to do that. These techs just want a quick and easy money, shame on them. I suggest you call another tech and tell him you have a small leak somewhere and ask him to find it. Big company may not want to do this, because they don't want to spend a lot of time and at end find nothing, and they can not charge you too much. but some small guy may want to do it. Anyway, if you don't fix that small leak, your problem will never end.
 
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Old 08-17-14, 09:47 PM
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Actually the green connections are a good thing. The tech should be able to sniff the leak at those joints. I have a feeling that the leak may be in the evap coil and not the lines. Replacing the lines may get you thru another year and then you're back at the same spot.

You need to have the leak found so that it can be repaired. Checking for leaks at the coils is not easy to do either.
 
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Old 08-18-14, 04:40 AM
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Pasta, I understand now. I'd give Rheem a call and at least ask if they can help. If anything, it a coil is bad they might stand behind their warranty. Do you have the receipts of all the work so far? Doesn't hurt to call and pour your heart out to the mfg. You might be surprised.

Good luck, hope you finally get it working correctly!
 
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Old 08-18-14, 06:22 PM
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I agree with PJmax. It is entirely possible, even probable, the leak is not in the line set but more likely in the evaporator coil.
 
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Old 08-18-14, 07:46 PM
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Re

I totally agree with you guys that the leak might also be in evap coil however when I mentioned to the tech to do a leak test he told me that it could take days to detect. He explained that a small leak like ours is hard to find and that it could take days to discover with a dye test and final nitrogen test. So I am not sure what to do....Should I let him replace the line set and just charge the system with nitrogen and let it sit for a few days? And then ask him to come back and check the pressure reading to see if any nitrogen left the system? I think that might be wise.

This way, if we didn't lose any nitrogen in let's say a week then he can charge the unit up with refrigerant after confirmation that there is no leak.

clocert:
Slowly but surely I'm realizing my new tech just wants to do a $700 job and not come back. We didn't sign anything yet and no repair date has been confirmed. However he was nice enough to stop by last week and check out the AC and connections without charging us a diagnostic fee.

Pjmax:
All the joint connections are green. The tech suspects there is another 90 degree joint connection hidden in the basement ceiling (drywall) considering how the line set is being directed outside.

Pjmax, Grady:
Tech never mentioned a leak sniffer but I'll ask if he has one. At this point I don't know if something like that would do anything since it is low on refrigerant (suction icing).

Tomf63
I'll also give Rheem a shoutout I guess but I got a feeling it will lead nowhere. I'll have to probably pour my heart out. Yes, my family member has all of his receipts of install and repair work.
 
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Old 08-19-14, 09:35 AM
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My personal preference would be to top off the refrigerant, add dye, clean the green joints, & let it go for at least a few weeks before searching with a UV light. Once the source of the leak is confirmed & if it is in the coil, Rheem should supply a new coil. Labor & refrigerant will have to be paid by the customer. I'd bet the green on the joints is either from flux or leak soap. Most leak soaps are corrosive.
 
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Old 08-20-14, 05:22 PM
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Re

Thank you for all your replies.

Grady, UV and dye sounds like a plan. I didn't know you could run a system with dye in it. I am assuming the current liquid filter drier would not filter out all the dye. UV light would confirm the parts of the unit that have the leak.

All the techs I worked with (whether they're from a reputable company or not), are looking for a quick fix. They don't want to make a second trip. I get it, but sometimes a little extra due diligence would have a very satisfied customer. I have already blacklisted all the techs that worked on my system and failed to fix. I relay this blacklist to my friends and family, extended families and colleagues.
 
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Old 08-20-14, 06:25 PM
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The dye is made especially for the purpose, mixes & travels with the system oil, & will not be removed by a liquid line filter dryer. I've had systems where I could find a leak within an hour & others it might be 6 months or more before enough dye leaked to see.
 
 

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