Monday, July 20, 2009

I Want my HVAC... follow-up

Watch those repair guys, watch how they do it
They fiddle all day with my HVAC
My system ain't workin' gotta fix it or replace it
Cool air is really somethin', and it gonna cost me

Now my system ain't workin', fix it or replace it
I know I can't fix it 'cause that just ain't me
I call a guy over, he look at my system
Maybe find it maybe fix it, if he find the leak
Maybe find it maybe fix it...
Maybe find it maybe fix it...

I want my... I want my HVAC
I want my... I want my HVAC

Next guy he want to, install a brand new system
Energy efficient, cool air for me, but...
He don't seem cool, he just keep talkin', and
He say he want six thousand dollars from me

This other guy, he say, the leak is in the coil
I make it good as new and you pay me my fee
You should get a new coil, a lot less expensive --
Only nine hundred dollars for recycled AC

I want my... I want my... I want my HVAC
By early last week we had done all the calculations and were ready to replace the coil, which, we were told, was so damaged with leaks that it couldn't be repaired. And then came Mike, a man with a plan. A friend of Sophie's cousin George, Mike repairs a/c units for businesses and homeowners. Without looking at our unit, he says, "I'll fix the leak(s) in an hour or so. Don't get a new coil until I look at it." He shows up Friday
morning. Does the bubble test (by shooting nitrogen into the
system and spraying a sticky fluid where the suspected leaks are as well as other possible places -- escaping gas creates bubbles at the site of the leak). Finds three leaks and brazes them. Tests system. Vacuums whatever gas and impurities are in the system, and shoots 5 pounds of R-22 refrigerant into the system. He's there two hours and charges $200, which is $150 for refrigerant @ $30 a pound and $50 for his time. Cool.

Mike doesn't look a thing like this guy

System works fine as of today. We don't have the latest and greatest, but at 10 years old, it's an efficient 10 SEER system that works well with a high-efficiency furnace. Both products are made by Lennox. And, we use our programmable thermostat such that it doesn't run except when it's really uncomfortable, and we're home. If the repairs hold out as Mike says they will (and we service the unit every year or two to keep it in shape) we will replace both our furnace and the a/c unit in 10 or so years, when we can match speeds / stages and take advantage of advances in efficiencies and technology that occur between now and then.
This is very similar to the coil in our system











Bottom line: you better shop around
We talked to six vendors. We got three estimates before hiring Mike with his $200 fix. Two vendors said to replace the coil for approximately $800 to $1,000. The third vendor, who told us in error that the unit was beyond repair, wanted $6,000 for a new a/c system (not including the furnace). Even had we bought the 18 SEER two-stage system he recommended, it would not work correctly with our existing furnace, even though he said it would.

Total costs for our 2009 repair job
$160 service call / refrigerant, w dye pack, 6/25
$80 service call to find leak, 7/9
$200 repair & re-charge w refrigerant, 7/17
$440 total

Epilogue
When Brand X was out here July 9, the service guy reinstalled the panel door covering the coil above the furnace, after he had found the leak and told us our options. But, he had trouble putting the screws back in place and told me he wanted to drill new screws to hold it tighter. He did so and left. Next day, the a/c didn't work. All the refrigerant leaked out, right through the new hole he accidentally screwed into the copper pipe behind the access panel. Whoops!
This is an update to Learning how to be cool, June 24

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