Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

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Jim180
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Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Jim180 » Wed May 17, 2017 11:34 am

For 2 consecutive seasons now I've needed refrigerant added to my home AC system at my annual inspection. Each time I've had a different technician check my system for leaks and tell me that he could not find any. Both times I was told that the leak must be so small that their detector cannot pick it up. Yet it's costly to pay for refrigerant each year. My concern is that in a few years my parts warranty on my unit will expire and then if they find the leak they will try to charge me full price for the repair claiming that the warranty expired on the unit. Any suggestions?

fabdog
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Location: Williamsburg VA

Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by fabdog » Wed May 17, 2017 11:40 am

Ask if they can recharge it with the special ultraviolet stuff in it... so then the leak will be visible after some time... even if very small. My auto mechanic used this method to find and fix a very small leak in our cars air conditioning. Assume HVAC techs could get acess to the same stuff

Mike

adamthesmythe
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by adamthesmythe » Wed May 17, 2017 11:48 am

If your system runs most of a season between fills then the leak is very very small, possibly requiring painstaking and exotic techniques to find.

I don't think I have any good suggestions. The leak could also be in the refrigerant lines between the air handler and compressor. When you finally do need to replace I would recommend replacing the lines as well.

Ninnie
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Ninnie » Wed May 17, 2017 12:14 pm

Are you using Freon? If so, probably best to upgrade the system.

Jim180
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Jim180 » Wed May 17, 2017 12:55 pm

Ninnie wrote:Are you using Freon? If so, probably best to upgrade the system.

No, R-410. System installed 6 years ago. Had to replace a leaking A-coil after only one year.

munemaker
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by munemaker » Wed May 17, 2017 4:20 pm

Ninnie wrote:Are you using Freon? If so, probably best to upgrade the system.

Freon has not been available for many years, has it?

A lot of people seem to use the word "freon" as a generic term for "refrigerant," kind of like people still use the word "Novocaine" at the dentist, when (I believe) it has not been used in years, or like using "Google it" when they mean "Do an internet search on it."

misterno
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by misterno » Wed May 17, 2017 5:12 pm

my situation is crazier

AC tech comes and says I need the new Freon which is cheap

So he charges me 3lbs and $35/lb so $100 there

And then goes up to the attic and checks out the AC unit and says, there is obviously a leak and it is impossible to take care of the leak in those brands

So it needs to be changed completely but no new ac unit will fit in there and I need to keep using what I have. that means I need to spend $100 every year just for AC gas

I think I need to get someone else to check my AC unit

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Pajamas
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Pajamas » Wed May 17, 2017 5:14 pm

They checked the steam pipes in my building for leaks by adding a mint fragrance to the system. It was easy to smell any leaks. I don't know if you can safely do that with a refrigerant system, but I suspect that you can, and it is certainly worth asking about. I don't know if it was a commercial product or if they just used some peppermint extract or essential oil.

MichaelM
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by MichaelM » Wed May 17, 2017 5:23 pm

I had a new AC & Heater installed yesterday. The tech told me he had installed locking caps on the Freon lines. He told me some people will use that port to inhale the freon for a nice high! Made sense to me. Having the locking caps prevents it. Could this be happening at your location? MichaelM

FloRidaRocky
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by FloRidaRocky » Wed May 17, 2017 5:38 pm

So, is the technician the same company that the warranty is under? So you think they may be trying to minimize warranty payout by not fixing the leak? How much does the refrigerant recharge cost per year? How much would it cost to get a 3rd party A/C tech to test the unit for leaks?

Is it possible they are overfilling?

I found this leak test guide if you are willing to dig into this yourself, maybe some other methods to suggest to the A/C techs:
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/RealZeroGuidetoGoodLeakTesting.pdf
Follow the guy around during the test, double check his logic, make suggestions, etc. Make sure he's thorough and not just doing the minimum to collect the service testing fee and move on to the next customer.

My experience with these guys is they are in the business of selling new A/C units. They make more money selling new units compared to repairing. I had one guy tell me my whole unit needed to be replaced. I replaced the compressor motor myself and the A/C system ran for another 5 years.

Ninnie
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Ninnie » Wed May 17, 2017 6:50 pm

munemaker wrote:
Ninnie wrote:Are you using Freon? If so, probably best to upgrade the system.

Freon has not been available for many years, has it?

A lot of people seem to use the word "freon" as a generic term for "refrigerant," kind of like people still use the word "Novocaine" at the dentist, when (I believe) it has not been used in years, or like using "Google it" when they mean "Do an internet search on it."


I meant actual Freon, which is R-22. We still have it on one of our two systems. We had a leak in other system and rather than refill it, we upgraded to the new R-410A (known as Puron). My neighbor, OTOH, keeps refilling his leaking system with Freon. It's expensive - not sure how much longer it will be around as an option.

Jim180
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Jim180 » Wed May 17, 2017 7:11 pm

FloRidaRocky wrote:So, is the technician the same company that the warranty is under? So you think they may be trying to minimize warranty payout by not fixing the leak? How much does the refrigerant recharge cost per year? How much would it cost to get a 3rd party A/C tech to test the unit for leaks? Is it possible they are overfilling?
Both of them were technicians from the contractor who installed the unit. I think they were testing in the same manner as they would for any customer, but I bet if it was their own unit at their own home they would keep testing until they find the leak no matter how small the leak is. They charged me $152 for 1lb. 3oz. of R-410. They charge $152 for anything up to 3 lbs. Not quite fair though since at the gas pump I don't pay the same for 1 gallon of gas as I would for 3. They didn't charge me for the leak search, perhaps because they couldn't find it. Don't know what it would cost to get a 3rd party to check it but it's a gamble since that person may fail also.

chonp3
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by chonp3 » Wed May 17, 2017 7:34 pm

As a former AC tech, for very small leaks we would use a leak sealer sold in the AC wholesale warehouses. It's added into the refrigerant lines at the service valve, and seals from the inside out. Same stuff is on amazon -https://www.amazon.com/Refrigerant-Leak-Kit-1-1-Tons/dp/B00559WTD2. It works, and could be a last ditch effort if everything else has been done.

silentfaith
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by silentfaith » Wed May 17, 2017 9:01 pm

buy a bottle of r410a on ebay and a small valve all for about 100 doit yourself will last for years.

Saving$
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Saving$ » Wed May 17, 2017 9:31 pm

Jim180 wrote:For 2 consecutive seasons now I've needed refrigerant added to my home AC system at my annual inspection. Each time I've had a different technician check my system for leaks and tell me that he could not find any. Both times I was told that the leak must be so small that their detector cannot pick it up. Yet it's costly to pay for refrigerant each year. My concern is that in a few years my parts warranty on my unit will expire and then if they find the leak they will try to charge me full price for the repair claiming that the warranty expired on the unit. Any suggestions?


If your system is still under warranty, and it is leaking, constantly refilling the system is not fixing it - it is just a bandaid. Demand that they find the leak and fix it.

If it is just your unit, and not the entire system, is under warranty, you still need to find the leak to determine what is leaking - unit, lineset, connection between the two, etc.

Call another company to come out and find the leak. Don't call in a heat wave - call when it is cooler and agree for them to come by at their schedule - you don't have an emergency, just a need to locate the leak.

munemaker
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by munemaker » Wed May 17, 2017 10:09 pm

Ninnie wrote:
munemaker wrote:
Ninnie wrote:Are you using Freon? If so, probably best to upgrade the system.

Freon has not been available for many years, has it?

A lot of people seem to use the word "freon" as a generic term for "refrigerant," kind of like people still use the word "Novocaine" at the dentist, when (I believe) it has not been used in years, or like using "Google it" when they mean "Do an internet search on it."


I meant actual Freon, which is R-22. We still have it on one of our two systems. We had a leak in other system and rather than refill it, we upgraded to the new R-410A (known as Puron). My neighbor, OTOH, keeps refilling his leaking system with Freon. It's expensive - not sure how much longer it will be around as an option.


OK - wow. Didn't know you could still buy it at any price.

killjoy2012
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by killjoy2012 » Wed May 17, 2017 10:23 pm

You can buy a brand new 30 lb canister of R-22 on Ebay for a relatively affordable price, keep in your basement for future use, and be ahead the first time you need Freon added in 1/2/5/10/20 years. Just saying...

And no, your local HVAC guy isn't going to be happy, since he wants to sell you his at $100/lb or whatever the price will be in the future. R-22 has an artificial short supply, so guess what the price will do going forward...

Teague
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Teague » Wed May 17, 2017 11:22 pm

For those suggesting the OP buy his own refrigerant and add it in, how do you suggest he determine the correct amount so he doesn't overcharge and destroy his system? Buy his own set of manifold gauges and learn how to use them, or the "hold my beer while I add this stuff until it gets cold" method? All the while hoping he doesn't introduce a bunch of non-condensables into the system, and that there's still sufficient compressor oil left in there?
Semper Augustus

Valuethinker
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by Valuethinker » Thu May 18, 2017 5:09 am

Ninnie wrote:
munemaker wrote:
Ninnie wrote:Are you using Freon? If so, probably best to upgrade the system.

Freon has not been available for many years, has it?

A lot of people seem to use the word "freon" as a generic term for "refrigerant," kind of like people still use the word "Novocaine" at the dentist, when (I believe) it has not been used in years, or like using "Google it" when they mean "Do an internet search on it."


I meant actual Freon, which is R-22. We still have it on one of our two systems. We had a leak in other system and rather than refill it, we upgraded to the new R-410A (known as Puron). My neighbor, OTOH, keeps refilling his leaking system with Freon. It's expensive - not sure how much longer it will be around as an option.


And Freon (CFC) was banned for good environmental reasons. Existing Freon will be causing damage in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. So it's better just not to use it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freon
R22 (what is now called Freon) is an HFC/ HCFC (which were not banned under the Montreal Protocol) as Freon is a brand name. In particular R22. Post below includes a price chart.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorodifluoromethane

says R22 will be phased out by 2020 -- of course the US could change its policy.

why3not
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by why3not » Thu May 18, 2017 7:04 am

Generally speaking dye capsules can be added to a R410a system, but you would need to double check with your equipment mfr to verify it won't impact the warranty. "Leak sealer" certainly will impact warranty and I would not add it until you are past the warranty period.

Leaks can be hard to find especially ones buried in coils or that gets sealed when the manifold gauge set gets applied. 1 pound a year should be picked up easily by a detector... unless it is windy out.

I know on my unit there was a bad braze joint that caused a leak... guess what? Even though the AC system was 1 year old & had a 5 year warranty, "field-made" joints to install weren't covered by the mfr or the installer. So there is a good chance your leak won't be covered under warranty depending on where it is no matter when they find it.

I vote for keep looking for a new service tech, I have went through about 4-5 companies over the years until I've found a "service only, no new equip installs" tech who I am happy with.

NHRATA01
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Re: Keep paying for AC refrigerant when tech cannot find a leak

Post by NHRATA01 » Thu May 18, 2017 8:29 am

killjoy2012 wrote:You can buy a brand new 30 lb canister of R-22 on Ebay for a relatively affordable price, keep in your basement for future use, and be ahead the first time you need Freon added in 1/2/5/10/20 years. Just saying...

And no, your local HVAC guy isn't going to be happy, since he wants to sell you his at $100/lb or whatever the price will be in the future. R-22 has an artificial short supply, so guess what the price will do going forward...


Not sure how "relatively affordable" it is, I recall looking in early April (knew my system was going to have issues) and 30lbs of R22 was about $800+, and most places won't sell to you without an EPA license #. Now that we're getting into the heart of cooing season I bet prices go up.

At industrial prices (aka 1000lbs+) last spring we paid $25/lb at work, I'm sure its higher now.

R22 isn't in artificial short supply, it's no longer made in the EU or US. US allows you to recharge existing R22 systems, I believe EU doesn't even allow that. R22 pricing will probably follow R12, it's going to continually creep higher until the price hits a point where a conversion is more cost effective, so demand will fall off and prices will drop as R12 finally has after about 20 years.

R22 isn't near as damaging to the ozone layer as R12 is (still mildly harmful) but I guess its global warming potential is high vs. newer refrigerants. Ironically R22 is pretty efficient as refrigerants go though - I have large chillers using R22, R134a and R123, and the R22 machines are demonstrably more efficient on a kW/ton basis.

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