Archive for September, 2010

Change Your Filters…And What is Cheap Can Be Expensive! Avoiding Unnecesary & Costly Repairs!!!!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Firstly, let me elaborate on what I wrote about at the beginning of the season (the beginning of March). One of my regular customers, with whom it has been a constant struggle to get them to replace their filters on a monthly basis, did not replace their filters on their master bedroom system at the end of the heating season. They blindly switched from heating to cooling on their thermostat without replacing their 3-month old filters and subsequently blew up the condenser (outside unit) on their master suite. They called in on a Friday night when the humidity was up at 90 % and the temperature at about 85 degrees. Not much could be done until Monday, so they spent a very uncomfortable weekend without air-conditioning in the master suite.

This makes clear the previous message that I left on my web site about there being no such thing as a 90-day filter in Houston. There was so much liquid flooding back to the compressor that it washed all of the oil out of the compressor into the expansion valve (TXV), caused a solid obstruction and blew the terminals out of the compressor, as it was running in a vacuum. Luckily for them, I had upgraded the evaporator coil about 2-years previously and they had an extended warranty on both the parts and the labor so the repair to the coil was free of charge to them. However, the new condenser was not and I believe that this was a very expensive lesson for them to remember to replace their filters on a regular basis.

On a more “I told you so note”. About 18 months ago, I condemned a regular customer’s 5-ton condenser and coil as the coil was leaking freon and the condenser was totally oxidized. The husband, in his infinite wisdom, decided that my price was too high and went with a cheaper company. Six months prior to this occurring, my company had replaced all of the ducts through out the house and had re-balanced the air-flow, correcting a problem that had existed from when the house was built. Well, the wife called me today, complaining that 12 months after this other company had replaced the condenser and coil with inferior product and workmanship, the air-flow problem was worse than ever.

She was crying over the phone and stated that she had been out voted by her husband over who should perform the replacement work. When my technician arrived, he found that the equipment was a 10 SEER condenser with a coil, that we in the industry recognize as being extremely restrictive as far as air-flow is concerned. To compound the problem, the company performing the work replaced a slab coil with a box coil but left the original safety drain pan, plenum and transition. The original coil was about 12″ wide by 44″ long. The new coil was 26″ x 26″ so the drain pan did not cover the coil as it was supposed to. Also the opening on the new coil was about 18″ smaller than the original so the installing company blocked off the transition and plenum to make them fit. This further caused the air to slow down to vital areas of the house. This in turn caused extremely cold air to flow out of the registers and caused them to sweat and rust.

There is no quick fix for a situation like this so I informed my tech to let the customer know that they needed to contact the original installing company. Horror of horrors, the original company is no longer in existence as they did not make it through the winter. The long and the short of this story is that the customer is now having to pay for a new evaporator coil, transition, plenum, drain pan, float switch, drain lines, ducts and registers to the areas that are sweating as the ducts are now full of water. If we had performed the original work as I had bid it 18 months ago, they most probably would have saved 50% of what the repair cost now is to remedy a preventable problem.

The moral of the story is “What is cheap is expensive”. Do not only shop for your air-conditioning and heating equipment on price alone as it will cost you a lot more in the long run as that cheap company most probably will not be around when it is time for warranty work to be performed. A company’s reputation is very important as well as its longevity. Every year we go through this same scenario over and over again. Whether it is my company or another well established company that has to rectify another company’s shoddy work, can only cost you, Mr. & Mrs. Homeowner a lot more than what good, permitted work would have cost you to begin with.

Till next time.

Steven Meyer
TACLB 019950 C
Regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing & Registration
P.O. Box 12157, Austin, TX 78711

Home Warranties May Bite You!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

When a prospective home owner purchases a new home, they normally receive a “Home Shield Warranty” with their purchase. This is a selling tool used by the Realtors who think that it is beneficial to the new home owner. This might be true for what-ever else they cover except for the air-conditioning system. I have heard and seen more horror stories about “Home Shield Warranty Companies” than I can remember. Generally speaking, these “Companies” will only cover the actual equipment and not the accessories. What this means is that only the evaporator coil, furnace or air-handler (if you have electric heat) and the condenser are covered.

If you call up the Warranty Company, you normally have to wait a day or longer to receive service. This is counter productive in Houston’s summer heat and humidity, with temperatures routinely in the upper 90’s. But you are left sitting without air-conditioning for the duration of the waiting period. Normally the Service Companies, who are the Warranty Companies agents, are relatively new to the A/C field and are not as experienced in the business to enable them to properly track down the problem. It is not uncommon to have three or for different service people or Companies come to your residence while trying to solve the problem. All this time, you the home owner, are sitting without A/C in the middle of July in Houston. You are routinely told that the problem is that the evaporator coil is dirty and has to be chemically cleaned for $300-$400 before they can even start to diagnose the problem, even if the problem is not really the evaporator coil. The other common issue that the home owner is told about is that the system was not installed correctly in the first place and is therefore not covered under the warranty and the home owner will have to pay for the repair out of pocket. Once again, the home owner is sitting without A/C and now they have to fight with the Warranty Company to get them to cover the repair as the house was inspected before purchase and was purchased in good faith that everything was installed & working properly.

The other issue with Warranty Companies is that they will only replace like for like quality equipment. What this means is that if you have a low efficiency evaporator coil of certain dimensions, they will only replace it with exactly the same efficiency/dimension coil. Under the Montreal Protocol, of which the USA was a member at the time and which dictates all of what efficiencies the A/C industry can use and what type of refrigerants etc., the minimum efficiency that can be installed/manufactured is 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The only way this can be fully achieved, is to use a high efficiency Expansion Valve evaporator coil. The other part of the efficiency equation, is that the transition (the part that goes from the furnace & to the coil) and the plenum (the big box on the other side of the coil that the ducts come off of) have to be changed with an R-8 insulated product when the coil is replaced. The Warranty Companies do not cover this and the home owner has to pay for this out of pocket, or even worse, they are not replaced at all and the Installing Company merely adapts them to fit the new evaporator coil. This is not good as there is mold that builds up in the plenum over time and if it is not replaced every time the evaporator coil is replaced, this mold starts migrating down the ducts and starts appearing out of the registers where the cold air is coming from. This mold may or may not be bad for you, it all depends on the age of the plenum and various other factors that could cause it to become toxic. By the time the home owner has paid all of the out of pocket expenses to have a new low efficiency evaporator coil installed, and been without A/C for a good while, they could have gone to a regular non-warranty company and had a hi-efficiency evaporator installed for the same price or even less.

The same applies to furnaces, except that the old furnaces were only 60% efficiency (60% of the heat that they generated came into the home and 40% went out through the flue pipe) while since the early 90’s, the Government mandated that minimum efficiency for furnaces is 80% so the Warranty Companies have no option but to install 80% efficiency furnaces. However, this does not stop them from installing the furnaces without metal heater feet or sheet metal transitions. I have seen installations, where the furnace was installed balancing on 2 bricks and the furnace has fallen over and the duct board transition has been torn apart and the air is blowing into the attic and not across the evaporator coil. I have even seen where these installers have installed furnaces on 2×4’s or flat on the wooden decking. This is the type work that is typical of Warranty Companies. I have also seen where the 4″ flue pipe has been stabbed into the old 5″ flue pipe and they have used foil tape to close it up. All of this is not up to Code nor is it legal, but these Warranty Companies get away with it as the home owner is generally unaware that anything is wrong with the installation.

We have been called out by a home owner for a second opinion as they have been told by the Warranty Company that they needed a new A/C system. They were told that because their system is not working up to par they were going to have to upgrade their system – but because the upgrades are not covered under the warranty the home owner is going to have to pay $10 000-$12 000 for the new installation. On many occasions, the problem is nothing more that a bad or weak capacitor on the compressor, condenser fan motor or blower motor. I have even seen where a customer was told they needed a complete new system because the condenser was cutting out on the low pressure switch but in reality the problem it was really being caused by a dirty filter.

It might sound like I am against Warranty Companies in general, but all I am saying is the you get what you pay for when it comes to such warranties. Many of our customers who have had the displeasure of having had a Home Shield Warranty, did not have it for too long. They found it was just too much of a hassle dealing with the Warranty Company and their inexperienced service personnel.