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HVAC question - am I getting ripped of? (1 Viewer)

Eric_L

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Eric
Here's the scoop: I've been living in my new custom-built house now for 20 months. It has many west facing windows.

We noticed in the summer after 3pm that the AC seemed to have difficulty keeping up. I called our AC installer to come out and look it over. He serviced it and added some freon and then told us of its condition:

He says the coil in the air handler (RUUD) needs to be pulled and cleaned. There is dirt and/or mold on it. He wants to install a U/V light to prevent future mold troubles. Total cost will be about $500 for the coil and $800 for the U/V light.

It has only been two years and seems a bit soon to be having these types of troubles. AC man says that changing the filter every three months (filtrete) is not often enough, plus with the handler in the attic in a humid environment is partially to blame.

According to him the warranty is void because we did't have the unit serviced every six months. He claims to not be working on commissions.

What do you think? Is this legit or is he trying to scam me or cover something up from the install? Is this something that there is a work-around which I don't know about? Is there something maintenance-wise I could have done to avoid this?

I would really appreciate some feed-back on this from an informed impartial source.
 

Justin Lane

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What is the actual warranty on your unit? He has no clue if the unit has been serviced (at least not by him), and if the warranty does not specifically state that the unit must be serviced every six months (especially by the guy who sold it to you), you should still be covered. Don't take this guy at his word.

J
 

Jason_Els

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I'd also like to take a moment and pitch window tinting here. My mom's house was also custom designed and she has WINDOWS! The a/c couldn't keep up in the summer but the savings in winter is very nice. She had a UV reflective tinting put on the windows and now the heat is very manageable not to mention the decrease in damage to the rugs and furnishings. The windows don't seem tinted and the view is still wonderful.

The upshot is she's saving 30+% on her cooling requirements and didn't need to curtain the place like a sephulcre.
 

Philip_G

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how big is the house? what size is the AC unit? How many returns do you have? how big are they?
 

Eric_L

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2500 SF house, two ac units, one upstairs one downstairs. not sure of AC size. Not really toubled about the AC ability to cool (I understand the West sun issue well) as I am about the need for the coils to be pulled/cleaned.

I will post on that other board later this afternoon. I have to take my son to a bday party right now.

Thanks all for the input so far.
 

Todd Hochard

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Sounds like a quasi-scam/overzealous-salesman-too-eager-to-throw-too-much-of-your-money-at-likely-a-simpler-fix (did ya get that?;) ) to me.

It seems odd that after just 20 months, you have a mold issue in the air handler. Disregarding the HUGE faux pas of putting the thing in the attic, assuming the drain works at all, I just cannot fathom this.

I change my Filtrete filters once every 8 weeks in the summer, due to the increased run time. I "self-service" my unit about once/year (basically just a "hmm, still looks clean, lemme flush the drain line), and it's over 10 years old now.

Generally speaking, I do not find it odd that the unit cannot keep up in the afternoon, if you have lots of open windows. Welcome to FL.:) Allow me to also pitch tint (low-e film is the way to go). Consider this- many automobiles have compressors in the 2.5 ton range. That's enough for about 1300sq. ft of space here in FL. Think about it. Rather than removing the excess solar heat gain, look at doing things to minimize it in the first place.

Todd
 

Philip_G

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interesting, my birthday is jul 3 also.
in short, no, I think even if the coil is dirty he should be able to spray coil cleaner on it while it's in place, unless there's some weird circumstances here... it can be sprayed on with your average garden sprayer then it sort of foams up and drips off.

I disagree with the rest, the system should have been sized and designed with the heat load from the windows in mind. Windows, vaulted ceilings, direction the house faces all impact the load on the system and should be considered... Just because most HVAC contractors do sloppy work doesn't mean it's "the way it is" ;)
 

DanaA

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Like dentists, plumbers, and auto mechanics, I think it's real important to get an air conditioning/heating guy you can trust. Too many out there trying to scam using the general ignorance of these matters to tell the customer that this or that is necessary.

A few years ago, when I needed a new central air conditioning/heating unit, I called in a few guys for estimates. I received all sorts of stories about what would be necessary and how my vents would need to be cleaned a certain way and this and that. Finally, one guy came and told me the other two guys had been giving me a complete line, that my type of vents are pretty immune from needing special cleaning. His quote was also less than the other installers. Guess who I ended up buying from.

I also recall a few investigatory reports on shows like Dateline and 60 minutes where they had hidden cameras on air conditioning units they'd checked out beforehand to establish their working condition. If I recall, the majority of repairmen suggested servicing and repairs that weren't necessary. On one of the shows, if I'm remembering correctly, the camera even caught one of the workers relieving themselves on the unit.

I have no doubt that many good, honest, reliable, and knowledgable air conditioning/heating installers are out there. But, I do feel you should be dilligent in choosing who you do business with and then sticking with the guy/gal you find.

Oh, and another scam I remember hearing about. They advertise an "air conditioner tune-up" for a very low price. Unfortunately, when they start working they notice a bunch of other stuff that will cost you much $$$. It was that article that let me know that a good, well-working unit should not require refrigerant refills.
 

Philip_G

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they shouldn't leak, no. But leaks aren't the cheapest thing to track down and fix, especially if it's nasty like in a coil.
 

Todd Hochard

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Let me clarify- from most of the people I've spoken to, when they say the system "can't keep up," they're generally talking about the fact that the side of the house that is getting the sun is a few degrees warmer than areas of the house that aren't. So, it's not like the compressor duty cycle is approaching 100% or anything, although a properly sized system will run 12-13 hours on a rainless day in the summer here.
 

Philip Hamm

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I've got the best solution of all.....

Plant desiduous trees in front of the large window side of the house. In the winter there will be little shade and you'll get the heating benefit of the window area, and in the summer you'll get shade so that your A/C doesn't have to work harder.

This works great in my house.
 

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