does your leaky air conditioner leak money too?

Air Conditioning Horror Story by Icemasters Refrigeration

The following is a true story of a recent Icemasters encounter.

I recently received a call from the owner an un-named boiler company, he asked me if I could go to an air conditioning  job which they had recently installed to evacuate and charge the line sets. He explained to me that he let go an air conditioning tech that he had employed as things weren’t working out and he was unable to complete the job.

I took the job and travelled out to his customer’s site. Upon arrival, this not-so-happy customer greeted me. Although his frustration was not directed toward me it was easy to tell this job was a sore spot. He pointed out where the equipment was located and I loaded all my tools on the scissor lift and proceeded to bring things up to the roof. At first glance of the job I had half a mind to walk away but I felt bad for the customer so I set out what I was there to do and that was get this equipment running.

Problem #1

I put my gauges on the system to begin evacuation of the line sets only to find the factory charge had been released into the lines without evacuating, thus contaminating the refrigerant with non-condensable.

Problem #2

The air conditioning system had come with 25 feet of copper line set. In a clean professional install  you would run the line set using the required amount and cut off and remove the excess. Then terminate the piping using mechanical joints. In this case the installer left the excess spooled up and laying on the roof beside the unit.

Problem #3

The air conditioning condensing unit was sitting directly on the metal roof and the feet of the unit where screwed through the roof with little if any waterproofing over the screw in an attempt to seal the point of roof penetration.

Problem #4

The roof penetration for the line set and electrical was made by a 4” hole saw, then had a 4” piece of PVC pipe silicone in and over that a 4” chimney cap, to seal this concoction there was about two tubes of silicone smeared all over. Due to the heavy rain we have received this roof penetration has since leaked causing extensive water damage inside the building.

Problem #5

Once I evacuated and charged the lines properly it was time to start the unit up. Turned all the power on, started and set up the head unit but the condenser would not run. After some time of tracing the wiring out, the wiring with all the same color wire and no markers (not even close to code) I found crossed wires.

The unit was now up and running and thus concluded this job. In all my years in this trade I had never seen anything so brutally botched and couldn’t help but think that this installer is what gives independent contractors a bad name. This also made me ask the question who is more to blame the contractor taking on work he is un qualified to do; or the customer who wants the cheapest possible price and doesn’t do their homework?

About a week later I received a call from the owner of the boiler company asking me if I could go out to the site again as the head unit is mounted in the office was leaking water and there was no water coming out the drain on the lower floor. I thought to myself that this was odd – as he owns a plumbing/boiler company, surely he is qualified to ensure a drain is working. He proceeded to tell me the customer was very unhappy with him and he was kicked off-site. Feeling bad for the customer, I traveled back to the site.

Problem #6

Indeed the head unit was leaking water. I removed the unit and found the drain travelled upwards about a foot above the head unit before going back down. Which would obviously cause it not to drain properly.

Problem #7

Behind the head unit I found a hidden junction box.

During this visit the customer told me that the owner of the boiler company was in fact the installer of the A/C unit contradicting what I was told by the owner of the boiler company. This confirmed that the installer was definitely not qualified to do this work as plumber/boiler is a completely different ticket than HVAC/ Refrigeration. I left site irritated as we run into this quite frequently in our industry. Companies selling their services as full mechanical contractors but often time don’t have the required skills or certificates.

Another week goes by and once again I get a call to go back out. This time the owner of the boiler company tells me it is my warranty now because the drain I repaired is leaking again. At this point I travel out and find the head unit is frozen solid so I do some quick calculations to find the unit that is installed is about half of the size required for the space it is cooling and is causing it to freeze up.

Problem #8

Unit sized incorrectly.

Since this has all taken place Icemasters has removed all the equipment, wiring, and line set. A roofing company has come in to repair the damaged metal roof and install a proper roof penetration. We have returned to install correctly sized equipment, wiring to code, proper line set and now have a properly sized and operating system.

For a job that would have been quoted at $6,100 dollars in the end cost the customer just shy of $18,000.

As a consumer this could have been avoided as simply as doing a Google search as the boiler company had nearly a half dozen negative reviews all similar to this story.

In short, do your homework, get multiple quotes, compare apples to apples, and ask questions!

You will be glad you did.

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