Yesterday the AC company gave me a window of arrival of between 1 and 5PM. I asked for the tech to call my cell to let me know when he was on his way so I could meet him at the house. Around 2:30 I called in for a status update, they said the tech still had two customers ahead of me. It was clear if the tech made the window at all, it wouldn’t be till the very end of it. Well that wasn’t the case.
Of course anyone that knows me relatively well knows that I really dislike people/companies that over promise and under deliver. To their credit, the AC company called me around 4:30, letting me know the tech was still going to be there, it was just going to be late. That simple communication helped to dull the edge of my aggravation. The clock continued to tick. I got a call from the tech named Sam about 6:20, saying he was just leaving the office in Bonita, he should be there in 35 minutes. Geez, ok.
The van pulled into the driveway around 7PM. It took me very little time to figure out that I liked this guy. You could tell he actually gave a shit about fixing my issue. I described the history of the unit and what has been happening lately. The first thing he did was act on my question of if the ducts in the attic were possibly leaking. He climbed up in the attic and did a thorough inspection, spending at least 15 minutes crawling around. He said for the most part things looked good although he did find a mechanical damper that was not fully open which would restrict air flow to some areas of the house. He wasn’t sure why it was there but he opened it fully to maximize air flow.
Sam did a temperature check in the air handler, measuring the air temp below and above. Normally there should be around 20 degree difference, my unit had only a 14 degree difference, not good. I explained how it seemed like the variable speed fan in the blower was cranking at top speed all weekend, trying to keep up. These symptoms pointed to low refrigerant level in the system. He went out to the compressor to get some readings and found the level was indeed low, very low. Capacity for the Trane unit is around 10lbs of coolant, the tech had to add 6lbs to get it up to that number. So it was clear, there is a leak.
I mentioned to Sam that to lose that much, you would think it had been leaking for awhile. I questioned why during the PM in January it wasn’t noticed? He didn’t have a solid answer for that. So once the refrigerant was added he had to figure out where the leak was. To do this he used a cool ultrasonic tester that “listens” for leaks. He opened up the air handler and started sniffing around. He got a hit on the back of the coil, a clear leak.
He explained to me that many leaks can be patched, and if this leak was on the front of the coil he would have tried to do so right there. However since the leak is in the back the entire coil would need to be pulled from the air handler, hopefully patched and then reinstalled. The coils were very rusty and the issue is there is no guarantee that another hole won’t open up because of the condition of the unit. That immediately sounded like a bad option as my desire is to get the issue fixed for the longer term. That fix means replacing the coil unit entirely.
Sam went to his van and got together the bill for the service call and the estimate to replace the coil. Because I have a service contract the majority of the service bill was to pay for the refrigerant which costs $35 a pound. The estimate to replace the coil was steep as expected, around $1500, but a worthwhile repair based on longevity I still am hoping to get out of the system. The part needs to be ordered today. Hopefully they can get it within a few days. I asked Sam if I could request that he is the tech to do the swap out, he said I could. I latch onto people in the service industry that pay attention to detail, are thorough, and give a damn about what they do. Sam demonstrated he was all of those things to me. By the time he left around 9PM he had turned around my negativity about the late appointment by doing his job well.
I could instantly tell a difference inside the house with the system once again having normal cooling power. Sam said with as low as the levels were was there was a lot of humidity that was not getting pulled out of the indoor air. I look forward to moving forward with a solid AC solution once again, a necessity for brutal Florida summers. Who knows how long this leak has been going on, however a side effect in addition to the poor cooling performance also is a lot more power usage. Lower electricity usage should be nice, blunting the effect of the $1500 on my wallet. Of course this failure occurred about 9 months after my 10 year warranty expired, right on time….