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Houseloponik: My AC and AC guy both died

Sorry to spell it out like that, but here we are. Good contractors are hard to find. Unfortunately my AC guy, who is/was awesome, hasn’t been calling for my yearly maintenance for a while and calls to him get the busy signal.

Well... a quick google search turned up his obituary. Died early last year of unspecified cause at 55. Fucking sucks. He was a great guy and a great AC tech. 55 is too damn young.

Though that certainly put my problems in perspective, I still needed to find someone to fix my AC. My upstairs unit has always been a bit of problem child and usually picks the hottest day(s) of the year to be a bastard. Today is no exception. After polling facebook friends, I went with a larger company as a friend of mine who is even more of a skeptical perfectionist than I recommended them.

As you might expect as I am writing about it here: It did not go well.

They happened to have a tech available when I called, so after a little info was exchanged I headed home and they headed out. I signed up to have both units cleaned and checked, as the problematic unit worked most of the time, but seemed to crap out periodically and need some time to rest.

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The tech showed up with... another guy. Let’s call him an assistant. He wasn’t, but lets call him that. They were both friendly and nice to talk to. We shot the shit while they checked over my units and everything seemed mostly ok.

The tl;dr is when they started diagnosing the outside unit they noticed it was running WAY above normal pressure (~150%) and shutting down because of it.

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Well shit. What does that mean?

Well... their answer was it is a restriction in the system and it’ll need to be replaced.

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This is where the assistant sprang into action! You see, he wasn’t an assistant at all! He was a salesman. Hard to believe anything a company is going to say if they assume going in your system is dead.

Either way, they quote me 5 options for replacement, ranging from $18,000 for a top-of-the-line 26-stage system to $10,000 for a single stage system. Woo. But wait there’s more! I could also sign up for their “PREMIER PLAN” which means I just LEASE the unit from them (WTF?!) for 8 years. Or I could sign up for an 8 year payment plan! “What are the terms?” Who is to say, not the document they gave me. I did back calculate the rate and it is apparently about 4.5%. Not terrible, but certainly not a good deal.

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As they’re wrapping up, I do some googling and it looks like a likely culprit is the expansion valve. The fact that the system is holding that much pressure and not exploding is.... well frankly I take it as a good sign.

Anyway, I float this idea to the tech and he is like “yeah that could be it and we always like to give people options!” Weird that your option giving was limited to replacement options until I revealed I have the secret super power of the internet. He offered me a price for replacing the expansion valve, offering no suggestion on if that was actually the problem, I paid for the work, and they were on their way.

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Literally as he was packing up his stuff, I’m on the phone with another recommendation. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “These are the symptoms, this is what they found, this is what I suspect.”
Him: “Oh, who did you have out.”
Me: [Company name]

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Him: “Oh yeah no. You need someone else. I can be out tomorrow.”

Today 2nd guy comes out, checks all the same stuff and just sort of shrugs.

We’re off to a great start!

With a little more prodding, he starts to investigate a little more. After a little looking around it appears the expansion valve is fine, it is the coil that is bad. Visual inspection shows only about half of it is cooling and the other half is approximately room temperature. To me that seems like a smoking gun.

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“How much to replace it?” I ask.

“Uhhh, I’ll call you. If you don’t hear from me Monday then give me a call.” He responds and leaves quickly.

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Oh goody.

To his credit, it is REALLY hot out so there are a lot of people with bad AC. My downstairs unit is working fine and the upstairs unit works OK as long as it isn’t over about 95 out. I am certainly not the worst off. Furthermore, it is supposed to rain the rest of the week, which will cool things down 5 - 10 degrees (and make the units run better).

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So now I have a choice to make. I’m pretty sold on replacing the coil, rather than shelling out for a new unit. While I have no guarantee these units will last another [random time period] I also have no reason to believe they won’t. Replacing the whole thing because of a bad coil seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to me. In my mind my options are:

  1. Wait for guy #2 to call
  2. Call a 3rd place and get them to quote the replacement
  3. Sit and cry

Currently opting for #3, but unsure if I should continue or not.

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