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Central A/C units


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I got a distressing piece of news yesterday: My central A/C unit has a freon leak in the condenser coil. This is a terminal diagnosis. The unit will have to be replaced no later than next summer. I am interested to know the experiences of anyone who has bought a new unit within the last 3-5 years or so - especially those who live in desert areas, because whatever I buy will have to survive desert summers.

 

My current unit is a Freus, with water cooled compressor. It was pitched as an efficient unit, especially for desert climates. The thing has been a money pit, and after only nine years beside the house, this one is ready for the scrap heap. Almost everything that could have broken on it has, and none of it is cheap. I estimate that keeping this machine running for nine years has cost about $2,500 in repair calls - almost half of that coming in the past 11 months.

 

I have already passed along my considered opinion of their product to the people at Freus, but that is another story for another time.

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Interseting that you brought this up. My A/C unit is 10 years old and hasn't had any issues but I swear it is extremely inefficeint and I've been thinking about getting it checked out. I honestly know nothing about them but I need to educate myself. I too live in the good old desert and I do know that swamp coolers work well on most days. I should get one of those too I guess.

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Call a different HVAC guy who offers free estimates.  Tell him whatever your other guy said, and ask what he thinks.  At the least, you could probably get him out there for a free second opinion.

 

FWIW, my parents' house in OC never had central A/C until last year.  They had to replace the furnace coil because the refrigerant wasn't compatible.  So that, plus new plumbing and electrical to the outside unit, the outside unit itself, and all the labor involved cost them around $4K. 

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I live in the desert near you.

 

We use 14 SEER Goodman/Amana units here with really good results on our all electric units. 14 SEER will save you money on your electric bill. This is based on an electric heat pump.

 

Do you have a gas furnace with an A/C unit? That will make a difference.

 

There are many quality units available. Trane costs more money, not sure it's worth it. Carrier and York are other names.

 

Other advice to pass along. The manufacturer has a parts warranty for I believe 5 years on these upgraded units. But not labor. The contractors here only have to give a one year. So look into an extended labor warranty.

 

I would call the local supply house and see who they recommend for replacement units. They usually know who has the good reputations.

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Another note.

 

If you do have an all electric unit then you might want to put a heat strip in so it won't go into defrost mode on those really cold mornings that are below 32 degrees. I know Vegas gets cold in December and January.

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We do have gas heat.

 

Got a call this morning from the company who put in my water cooled unit. They offered me a different unit, but their "payment plan" was two equal payments in 90 days. Sure, I have thousands of dollars lying around the house - or I would have, had I not spent close to three grand keeping this unit running for the past nine years. Suddenly, after they found out that I wasn't going to buy their unit under their generous "terms", now they say that they can replace the coil that was supposedly a fatal issue. I told them no thanks, this could cost probably close to a grand, then something else would go out on it next summer.

 

I have two people coming out today, one deals in Trane and Lennox, the other in Maytag.

 

Definitely suggest going with water cooled again, they are much more efficient.  The rest I don't know about.

 

I spent enough in maintenance on mine to pay the difference in the electric bill for the entire nine years that I had the machine, and then some.

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I got a brand new one about 3 years ago...keeps the downstairs nice and cold...upstairs is still an oven

Years ago i had one of those floor ones that has a hose going to the window. Kind of an ice sore but it kicked ass for a single room

Ten, have you tried closing some vents downstairs?  My home was also cooler downstairs and warmer up but I closed half of my vents downstairs and forced more cool air upstairs.  

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I got a brand new one about 3 years ago...keeps the downstairs nice and cold...upstairs is still an oven

Years ago i had one of those floor ones that has a hose going to the window. Kind of an ice sore but it kicked ass for a single room

That probably has more to do with ducting and California houses don't have adequate insulation. We had the ducting worked on when we replaced our unit 7 years ago and it is a big improvement but cooling a second floor is always tough on a single unit.

Ours just went out over the weekend (of course 105+ days) while I was at work. My wife replaced the faulty thermostat in the house but in the process blew a little 5 amp fuse on the main unit mother board. We didn't get that diagnosed until Monday from a guy we trust, Hemple air conditioning. All he charged was the service call which was a relief.

Warning, really research the hell out of any unit you are considering. Our unit has been reliable (Heil) but recently the company is buying compressors from LG which are crap.

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I had ac problems earlier this month I kid you not. We have a condo and the Ac was leaking water after a certain amount of time.

One said replace the whole thing. $3000

Other one said $245 new filter, had to unblocked a clog, and clean the coil

Paid the 245 and not a single leak (fingers crossed, he gave us a good warranty though)

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Had to move in a hurry, since we have been in the middle of record heat for this time of year. Settled on a Maytag system and had it installed on Monday, decided to replace the heating system as well since it came with the house and it was approaching 20 years old.

 

Glad to be cool again. It was 96 degrees inside the house when I went to bed on Sunday night, was 101 on Monday afternoon when the new unit was turned on for the first time.

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Wow, that's insane. 

 

We left the windows open and ran every fan we had. I put a pan of ice in front of one of them, which did jack. By morning it was still 91.

 

We have had near record heat for this time of year. It was supposed to have ended yesterday, but it hit 108 this afternoon.

 

I felt for the guys who spent hours inside my attic installing a bunch of this stuff.

Edited by Vegas Halo Fan
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Ten, have you tried closing some vents downstairs? My home was also cooler downstairs and warmer up but I closed half of my vents downstairs and forced more cool air upstairs.

yeah, tried that. Didnt really do much at all. If i start it at night and let it run overnight it does ok, but if i try and start it in the afternoon or early evening its pointless. My bedroom is an oven, the downstairs an ice box. I think it needs more vents upstairs, kind of poorly designed. Been thinkimg about putting in one of those whole house fans, anyone have experience?
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We left the windows open and ran every fan we had. I put a pan of ice in front of one of them, which did jack. By morning it was still 91.

We have had near record heat for this time of year. It was supposed to have ended yesterday, but it hit 108 this afternoon.

I felt for the guys who spent hours inside my attic installing a bunch of this stuff.

yeah, i keep wanting to hire someone to put in the artic fan, but i always forget until it gets hot, and i dont want to make some poor sap crawl up there in the heat to do it.

Blarg i think youre right, poor insulation. The newer homes i think are a lot better, mine was built in the 70s and i think its a combo of poor insulation and not enough vents. My master bedroom is huge but only one vent, and the bathroom has no window. And the hallway upstairs has no vent. So its just trapped hot air

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It is probably not vents as much as the ducting and the regulation of flow from down to up. Our house was a late 70's home with crap insulation, crap wiring and of course retarded ducting where not only did the air have to bend to go upstairs but the vent shaft was too narrow to allow much to get upstairs. 

 

If it is only your bedroom that you want comfortable (yeah, screw the guests they are mooching anyways) you could go with a mini split ceiling mount. Depending on square footage of the room you could go with a cheaper 24,000 btu version then baffle off your room so the others get the downstairs unit and in that case more air. Your room can have a separate thermostat to keep it how you like it without running up your electric bill cooling the entire house.

 

There are not that cheap, starting at around $4K but you could probably install it yourself if you are comfortable cutting holes in the ceiling and finding a stable electrical feed that won't short out the house. Good luck with that, your house was built in the drunken 70's. 

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Our AC died this summer. The AC guy we have been working with for a couple of years did a fine job keeping it alive, but it's done.

Sadly, it's a 20 year old unit and runs on R-22 Coolent, which I guess isn't used anymore.

A new AC that runs on whatever coolent is being used now would also require a new furnace or we could try to find an old style AC and hope our furnace doesn't go out.

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People in the Bay Area are weird in general.

 

I think about every home built in the OC by the mid 70's had central air. Most of the track homes were slapped together and the lack of insulation causes these units to have a shorter life because they are always on. Doing a retrofit wall insulation is a mess unless you were planning on doing a lot of patch work and repainting your home so we burn up units and replace it over an over and like Ocho, never get the damn bedroom cooed down in the summer.

 

California is pretty much a disgrace when it comes to home building. A lot of lip service to energy saving but wall and roof insulation appropriate for climate is ignored. So is mandatory solar electric in new homes, which should have been enforced a decade ago.

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Our AC died this summer. The AC guy we have been working with for a couple of years did a fine job keeping it alive, but it's done.

Sadly, it's a 20 year old unit and runs on R-22 Coolent, which I guess isn't used anymore.

A new AC that runs on whatever coolent is being used now would also require a new furnace or we could try to find an old style AC and hope our furnace doesn't go out.

 

R-22 is banned.  Sometimes you can get retrofit kits that switch it over to a different freon that isn't banned yet.

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