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Question DetailsAsked on 5/15/2016

Central AC unit Freon leak

I am new to this forum, I want to send a reply to Leader LCD for the answer given for my previous question, I am not sure how I can do that so I am posting as a new question. First, I want to thank LCD very much for giving me a detailed answer. I want to be clear now, the first technician who suggested to get a new AC unit is not a sears guy, he is from a different company but we bought new unit from sears in 2011 since we could not trust his company. After sears installed new unit the problem still persist and had to call sears after a year, the sears technician said system running low of Freon and added Freon, the next year (2013) we had same problem after having fought with sears the sears added Freon and replaced coil for no charge. In June 2014 the AC unit took long hours to cool down we did not bother calling a technician. This year again same problem, we agreed to pay $170 to sears technician to add Freon but with dye. I would appreciate any suggestion on what I should do next.

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2 Answers

Voted Best Answer

For future reference - to keep followup info or requests or added photos to a question in the same "thread" or Question blog, you can just reply back using the Answer This Question yellow button right below the question, which opens an Answer Question box you put your text into, and can use the leftmost yellow icon at the top bar of it to submit photos to show your situation (not applicable in this case) - just as if you were answering your own question.

Oh - if Sears did not recommend the new unit, then any claim about that needless cost would have to go back against that contractor then, and probably way too long to take up a case against him - and would have to probably be based on incompetence by him, a tough thing to prove especially if he "recommended" a new system rather that telling you you HAD to get a new system. If you replaced the furnace too, I still think he really conned you at the time.

On the new unit - you should have demanded Sears fix the leak for free under warranty - but if warranty was just a year and you called after that, then ... And of course if you did not ensure that making sure the system did not leak in the contract for the new unit then they could just claim it was pre-existing (if they reused the original tubing) so not their problem, assuming the tubing was rated for the pressure the new system runs at on the "high side" - the high pressure side.

Again - you said the dye was added but has anyone looked after that to see where the leak is ? I don't know how long the die lasts - I have seen it at times but never knew how long it was after adding it that I saw it except when it was specifically being looked at shortly after adding it to find a leak.

The leak needs to be found - by red dye tracing, ultraviolet light detectable dye tracing like Trace2 (which generally can stay in the system for life to show future leak points), chemical sniffer type leak detector, frost locator, ultrasonic or stethoscope sound detection, oily grime stain detection at the leak, or whatever - and while not for certain, leak is most likely in the refrigerant tubing if we are looking at the same leak rather than a new one from the new unit installation, especially if the tubing was not replaced when the new unit was put in (commonly is not unless visibly corroded).

I guess the technician was like many - refill the system and go away, not telling you that doing so may be throwing your money away if the leak is causing replacement of several pounds of gas a year. He should at least have warned you of that factor - some units have small leaks that get topped off every year or two and run for decades, but any leak runs the risk of the unit getting too low on pressure and running hot or failing totally if its malfunctioning is not noticed or the leak expands and dumps the refirgearant load in a short time.

Then after the leak is fixed the system should be flushed clean with inert gas (to remove the cleaning solutions and remove most of the moisture), new dryer/filter cartridge installed, and the system charged to proper pressure and tested.

The dryer/filter unit MUST be changed at the same time so you are= not retaining grundge in the system, and the lines flushed to remove the dye (unless a safe permanent type - check manufacturer recommendations on brand of dye) and likely other contamination from the unit running hot (as it would have when it did not cool the house well due to low pressure). And the oil in the lines/filter should be checked to see if carbonized or dirty, which would normally be indicative of the compressor getting so hot that the oil was smoking or burning - which quite likely means the compressor got pretty well worn and/or carboned up too. There are flushing solutions available from some AC manufacturers which can help clean out the lines and compressor and to a much smaller extent the evaporator and condensor coils - don't use off-the-shelf "miracle cures" or leak stopper fluids - they just crud up the system and can cause compressor and valve failure.

Unfortunately, to properly clean the evaporator and condensor coils they should normally, unless the contractor has a portable system liquid flushing system, be removed and "tanked" to flush out the contaminants if the check shows burnt/contaminated conditions - which would increase your repair charge from probably $300-700 range (depending largely on what they charge for recharging the gas) to probably $1000-1500 range for the leak detection and repair and thorough cleaning of the entire innards of the system - which depending on how old the system is at this point (looks like 5 years or so) might be more than you want to put into it. You might decide to just have them do normal gas flushing and refilling and replacing filter/dryer and crossing your fingers on the amount of contamination in the system which could be removed with a full system liquid flush. Could be more if refrigerant lines are found to be corroded and need replacing - or if the new system was R-410a rather than Freon (R-22) and the lines are not high-pressure rated, so the newer system pressure is excessive for the existing tubing, which might handle the pressure without bursting but with no safety factor and could leak because of that.

Definitely before doing more than finding the leak and checking for contamination in the tubing and filter/dryer, get a firm quote for the repair and line clearing (with gas) or flushing (with liquid) and recharging and testing - because it is possible, depending on what is found, that will influence you decision on how much to spend on cleaning the system, or possibly even decide to just keep refilling it with gas (which is generally illegal but very commonly done) for as long as the system lasts or until the leak get bad enough it gets to expensive to keep refilloing or the system dies.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD


Dear LCD

I really appreciate your genuine effort in solving a problem, I am very glad to have you in the forum, many thanks. At this point they added dye (UV dye) with freon 2 days back and I am not sure when I should call technician again to check for leak. I am not willing to spend more money at this point if I can wait till next season, will this affect heating system too.? If I can I want to go with someone other than sears, any suugestion on best technician or company with reasonable price around Zip 38135 is appreciated.

Answered 2 years ago by moh


You would have to ask the tech when he is planning on coming back to check or dye, indicating the leak spot - or if not going with Sears again then ask the company you contact to carry on from here, which would be a Heating and AC contractor (your Search the List category to find one in your area) with good ratings and reviews.

You don't want to do it too soon with a slow leak because the dye stained spot may be too small to see readily, but you don't want to wait a year eitehr because you will then be paying for yet another refill - plus your unit might run low enough on refrigerant to damage the unit and lose air conditioning.

A large leak (bleeding off in say a week or less) you can commonly see within minutes after putting in the dye - one that takes a year to bleed the system down I am not sure, but maybe a week to a month would be a reasonable timeframe - I would go with probably a month if I had to throw a number at it, but I am not an A/C tech so have not used dye in a system more than a dozen times or so, and usually get involved only with respect to knowing there is a leak and telling my go-to HVAC guy to trace it and get it fixed, though I have done the actual tracking down of leaks in some commercial systems myself. NOT fun in a 20 story hotel with multiple evaporator units off one compressor, for instance.

Damaging the furnace - if a separate A/C unit with evaporator located in the furnace ducting and using the furnace blower for air movement, then no a non-functioning or leaking unit should not hurt anything - no different than the evaporator just sitting unused in the ducting during the winter heating season like it normally does. If you have a heat pump - where the A/C unit provides both the cooling and heating (with probably a supplemental heating element in the air handler for colder days) then you will not have heat if the unit is not working, or it will not work right and will probably be real energy inefficient.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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