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Question DetailsAsked on 5/14/2016

As suggested I replaced a new sears AC unit for freon leak but still leaks.

I had problem with my Central AC unit and technician filled freon which didnt last long and finally technician suggested to get new AC unit, as suggested we replaced with new Sears AC and heating unit costed us around $7000 but the problem was not solved. After a year same issue, guy thought leak is from coil and replaced coil but that did work either, now freon added every year, sears charges everytime they need to come in and finally they added dye with freon to find the leak. My question is why do I need to pay again for the leak (not sure how much it is going to cost) with new unit. Do I have to get this fixed with other company instead of Sears, it is going to cost me again either way at-least I need some responsible person to fix it once for all. Any suggestions will be of great help. Thanks

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Voted Best Answer

You did not say if the dye tracing found the leak (which it should have) but sounds like he did not because did not fix it ? Many or most units leak a bit of refrigerant through fittings and past the compression stage in the compressor over time, but if you had a significant loss (say more than a pound or so every maybe 5 years or less) then that was indicative of a leak or failed compressor seals, and the FIRST thing he should have done was leak detection BEFORE adding new refrigerant. That was gross negligence on his part to not do that FIRST unless you specifically said you just wanted it topped up and not trace the leak, because by just topping it off you are wasting the several hundreds of $ (or more) for the replacement gas and labor, when it will just leak out again. Makes about as much sense as putting gas in your casr when you have a fuel line or gas tank leak that drains it out overnight.

There are several ways to detect a leak, with success rate somewhat depending on its size - dye tracing which works on all size leaks but might require injecting it one visit then coming back a few weeks later to check where it is showing up on the outside of the system, electronic gas detectors which will detect any significant leak but not necessarily tiny ones that take a year or so to bleed off, and water spray which will detect a significant leak (by icing up) but not all tiny leaks either.

Because the tech failed to properly diagnose the problem several times and charged for leakage and repeated refills that his first visit should have solved, AND talked you into getting a new unit needlessly, then the system STILL leaked, I would be writing a long demand letter (with service call and cost documentation) demanding Sears refund everything paid to date for the service calls and gas refills, or maybe everything but the dye tracing (assuming that found the leak) - plus the undepreciated value of your old AC and heating unit based on original cost prorated over maybe 10-15 years for the AC or heat pump and probably 25-30 years on a furnace. So if say 5 years old, I would be asking for the remaining value when it was replaced - so 5/10 or 10/15'ths say of the cost of the original AC unit, and assuming 25 years on a furnace maybe 20/25ths of its value. That way you would be reimbursed for the value of the unit needlessly thrown away, and end up with the new unit with its longer remaining life. Or you could go whole hog and demand the full $7000 for the new units needlessly replaced be refunded.

And I would note on the letter that this is being done, and send a copy to the consumer protection agency in your state government, or maybe to the federal consumer protection agency.

One thing that could significantly strengthen your case - if they installed a new AC unit without replacing the evaporator, unless identical brand and size as original, that would be illegal - the new system has to be a "matched" system under the energy efficiency rating system (EPA regulations) - putting a mismatched "outside unit" on an existing evaporator coil is illegal. Mentioning that (if that is what was done) could get action because they might fear your reporting it to the EPA and possibly your state department of environmental conservation (or similar name) as a violation, which can run a $10,000 fine or more and also potentially lose the vendor their license to handle and use refrigerants.

You also said you replaced with "new Sears AC and heating unit" - why the heating unit, unless this is a heat pump (which cools and heats both in one unit) - there would be no reason to replace the furnace if it is a separate unit as is usually the case (the AC evaporator coil just fits into the ducts leading from the furnace), and for $7000 sounds like that quite possibly is the case.

All in all, with all the visits, gas refills, plus $7000 new unit, and new coil, sounds like you are probably at $10,000 or more into this problem all told.

You also don't say if the new AC unit is Freon (R-22) or R-410 based - if he did not change out the evaporator likely freon still, which would have been a bad recommnedation given the changeover to R-410a or other non-greenhouse gases, assuming this was done in the past couple of years.

Certainly sounds like an incompetent repairman for Sears - many box store repairmen are, especially the contract (as opposed to Sears employee) ones, because Sears (and other box stores and some manufacturers) tend to contract with the contractors who will do the work at the lowest rate - which commonly means they are the ones who cannot generate enough work themselves to keep going, which is commonly because they don't get repeat customers because of experiences like yours and a generally bad reputation around town and on the web. Sometimes you get a good firm, especially in areas without a lot of competition where they may go with the largest, well established firm which might be quite good. For instance, in my area Sears uses the same company I would call myself (if I didn't do pretty much all my repairs myself unless under warranty).

Course, sounds this has been going on for years which weakens your case at this time, so I guess you realize you let it go WAYYYY too long. The second time you called him and he failed to solve the problem would have been the time to squawk or refuse to pay - ditto to repeated freon addition every year or so and the coil replacement after the new unit went in.

At this point, if a significant amount of your freon is leaking out, it is quite possible the new compressor is damaged too, because with low refrigerant it runs longer and hotter, plus the refrigerant usually contains the lubrication oil for the compressor, so low refrigerant pressure commonly also means poor compressor lubrication. So, your "new" AC system life may end up being a lot less than you expect.

Certainly I would be going with a different repairman unless Sears offers to do it for free - because a new system was put in and a new coil, so that pretty much leaves the leak to either the tubing to and from the evaporator coil (if he did not replace that), or it was in the old unit somewhere AND during the replacement he created a new leak. Eitehr way, should be traceable and fixable - and a heating and AC vendor with good reputation, and good Angies List/Yelp/etc ratings and reviews should be able to fix it without a real problem. And the fix should include (and document) if the new unit shows signs of overheating - scorching/burning of gaskets or paint, or burnt lubricant in the refrigerant or dryer filter, which would be cause to demand a new compressor from Sears as well.

Whether you will make progress with Sears is questionable - your other alternatives would be to go to Small Claims Court ($ limit varies by state - in many states would not cover your potential claim amount), or sue or go to arbitration depending on your Sears contract terms. Certainly suing would not be economic, after you pay for an attorney, unless possibly if you went for the whole hog in your claim and maybe punitive damages too because of their repetitive failure to perform.

Going after their contractor bond would not likely be viable unless the new compressor is shot too, because otherwise the only thing that might be covered is the cost to find and repair the leak properly - a pretty small $ amount in this case - a couple to few hundred $ probably.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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