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Question DetailsAsked on 9/18/2016

capacitor exploded all parts surrounding it were burnt including wires was $460 a fair price

Cobb County Georgia Tech came out to house, popped the back off the condensing unit and discovered my capacitor had exploded and burnt everything in that compartment. Looked like 3 parts im asuming the other 2 were relays.The 2 wire bundles were partially melted. Took him about an hour and a half from start to finish a lot of it on the phone with other techs saying he had never seen anything like it. When i made the appointment i indicated id be paying in cash. He charged me $452....i had 460 he had no change.Did i get ripped off?

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Depending on how far back the wires were damaged it could have taken a lot of splicing and weatherproof sealing to splice new pieces on to reach from undamaged wiring to the condensing unit case - plus cost for that if damaged beyond use. I have seen this situation a couple of times, where a relay or capacitor blew and the casing shorted out the wires, so you basically get a 50A or more arc welder going in the short - can melt a lot of stuff including putting holes through casings and such in the sometimes quite a few seconds before the breaker trips. The worst case is where you get an intermittent short through metal housing and wires which can carry a lot of amperage without breakin the connection, so it keeps spluttering and and arcing like a "buzz-box" welder for sometimes asd much as a minute or more until it melts through the wiring completely - being able to go so long because whileit is pulling enough amperage to arc, the total energy flow is low enough that the breaker does not see it as an overload so it does not trip. One reason to have GFCI breakers on such units, even though that does results in more false trips.

I would not expect this sort of repair to run anything under $300 or so, and quite possibly to $500-700 range, especially since it was more an electrician's than an HVAC tech's line of work, so while it sounds high without seeing the damaged unit I would say it is probably in the reasonable range. You say 1-1/2 hours work - possibly billed as 2 depending on exact time - so at $250-300 or so labor probably for that time, an additional $200 for 3 control parts, as billout-rate, would probably not be unusual - and for some brands where the control units are pricey and OEM equipment is used, downright reasonable - some run $100-150 per component. You might have gotten it cheaper from another tech, but also might have been more expensive, so I would not think you were "ripped off" - just an unfortunate incident. Only comment I have on the charge is if I were the tech I would have taken $450 or $440 rather than take more than the bill amount if I could not give any change - but that is just a customer satisfaction thing.

BTW - another reason to use OEM parts - OEM condensors/capacitors generally do not "explode" - I have seen and heard of a lot of them from China and Indonesia exploding violently when they fail (which they also tend to do in a shorter timeframe). Saw a warning in an OSHA bulletin some time back about not discharging AC capacitors at the capacitor because of this risk - recommendation was to use a long lead wire alligator clipped to the capacitor and making the actual connection to discharge it at least 15 feet away from the unit at the end of the wire, to be safe from shrapnel if it explodes. It also recommended being 15 feet away during unit startup - not using a local on/of switch to start and stop it during testing, because of some blowing up when first energized. Some manufacturers apparently are going to heavier housings around them to mitigate this risk.

You were just lucky this was an independently mounted control box rather than mounted on the fan motor or right next to the TXV valve like some are - it could have taken out one of those too and that could have added a fair number of hundreds to the cost.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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