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Question DetailsAsked on 7/16/2016

home is only 7 years old havc tech says hvac lines need to be replaced is that normal

hvac line replacement after 7 years

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That is a rarity, because it is common for the tubing to actually be reused when the A/C is replaced, commonly lasting 50 years or more.

Sounds like maybe a corrosion problem - I have heard of premature lineset failures both due to external corrosion in very high-humidity or seashore locales because of low grade imported copper tubing, and also there have been a few articles on the contracting pro side of the web about internal corrosion failures which appear to be related to sulfur compound contaminated refrigearant gas - though whether the sulfur compound is in the gas or in the lubricating oil is unclear at this time. There is also some discussion on whether alkyl halide (bromine, chlorine containing) gasses which a few A/C units use cause premature corrosion failure of some grades of copper lineset - some commercial units are not recommending higher grades of "harder" copper alloys for their systems.

You should ask if the lines are leaking in mid-line or only at the solder/brazing joints - the normal grade of copper tubing for A/C systems is not supposed to be brazed or soldered with acid flux or acid-core solder though a lot of contractors do use it, so if only failing at the joints that may be the problem. Depending on how joint-happy he went and how much slack he left, your contractor may be able to pull slack and cut of an inch or so at each side of the joint and resolder with satisfactory performance - though will likely not give any warranty because he would be afraid the acid travelled through the system (especially if the installer over-fluxed) and is causing corrosion elsewhere in the lines.

If failing mid-line, important to determine if due to corrosion from outside or inside, or maybe because the lineseet was kinked during handling and transport and installation - in which case just cutting out the kinks and soldering a new joint should solve the problem.

Course, if leaking at the joints could just be sloppy or bad soldering - sloppy soldering your tech could easily identify visually, bad or incompatible solder you can sometimes identify visually but not always, and commonly not until the joint is unsoldered to see how good the "tinning" or joint coverage by the solder is. I know I have twice over the past score of years or so gotten into a situation on copper pipe where the flux and solder and pipe were just plain mutually incompatible - flux did not wick the solder correctly onto the pipe, or solder did not bond to the pipe. Had one solder brand (which worked fine with a rosin flux) which flat would not "take" on normal water pipe solder and one flux brand that did not actually prep the joint properly - jsut boiled away when heated - so teh solder just beaded up and would not bond to the metal and had every other joint leaking during the pressure test. In that case just taking apart and cleaning up and redoing the joints might solve the problem.

You could try to recover the repair cost from the original installer if from acid soldering on tubing class that is not supposed to be, though after 7 years hard to go after the original installer to pay for the repair because that would be well beyond his warranty period. you could always talk to the original installer (if you know who it is) and he MIGHT replace it as a public relations move, assuming you trust him to do the job right this time around. A reputable contractor might - many would say it has been too long or is a product failure.

Remote possibility - read your warranty - that the lineset is included in the manufacturer warranty (some come with the lineset as part of an install kit) - but not likely.

Bad news part - until the lines are taken apart so the interior of the condensor and evaporator coils are visible (so $150-200 into the job probably) you will not know if they are showing internal corrosion or not, but you should be prepared to look at that with the contractor while he is doing the work, because if they are corroded significantly (takes a fiber optic scope ot check them out well, which the contractor may not have unless you specifically ask him to bring one, or you rent one at Home Depot or tool rental place or some auto parts stores - get a small diameter on, less than 1/2" diameter and 3/8" better) then you may be into the mode of considering replacing the unit entirely rather than repairing, because if coils or lines are significantly corroded inside then the compressor is likely also and the interior of all the lines and valves are probably corroded too, meaning your expected 15-20 year A/C life may actually be significantly less - like if gettingone leak now, this may become a chronic problem.

Other alternative is to repair any current leak and see how often it recurs - though if you lose all your refrigerant you risk compressor damage because the gas carries the lubricant around inside the system, and a total refill can run $250 min probably and commonly more like $500 now - and the EPA is limiting R-22 (if that is your gas type) production and imports to less than a third of consumption this year so prices are going up continually.

Lots of discussions in prior questions in the Home > HVAC link in Browse Projects, at lower left, on the subjects of repair versus replace and A/C, and the issues of R-22 (Freon) phaseout so refills after leaks are getting into the $500 range just for replacing the gas (if your system is R-22 rather than newer R-410a - could be either at that age), and also the economic factors of higher efficiency and new warranty versus sinking money into an older unit. Normally this decision comes around at about 12-15 years but if corrosion is the cause of your problem, decision time could be now for you if general corrosion is the problem.

Of course, other consideration which only you can determine the applicability of is whether this tech is putting you on and scamming you into replacing lines that are perfectly good - though would take typically a $75-100 visit by another vendor for a second opinion. But if lines truly need replacing, he should be able to show you significant black or green corrosion with pitting (not jsut a very light green coating on the outside).

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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