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Old 07-18-08, 09:04 AM   #1
twikoff
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Air Conditioner Question

ok.. so sometime yesterday our air conditioner at the house stopped working correctly..
we were working in the yard and there was alot of traffic in and out of the house by the kids.. leaving the doors open several times with 90 degree weather.. so the house got pretty warm when it stopped working..

it seemed that we had air coming out of the vents.. just not cold our (cool at best) and it really didnt seem like it was near strong enough..

i went out and checked the heat pump, and the fan on top was spinning.. so i figure, meh, thats about all i can do.

flipped the circuit breaker off and back on.. just for the hell of it..

still nothing.. so I go on to bed.. put several fans in the room to try and cool it off, but the noise was keeping me awake... Im fairly sure that sometime in the middle of the night the AC kicked on full blast and started cooling the house.. and i finally got to sleep then.. but when i woke up this morning, it was down again (if it had actually started).. was 79 in the house and 73 outside.. blah!

so.. i went ahead and flipped the unit completely off at the thermostat.. then went outside to peek at the heat pump again.. this time i looked closer and noticed that what I'm pretty sure is the compressor as well as the hoses/tubes going to and from it have a relatively thick solid coating of ice around them..

i went ahead and flipped the breaker outside.. as well as the ones in the house.. i could see it trying to melt a little.. and hear the water trying to get out.. but it also wasnt draining properly.. i swivelled the drain tube around a little and nothing came out.. but there was water dripping out on the edge of the unit by the tube connector.. might not have been strong enough flow of water to make it all the way out.. i dunno.. or could be some debris in there..

my question is... are the frozen components most likely whats causing the house not to cool right now.. and when it melts, should it go back to working properly?
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Old 07-18-08, 09:19 AM   #2
OldDude
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You might need service as it should have a sensor to keep it from running so cold that things freeze up.

The ice on the tubing means nothing except as a telltale. If the cooling coils in your house (probably in furnace?) freeze up, the air flows around them not through them and doesn't cool well.

If you can get the ice block thawed, it will cool again. But it will probably freeze up again, and you may want to find and fix the root cause.
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Old 07-18-08, 09:26 AM   #3
twikoff
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yea.. thats my concern
i figure it a gamble to leave it off all day and let the ice melt
because while it may come back on and work afterwards.. if it doesnt, that leaves us stuck until monday..
on the same note.. i dont want to pay someone to come out and point out that its frozen up and tell me to let it melt

stupid issues coming up on a friday!


i wasnt sure if root cause could have had anything to do with how much the kids left the door open yesterday and were trying to cool the entire state of alabama while it was 90+ degrees.
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Old 07-18-08, 09:30 AM   #4
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Sounds like the defrost switch is shot or not working correctly. Might need a recharge or a coil cleaning
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Old 07-18-08, 09:48 AM   #5
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if it was just the ice issue..
wouldnt the blower have continued to run at normal speed? Just not sending out the coldest of air?

it really seemed to me that there was hardly any air coming out of the vents.. but again, i could be mistaken on how heavy it should blow.. since you dont pay attention to it until its not working properly.
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Old 07-18-08, 09:53 AM   #6
Larry C.
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Go to the unit inside. Pull the filter off and check behind. If it is frozen on thermostat
place fan on ON and take it of cool. Run it for about 30 mins and try it again.
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Old 07-18-08, 10:13 AM   #7
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Yea, what he said. You can't tell by looking at the fan unit outside. You need to go inside (usually in your basement, utility closet or attic) and see if it's frozen up there. It will be a huge block of ice if it is. A lot of times if you open up the unit where the airfilters are you will find the air filter encased in ice.

If this is the case, you need to call and have it serviced, the thermostat might have gone in it, the coils might need cleaning, could need a recharge, etc.

First thing is to shut it down and let it melt. If you call a service place, the first question will be if you have ice on the unit and they will then tell you that they will be out after it melts (usually a day), but if you have already defrosted it then they can come out ASAP.

Of course it's the middle of July and most of the country is cooking right now, I'm sure the hvac people have plenty of work and a backlog. Most places will give you priority in these seasons if you have signed up for their yearly maintainence agreement for cleaning and inspection.
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Old 07-18-08, 10:14 AM   #8
Dr Mabuse
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run down the basics...

have you changed the filters on the AC unit? be they interior or exterior?...

it is very common for these filters to be ignored by people who don't have a service maintain their units... clogged air filters result in much lower air flow and strain on the unit... this would account for the low air flow and the condenser and coils freezing up... this is a very common cause of what you describe...

i've helped neighbors who had to push an emergency reset button on a ~20 year old central heat and air unit, about a 4 ton, to get it working again, he told me about it said the unit was junk... the man explained to me "that's just how this old unit works" with the reset button... so i checked his two exterior air filters... this guy thought he was saving money by not having a service come out an maintain the units yearly, he had never changed the filters apprently... his air filters were like concrete literally... i could have bashed his head in with one of them, they they were like solid rock... he went and got new filters and his unit ran like a top, he thought i was a miracle worker... sometimes people forget to change the filters... my air conditioner service tech says he sees that all the time...

the dirty air filter is a very common cause of this freezing... and since it's the easiest and cheapest to check and fix, start there by putting in a new filter...

the best way to thaw the unit is to set your thermostat to 'off' meaning no cool air, how ever that works on your exact thermostat, but leave the fan 'on'... the air flow helps with the thawing...
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Last edited by Dr Mabuse; 07-18-08 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 07-18-08, 10:51 AM   #9
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well.. Im at work right now.. so cant check anything
the unit is currently completlely off.. since i killed it at the breaker.. i figured the 95-100 degree weather would do a decent job of thawing it out

umm.. filter?
well.. i replace the one in the house.. but nothing on the unit itself.. never even opened the unit up before

its a heat pump.. had issues with heating during the winter and had the compressor replaced.. its worked like a champ since then.. until now of course..
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Old 07-18-08, 10:53 AM   #10
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i went ahead and placed a service call.. blah
they are going to try and work me in today.. maybe tomorrow (of course, they charge more on the weekend.. grr)

i guess ill sit out there over his shoulder.. and if he just changes a filter, ill watch so i know what im doing next time
although she made it sound like she suspected a leak and recharging the freon.. which wouldnt be something i could do myself anyways.
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Old 07-18-08, 10:57 AM   #11
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i hope you get a good(honest) tech...

it could also be a dirty evaporator... that's worth checking...
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Old 07-18-08, 11:11 AM   #12
parrotheads4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse
i hope you get a good(honest) tech...

it could also be a dirty evaporator... that's worth checking...
There are honest air conditioning techs??

Seriously, I know an EX-tech. He quit because he couldn't live with himself. He now sells cars.

I thought you couldn't add coolant anymore without doing a leak test $$$.
?
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Old 07-18-08, 11:34 AM   #13
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I am not a professional, but this happened to me last summer. Here is what I was told to do and it worked like a charm. On the thermostat, change the "Mode" from "Auto" to "Off". Then change your "Fan" from "Auto" to "On". Just let the fan run for about two to three hours. This will help defrost the ice around the tubing outside. Then, change the "Mode" and "Fan" to its original settings. You might also have to go to the heat pump and hit the reset button. I did this and it worked. I haven't had any problems since and my heat pump was manufactured in '83.
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Old 07-18-08, 11:37 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse
i hope you get a good(honest) tech...

it could also be a dirty evaporator... that's worth checking...
we've only used them once before.. and the guy seemed trustworthy..
although he ended up replacing my compressor, which i wasnt happy with the cost... but i think that actually was the problem..

we had had alot of issues with the circcuits tripping.. and the house never heating right even when it was running.. we had a couple different companies come out and then tinkered.. but it never really continued to work right.. and would continue to trip the circuit breaker.
after he came out and replaced the compressor.. its been fine.. no more issues

and i googled some pricing on the compressor back when he replaced it.. it seemed pretty reasonable (dont remember the price now though)..

but i guess with anything.. when you are getting something serviced that you dont know much about.. you are at the mercy of the serviceman.
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Old 07-18-08, 11:38 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by parrotheads4
I thought you couldn't add coolant anymore without doing a leak test $$$.
?
i meant something i couldnt do myself.. not could

need more sleep
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Old 07-18-08, 11:47 AM   #16
Dr Mabuse
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twikoff
we've only used them once before.. and the guy seemed trustworthy..
although he ended up replacing my compressor, which i wasnt happy with the cost... but i think that actually was the problem..

we had had alot of issues with the circcuits tripping.. and the house never heating right even when it was running.. we had a couple different companies come out and then tinkered.. but it never really continued to work right.. and would continue to trip the circuit breaker.
after he came out and replaced the compressor.. its been fine.. no more issues

and i googled some pricing on the compressor back when he replaced it.. it seemed pretty reasonable (dont remember the price now though)..

but i guess with anything.. when you are getting something serviced that you dont know much about.. you are at the mercy of the serviceman.
well at least you have this good previous experience...

that's a hell of a lot better than nothing...
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Old 07-18-08, 11:48 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pezcore
I am not a professional, but this happened to me last summer. Here is what I was told to do and it worked like a charm. On the thermostat, change the "Mode" from "Auto" to "Off". Then change your "Fan" from "Auto" to "On". Just let the fan run for about two to three hours. This will help defrost the ice around the tubing outside. Then, change the "Mode" and "Fan" to its original settings. You might also have to go to the heat pump and hit the reset button. I did this and it worked. I haven't had any problems since and my heat pump was manufactured in '83.
with the exception of a reset button.. this is what i had planned to do.. instead of placing a service call..
but the more i searched, the more it seemed like i wouldnt be finding root cause this way, so i caved in and made the call..
if they cant make it today and put me off till monday.. maybe ill have the weekend to let it run and can cancel if its fine.
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Old 07-18-08, 11:50 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twikoff
with the exception of a reset button.. this is what i had planned to do.. instead of placing a service call..
but the more i searched, the more it seemed like i wouldnt be finding root cause this way, so i caved in and made the call..
if they cant make it today and put me off till monday.. maybe ill have the weekend to let it run and can cancel if its fine.
Yeah, if they can't come out till tomorrow, you could do this after you get home from work and be up and running before 10:00.
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Old 07-18-08, 12:15 PM   #19
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if they cant come till tomorrow.. they better give me a heads up so i can consider putting it off till i know for sure..
since there is an additional 25$ an hour tacked on for weekend work
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Old 07-18-08, 12:34 PM   #20
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btw.. where did you find the reset button on the heat pump?
its currently turned off at both the outside and inside circuit breaker.. so starting it back should act as a reset..
but Im curious.. did you have to open it up at all to get to the button?
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Old 07-18-08, 02:37 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twikoff
i wasnt sure if root cause could have had anything to do with how much the kids left the door open yesterday and were trying to cool the entire state of alabama while it was 90+ degrees.
That could be a factor, bringing extra humidity in the house (more water for the ice block). But it isn't the root cause. The design should be such that it turns the compressor off when there is excessive icing. That's broken.

It could need charging. It doesn't seem intuitive but when freon is a little low, they get too cold (when it's a lot low, it doesn't work or burns up)

The ice block would restrict flow through the coild and you would blow less air than normal, like putting a big piece of cardboard over a fan.
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Old 07-18-08, 03:15 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twikoff
btw.. where did you find the reset button on the heat pump?
its currently turned off at both the outside and inside circuit breaker.. so starting it back should act as a reset..
but Im curious.. did you have to open it up at all to get to the button?
There should be a little red button on the lower backside of the heat pump. It's location is very close to where the tube and wiring coming out of the pump.
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Old 07-18-08, 03:23 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by parrotheads4
There are honest air conditioning techs??

Seriously, I know an EX-tech. He quit because he couldn't live with himself. He now sells cars.
I quit before I ever even started because of this.

First part of the school had a really honest and environmentally-conscious professor teaching, second and third parts had short-cutters and scumbags. I cannot go to work in a field that doesn't provide their techs with recovery units, and order them to empty out systems of refrigerant. It is not only unethical, but illegal. I will not purposefully destroy the planet everyday at work.

E
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Old 07-18-08, 03:41 PM   #24
Larry C.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by parrotheads4
There are honest air conditioning techs??

Seriously, I know an EX-tech. He quit because he couldn't live with himself. He now sells cars.

I thought you couldn't add coolant anymore without doing a leak test $$$.
?
Sells cars??? Oh that's an improvement
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Old 07-18-08, 04:52 PM   #25
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blah blah and triple blah

the guy just left...
i stood out there with him talking the whole time.. seemed like a good guy, but since i have no clue what anything really costs, it didnt matter what he said..
he explained everything, all the levels and all the tools..
the freon was extremely low.. he had some pretty nifty wand that looks for leaks.. no leaks in the main area..
i had pointed out that it wasnt draining properly.. and he showed me it was because of the way the people that put it in used a curved pipe that let the water flow right back into the unit.. we removed this so that it could drain out of the unit better..

when we removed the panel at that drainage area.. we could see the problem.. the evaporator coil was rusted pretty bad.. right where the water should have been draining out!
he quoted me 1825 for a new evaporator coil.. freight/tax/parts/labor total.. seems high to me, but what do i know..

my charge for today was $250 to refill the freon and the random tinkering..

we have lived in this house for going on 3 years now.. and there is no telling how long thats been rusted or how big the leak is.. so i guess we will just leave it and hope it lasts awhile.. Im hoping for another 3 years or so out of it

on the bright side.. when i mentioned it to my wife.. she pointed out that her mom's new 'man' is a heating and air guy.. and they are coming down from minnesota to visit in 2 weeks.. so I may see if i can get him to find out how much the part really is.. and get some free labor on the install
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