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Friday, May 6, 2016

Heat Pump Problems

I don't like to be complaining often, and I recognize that my worst complaints are minor compared to many other people's.  But they are what *I* am suffering, if you understand what I mean.  Sort of the "I was sad I had no shoes, til I met a man who had no feet".  Well, I still have no shoes, so I'm not happy.

My heat pump is non-functional.  Brief history is that the heating function barely worked in early Feb and I had to pay $120 for a diagnostic visit, then $745 for a replacement of the outdoors unit "thermal exchange valve" and a coolant recharge.  It worked, but not like it used to.  And there was often a weird high-pressure whistling sound both inside and outside after that.

Then when the weather warmed into the low 80s in mid-April, I turned on the cooling function.  It struggled.  How could it struggle when it's only 80 outside?   So I had to pay $120 for another diagnostic visit.  Naturally, it was only 65 outside that day and the system worked perfectly...

Monday the system simply stopped completely.  No heating, no cooling, not even the fan operated.  Even the thermostat display was dark.  I checked the main circuit breaker panel, the inside unit ciruit breaker, the outside circuit breaker, nothing. 

Wed, another repairman came out.  THIS guy knew what he was doing!  First, he ACTUALLY listened to my description of the recent history of diagnoses and repair, and he listened to my observations of noises and heating/cooling failures.

The 1st thing he did was get into the inside unit where there was yer ANOTHER circuit breaker, and replaced it.  It promptly blew out when he turned the system back on.  So he shut everything off again and checked the coolant because "that high pressure whistle you described is bad news".  Sure enough, he found the coolant recharge done in Feb was 4x too high.  There was some by-passing valve that protects against that but it meant the system wasn't doing much.  He said the previous week's diagnostician didn't measure for long enough to discover that.  And terms like "those clowns" were used...

He suspects the INTERNAL "thermal exchange valve" was damaged by the coolant overpressure and said he needed to speak to the repairs manager because they had screwed up my system and owed me some free work (that he couldn't authorize on his own).  The nice news was that he said I had observed the problems accurately, had been right that the noise was due to high pressure, and that if the previous guys had paid attention to what I was telling them, they might have fixed the problem right to begin with!

And, in fact, I had described the pattern of cooling failure to the last week's diagnostician in detail.  Not 10 minutes later he told me that I should observe the pattern of failure.  Exactly what I had just previously done.  I think that, like doctors, repairmen shut off their hearing when clients speak.  Seriously, how often have you explained symptoms in detail to a doctor only to have him/her ask you about symptoms you just mentioned?  Often, right?

I spoke to the repairs manage this afternoon.  My system is a year out of warranty, but he has gotten authorization to replace the inside thermal exchange valve at no charge and the labor charge will be at 50%.  Plus any other problems found during full repair will be cost-adjusted. 

I mentioned that seemed generally fair, since it was likely the Feb over pressuring caused some of the problems, but I didn't push it further.  I'm not a skilled negotiator (I'm always afraid people will just say "NO" and THEN get mad and unhelpful). 

They expect the part to arrive Monday and will be out to replace it ASAP.  I've been very fortunate that the temperatures have been very stable between highs of 65 and lows of 50.  I can deal with that.  I'm a very warm-bodied person, I have a heated waterbed, and I'm a lot more comfortable at 65 than 75.  And the house stays warmer than the outside.  All that electronic stuff that stays permanently 1/2 on creates heat, as does the refrigerator, water heater, cooking, etc.  And the house got a detailed attic-to-basement spray insulation and blown-in insulation job 18 months ago. 

When it is 50 outside, the house stays at 65.  But that also means that when the outside temperature is 80, the inside will reach 90 even with windows open and I can't sleep in THAT!  And it will get into the 80s Tuesday!  So the repair will be a close call...

It could be much worse.  Heat pumps usually die on the coldest or hottest days.  My previous 2 heat pumps died in mid August and the in-house temperature reached 100!

I have more complaints, but this post is long enough (and my appreciation to all who have read to this point)!  So the rest tomorrow...


Megan said...

Fingers crossed that the latest diagnosis is correct and that you get it sorted once and for all, Mark.

Sydney, Australia

Jodi Bennett said...

My husband and I really enjoyed your blog. As the temperature climbs we have had similar problems to you with our AC and heating pump (don't get me started on the other issues with the system). Seems to be increasingly challenging to find someone who is capable of fixing these units on the first try.

Levi Eslinger said...

I'm lucky to have never had any issues with heat pumps. Although I've jinxed it now haven't I? I'm not great with plumbing type tasks. And if it has heating I tend to stay away all together. After all I caused a massive leak just trying to plumb in our washing machine, and that's not exactly rocket science, is it?