Summer is coming up and your AC is going to die. You are going to have to call a repair guy, and he is going to rip you off. Sorry, I don't make the rules. Here is an essay from someone in the HVAC industry with tips on how to not get cleaned out this time.
If you live in a place of significant temperature extremes, be it hot or cold, then you are probably familiar with the local Air-Conditioning/Heating Company-assuming you foot the bill for such things. When your furnace doesn't come on, or when your condensate drain backs up and water starts an inexorable trickle down pattern in all the ways Ronnie Regan would be proud of, or you come home and flip the magic button that produces, cool, refreshing air and it is not so cool or refreshing… you make a trepidatious call. You have a remarkably keen intuition that your wallet/purse is about to go on a crash diet.
Your anxiety is warranted. More than likely, they're fucking you, and depending on how visible your wealth is and how little interest you show, it's a pretty raw fucking.
Let me enlighten you on some ways you may avoid this, or at the very least, see it coming.
- The Technician is not your friend.
I don't care how fucking nice he is- I say "he" not to be male centric, I've just never seen a female tech-he is supposed to be nice. He is not on your side. Most of these guys aren't bad people-we'll get to them- but they have Stockholm syndrome. These are blue collar guys who have basically been told they are lesser for being so, perhaps you even tacitly agree with that mindset, and are brainwashed by multiple methods into ripping you off for the company for outrageous sums, from which they will only receive cursory benefit. Like Stephen, these boys have learned to love their abuser and master and go out there day and night to prove it. You shouldn't hate them, but don't trust them. At best they are there to give you information from which you, (yes, you) will have to do more leg work in order to come to an informed decision.
There are many nauseating sales tactics they are indoctrinated with, but some signs you got one of the really bad ones would be:
They ask, "So, what should we do?" multiple times.
They give you long lists of repair options-many of which are bogus- with the top option being very expensive. This is to get you to buy a system.
They harp constantly on how old your system is, and "anything can happen."
Again, this is to get you to get a new system.
You probably should get a new system if it is either over 12 years old or on the old style R-22 refrigerant that is being phased out; but a good tech is going to let you simply know certain information and let you come to that choice yourself.
- Parts are cheap.
I mean real fucking cheap. You'd be angry if you knew how cheap. If you had a capacitor replaced-common part- or a contactor, they ran the company…oh, about 6 bucks. You'll be charged anywhere from 100 to 300 bucks for one. Now, to be fair, the thing isn't going to leap magically into your unit. A tech has to come out, diagnose it, use gas for the truck, training for himself, etc etc. So, it deserves a markup. In my estimation the 80-100 range is fair enough, possibly more in an expensive market that has code restrictions and what have you, but if you pay in that 300 area…well, see the title.
- Thou shalt not add refrigerant!
Systems come charged with refrigerant, stored in a pumped down compressor in the condenser. Once the copper lines that connect the evaporator coil indoors are brazed in, it should never leak. If a tech comes out and says you need to add some, you have a leak.Leaking coils are bad for the environment- the chlorine in them destroys ozone- and bad for you. You're breathing this refrigerant, even though it is in miniscule amount. If it is lit by a flame, it can cause phosgene gas-similar to mustard gas- and fuck you up good and proper. That slow leak they have been filling up for years has been hurting the environment, and not exactly doing wonders for you.
You will often hear that the source of the leak is the indoor coil- this is generally true, but they must do a leak search! If they do not, they are guessing. This is bad. Also, if your coil is under warranty, refrigerant is also reimbursed to the company by the manufacturer. Often they will charge you for this refrigerant, along with the labor. If they do this, again, see the title^
This piece is timely, and has been on my mind for some time now. With climate change making for more erratic weather patterns and poorer air quality, the HVAC industry is more integral to your every day life. I've seen some horrible abuse of customers by companies- the bad guys I mentioned earlier, here they are- companies that make as much as 7-8000 dollars per unit they install, with the workers barely make a few hundred. During the summer, they run their techs to exhaustion-18-20 hour days in triple digit heat or negative 0 cold. You foot this bill. I've tried to take stands on this when I was a worker, going through so many companies because of the sort of nightmarish free for all that takes place in this industry, before getting my own license to work for myself. I try to go through things with a moral compass, and I try to realize how vulnerable a position some people are in when they call me. The heat that we experience in my neck of the woods will kill you, no hyperbole. The young, the elderly, the sick, they have to live in a climate controlled environment with a certain amount of air quality, to use this as leverage to make money is unconscionable. I know there are other people in the industry that feel this way, but they are few and growing fewer.
This will be an issue for many of you, especially in the hot climates of the country. EPA has mandated the removal of R-22 systems-the majority of systems- by 2020. R-22 supplies will basically end in North America next year; so if your compressor goes out, or your coil springs a leak, you'll be making that call. Educate yourself, ask questions and don't wait till your system goes down to call, because, again, you'll get fucked.
Don't buy the goddamn Nest, it's junk and over-priced.