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Thread: Broken Heat Pump Liquid Return Line, Repair or Replace Heat Pump

  1. #1

    Question Broken Heat Pump Liquid Return Line, Repair or Replace Heat Pump

    Hi, I am a new condo owner looking for some advice. There is a little bit of a back story. We just moved into a condo in Washington DC. It has a 2 ton American Standard heat pump system that was installed in 2002 and has a 10 year extended American Standard parts and labor warranty. The heat pump for the unit is located outside in an alley.

    When we tried firing the AC system up for the first time it did nothing and didn't cool anything overnight. The unit had been empty since the previous summer so we are not sure how much the HVAC was used and when it stopped working. We called the HVAC Tech, recommended by our condo assoc, but it was not the company that sold the previous owners the system and is not an American Standards dealer.

    The Tech found that the liquid return line to unit in the alley had been cut, probably vandalized. He patched the break, but we are unsure how long it had been broken or how much moisture had gotten in there. He recommended replacing our 5 year old heat pump because we don't know how damaged the condenser is and it could go. He said this would be around $2000. He was pushing us to use our home owners insurance and claim it under that.

    The other option was to pump the moisture from the lines and recharge it. He said that would be around $500-600. The problem is that the condenser could be damaged and go anytime. He quoted that a new condenser would be about $1200-1300, installed. He said that this might be covered under the extended warranty.

    Long story... sorry!

    I have few questions, though.... would it be better to replace the unit? How likely is it that the condenser is damaged? If the condenser does go, would it be covered under the extended warranty? To me it seems like he is pushing a new unit because he can't do any work under the American Standard extended warranty because he is not a dealer. We have a $500 deductible on the insurance and our rates would go up, so it is not like it is a write-off if we get a new unit. Should we call up the people who installed the system and get their take? Has anyone ever heard of a return line being cut? It was just cut, none of the copper piping was stolen.

    We are new to this so any advice would be great!

    Thanks,
    Luke

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If you are lucky, fixing the line, pulling a vacuum and recharge is all you may need. Most of the manufacturers specify the use of dry nitrogen to purge things first, and you'd probably need to add the lubricant during the recharge process - not sure of the procedure. I'd be more worried about the compressor running overnight without refrigerant. That could have ruined it, since, when you lost the refrigerant, it probably lost a lot of the lubricating oil that circulates with it. Might have played havoc with the seals. I think a scroll compressor might fare better than a reciprocating one.

    Vandalism is probably covered on your homeowners, but I think you'd have a hard time justifying a warranty repair.

    It's always a good idea to do a quick visual check of things before you turn them on after sitting for awhile, although, since it is a heat pump, what were you using during the winter when heat was required? It may be that it switched to the backup resistance heating which probably cost you an arm and a leg.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3

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    Thanks for replying Jim!

    Is there some sort of cut-off switch that would be triggered to protect the compressor? The return line was completely severed so there would be no pressure on that line.

    I am going to call the American Standard dealer too, I want to make sure we do not void our extended warranty. If the compressor fails down the road, would that be covered by the warranty?

    Thanks again,
    Luke

  4. #4
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Don't know...it would be nice, but not sure if there's a low pressure cutout that would have protected the compressor. If it ran without refrigerant and the oil that gets circulated with it, the seals and bearings could be affected...just can't say how bad.

    If the a/c unit doesn't start producing some cool air out of the ducts in the first few minutes, something is wrong. That doesn't mean that the house will be cold by them, that can take quite awhile, but it should be producing cool air fairly shortly.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  5. #5
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    If you get the AS dealer to look at it, and he says the warranty has been invalidated by the vandalism damage, that is a loss that should be covered by the vandalism insurance. The insurance should "make you whole", including making the warranty valid.

    I would deal only with the outfit responsible for the warranty and the bill to the insurance company should include everything necessary to restore a valid warranty.

    After you determine the extent of that loss and the cost to restore the warranty you can decide whether to accept a payment that you will apply to buy a new unit or to repair the existing unit.

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