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Thread: Rheem 5 ton a/c condenser - small pin hole leak

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  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member richard8's Avatar
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    Default Rheem 5 ton a/c condenser - small pin hole leak

    Hello,

    I have a Rheem 5 ton residential a/c condenser unit that sits outside the house.
    This unit and all the similar ones in this neighborhood are approximately 19-20 years old.
    This type of a/c condenser uses standard R-22 type freon.

    I had this unit charged up with approximately six pounds of R-22 freon. This was done in July 2009. When rheem 5 ton was checked in the past three weeks (early May 2012). The Rheem 5 ton condenser was empty..

    It did not need to have any freon added in 2010, nor 2011. This unit is usually used between May 15 - September 30.

    Does anyone know of solutions to solve this problem.

    What do you recommend or do not recommend.


    Thanks for any advice.

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    If the condenser is "empty" I would suspect a pinhole coil leak, but it still could just be a fitting on the charging ports, etc. An electronic leak detector would help narrow that down.

    A 5 ton unit will take 6 to 8 pounds of R22. To the contractor, R22 is about $16 to $20 per pound. To the customer, that might be $25 to $50 per pound. Do you really want to put $400 worth of R22 in a 20 year old unit?? BY LAW, you can not just add refrigerant...you must determine the source of the leak. Can you say EPA and $25,000 fine in the same breath!!!!!!

    Now, given the age, it is quite likely that you can not make a 13 SEER dry 22 unit work on your old, 10 seer or less, evaporator. For sure, you could not make an R410 condensing unit work. SO, you are looking at a new system as the proper course of action.

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member richard8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    If the condenser is "empty" I would suspect a pinhole coil leak, but it still could just be a fitting on the charging ports, etc. An electronic leak detector would help narrow that down.

    A 5 ton unit will take 6 to 8 pounds of R22. To the contractor, R22 is about $16 to $20 per pound. To the customer, that might be $25 to $50 per pound. Do you really want to put $400 worth of R22 in a 20 year old unit?? BY LAW, you can not just add refrigerant...you must determine the source of the leak. Can you say EPA and $25,000 fine in the same breath!!!!!!

    Now, given the age, it is quite likely that you can not make a 13 SEER dry 22 unit work on your old, 10 seer or less, evaporator. For sure, you could not make an R410 condensing unit work. SO, you are looking at a new system as the proper course of action.


    Thanks,

    Is the information you mentioned valid for California state laws. What if the small .0001 " inch or less diameter hole is behind the stucco wall. Not in the condenser, or outside the house.
    You are correct about R-22 pricing, it is usually tripled by the time it gets to the residential customer, and maybe 65 bucks by July 20 - Aug 29, since it is over 98 degrees outside..

    It was mentioned to me since the leak takes 28-32 months, i.e. slow leak, it would be okay to just add freon R-22 and use. This is not me adding, since I am not licensed, not EPA certified, and illegal to purchase
    the R-22 freon. This is information from licensed contractors.

    What about stop leak alternatives, different solutions.

    If that is not available.

    How much is going price for R410 5 ton 13 seer, Good name brand, with decent warranty.
    Do they need to install new evaporator coils, what about the copper line, is that all brand new too.


    Thanks.

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    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    In the past there was a given leak rate that determined when replacement was required. I want to say it was something like 1/2 charge per year or more. Yours is probably below that level unless the leak has increased greatly in the past year.

    Makes sense to identify the source of the leak if you can. Some things can be replaced cheaply enough.

    My neighbor's AC seems to have a rather high leak rate...if it leaks down enough again this summer I'm hoping it will be condemned, it's a noisy old thing and any replacement will be quieter.

    EDIT: I should add that there is a good chance your 5 ton is oversized by a large margin, but that would take some investigation to determine.

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    If it has gone empty just since September, that is not a small leak! California laws do not apply...this is EPA regs.
    I would still make the point that since you will be paying quite a bit of labor for trouble shooting and repairs...do you want to come out of that process with a 20 year old unit? By next year, R22 will cost more than gold bars!

    Bison makes a good point about size.....how many square feet are you cooling with this?

    It does all boil down to $$$$. A reputable contractor will give you a some cost comparisons. Now is the time to act quickly. If you wait to the peak of the cooling season..it becomes harder to get good work a reasonable price.

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    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    If it has gone empty just since September, that is not a small leak!
    Unless it actually had a verifiable full charge in Sept. (which I doubt) and is truly "empty" now, which I also doubt, the leak has instead happened over three years dating back to the last charge in 2009. I had a unit back in Texas that leaked enough that it had to be topped off at least every other year. The wt. charged will give some indication. My neighbor's unit now is leaking at what appears to be a similar rate requiring top offs every other year or so.

    Anything other than a simple evap coil, valve, or tubing replacement is going to get too expensive to justify on a 20 year old unit, especially since more than likely the compressor will fail within a few years and the whole thing will have to be done anyway. I'm not even sure if the evap. coils can be replaced anymore (HVAC folks will know.) It's also a crapshoot as to whether a given repair would for certain end the leak down...

    Not sure what SEER level the old unit is, probably no more than 10 actual even if it is stamped higher. Replacing a SEER 10 with a nominal SEER 16-18 unit gave me a measured reduction of over a third in cooling costs--this is adjusted for temperature and baseline electric use over the course of a summer. It won't pay for anything quickly, but with our electricity costs the difference is about $150-200/yr. Couple that with no more maintenance cost for several years.

    At any rate, when replacement is considered, the heating side will also have to be analyzed as well. With furnaces the AC size typically determines the air handler frame size.

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