How can experienced servicemen miss the boat?
Posted 22 July 2006 - 05:15 PM
I heard bits and pieces about it in our Lodge, days after the fact. Four servicemen had worked on my Lodge Brother Bill’s home air conditioning system for several weeks and it was not yet repaired.
First, Bill’s air conditioner had quit cooling and had ice forming on the unit’s piping. Bill mentioned it in the daily bull sessions at our Lodge and got some help from Brother Ed, who knew it was a sign of low Freon and would make a service call the next day. Ed’s main business is working on heating and air conditioning equipment. He is well experienced and a whiz to boot. He made the first long trip to Bill’s house and recharged the Freon for $180.00 to restore the cooling.
In a week the cooling had quit and the pipes were freezing up again. Ed knew right away there was a leak in Bill’s AC system but his brother-in-law, best friend,and our Lodge brother had just passed away. Ed was in no mood to worry with this problem. Ed offered to refund Bill’s money and provided the name and phone number for Fred, another serviceman that Bill could call on to take over the repairs.
Bill did call on Fred and Fred found the problem to be a leaking A coil evaporator in the inside furnace/AC unit. The charge paid for the service call was $112.00 and the cost for installing a new coil would be $1300.00. Bill was shocked at the costs and had to sleep on it a bit.
At the Lodge that night this topic was hashed about and Brother Tony, a property rental owner and experienced AC repairman offered to solve Bill’s problem for much less money. Bill quickly agreed and Tony replaced the bad coil the next day. After replacing the coil though, the outside unit with the compressor would not work. Tony then spent several days and many hours trying to get it to come on and even installed a new compressor which also did not function. Tony had collected $370.00 from Bill so far but had to beg out of any more work on the unit and collected no more money. He was frustrated. Working in that 90 degree heat was no picnic.
Bill wasn’t having any fun either - his house was hot.
Now Bill calls Fred back and Fred and his helper spend two half days trying to get the AC working but with no good results. On a Friday afternoon they tell Bill that Tony had installed a used coil in his AC, that the outside unit is leaking, and the entire system will have to be replaced for $3400.00. They also tell him he owes them $659.00 for the work done on the unit so far and would send him a bill.
That night I listened as Bill tells the whole story.
I offered to check out the system because it just seemed impossible that nobody could get the compressor to work and many hours spent already trying to make it work and so much money is going to be spent to replace it. The simplest part of an AC system is the outside unit and the two wires that send 24 volts out to a relay to make it come on. I wanted to know what the real problem was. It had to be no 24 volts getting to the unit or no 220 volts to feed the compressor.
My son Chris had my 50lb cylinder of R22 Freon so I called him to get it back and asked if he wanted to go help check this problem out. He agreed, which was nice because he would also drive his truck which is 25 years younger and a bit more comfortable than my 1979 Chevy service van. Chris is currently a hand’s on supervisor repairing all types of damage to homes being bought and sold by a local company. Repair of heating and air conditioning equipment is included in his list of skills.
So Saturday morning we make the cross county drive to Bill’s home and Chris starts looking at the mess of wiring in the house unit while I tackle the outside condenser unit.
My volt meter says the 220 volts is there and I push in the relay momentarily with a screwdriver and the compressor and blower fan starts up and sounds good. While I am looking at the wiring connections the relay pulls in and the compressor comes on again. Bill comes around the corner of the house and I get him to go tell Chris that the relay had just pulled in.
Chris had found a broken connection on the 24 volt feed line for the compressor relay and only 10 minutes on the job already.
I checked the service valve covers and they are finger tight. I loosed both covers to see if the valves were open and there is Freon gas escaping. We connected our service gauges and fire it up. There is no hi side pressure. Most of the Freon has leaked out from the loose valve covers or we have another problem. There is a new compressor in the unit. I cross my fingers as we add Freon. The pressure builds up, up, up, and looking good! The return line sweats. The system is checking out ok now. We soap check for leaks. No bubbles were seen. Hah! It’s cooling again. Still is - 24 days later.
Now what helped break the control line lead? It passed right in front of the A coil cover then drops down into the furnace wiring area. Did it get broken when Fred removed the A coil cover to look for the leak or when Tony replaced the A coil? How could Tony, then Fred, and his helper not check the most basic circuit that controls the compressor relay? Maybe it was the heat.
Posted 26 May 2007 - 12:17 PM
More correct- the missing 24 volt electrical supply to the compressor relay was not checked or found by three experiened (I think) servicemen.
Posted 26 May 2007 - 01:16 PM
I suspect the wiring issue was created from the "Tony" repair and if he was not qualified to diagnose a simple electrical circuit then it is time to send him on his way.
1st serviceman added refrigerant to save time, money, and to determine the size of the leak. (Some systems will take a few pounds and run all summer.) - he was gracious to offer a refund.
2nd serviceman "Fred" quoted realistic pricing to replace the leaking A-coil - "Bill" apparently liked "Tony's" lower price
3rd serviceman? - (not sure what he does for a living) - installs a used coil, damages some wiring, replaces (I question) a compressor, and who knows what else -
4th serviceman "Fred" - now re-hired to clean up the mess "Tony" left. Not only is he frustrated that "Bill" was too cheap to do the job the right way when it did work, now he has a pile of unknowns to contend with and will be expected to warranty the junk work done by "Tony" - If I were "Fred" I would not have touched the system after "Tony" - My guess is he felt if he were responsible he was going to install a whole new system and make it right.
Just my perspective. If someone wants to price shop instead of hiring a quaility contractor from the beginning then they are in for a pile of problems. "Bill" would have been further ahead having "Fred" do the work initially. Not only was he referred by a trusted source, he would warranty the work he did - unlike "Tony"
So what I see is low bid + unquailfied "Tony" does not = 4 guys missing the boat
Posted 26 May 2007 - 01:52 PM
Posted 27 May 2007 - 11:04 AM
Residentially it is not unusual for between $65 - $89 service fee which pays for someone to show up and the first 30 mins of troubleshooting. Parts and labor are book priced from there.
Side work - not on the clock stuff - ranges from $50 trip charge and $50/hr to as high as the market will bear. Then there is the parts charge on top of that.
To answer your question, what is your time worth? You have run into the age old problem that alot of residential guys run into. The customer thinks they are paying you for what you DO. What they fail to realize is that they are actually paying you for what you know HOW to do.
That you have two guys on the job is a frequent problem here, the customer does not want to pay for the helper...the real question is "Was the helper absolutely necessary for safety reasons or to get the job done." If no, then its hard to charge for him or if you do, charge a reduced rate for non-technical labor.
Worst case scenario...suck up the loss or go back and undo your work by re-introducing the problem, reclaim the the R22 and walk away (you have to really be pee-ed of for that one).
Then the "Brother" will know your true value when he calls a real company (not Butt Crack HVAC LLC) and sees the costs they charge.
Posted 28 May 2007 - 02:10 PM
I agree with dkbd1581 on the charging part. What your time away from home & family is worth. Long ago when I was in school one of my instructors wisely shared how important it was to charge everyone for your time or you will find yourself doing more work for free. They will tell two friends and they will each tell two "I know this guy..."
"Bill" is cheap and next time he asks you for a favor ask for a retainer fee first. Good job getting it all straightened around & saving him the $3000, next time we know he won't be so lucky.
Posted 29 May 2007 - 12:04 PM
Tony owns a trailer park and had been servicing and repairing AC units for fifteen years.
He kept extra parts available for different size units. After installing the evap the compressor did not start. Fred did not get it to start either and may have replaced the control board also.
Posted 10 July 2007 - 03:58 PM
Posted 10 July 2007 - 09:15 PM
- Ken Olson, Digital Equipment Corporation (1977)
Posted 12 July 2007 - 11:43 PM
I saved Bill a few years ago when he owned a two unit condo. The local pros wanted to replace the Ac compressor but I found the black wire burnt off the spade lug. The next 2nd opinion call was just a bad start cap. How can a pro miss that? I would not want to replace the compressor in that kind of weather.
Note: Poor connections cause overheating. I had the male spade lug break or burn off a compressor. See the pix for a fix. I removed the "tang" lug and use the clamp to connect the wire to the compressor pin. Works every time. LOL
Posted 13 July 2007 - 02:53 AM
Posted 20 July 2007 - 04:55 PM
It Was not the 24 volt supply transformer. It was the two simple wires going to the compressor relay from the AC control panel and there was a broken connection in one of those wires .
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