Cautionary HVAC Tales: Learn How to Minimize Damage

March 9, 2021

You never know what heating or cooling issue will pop up in your house, so it’s a bit difficult to be prepared for x, y or z issue. But there are common issues we see all the time during our service and maintenance calls that can serve as cautionary tales of what not to do -- and in some cases -- what TO do when certain issues arise. These lessons can help you minimize damage and, in certain instances, lessen costs and increase safety. We break each down by providing the inquiry, or “call” from the homeowner, the technical explanation, and the tip for you.


Not Turning Off a Malfunctioning A/C Unit Could Lead to More Damage, Costly Repairs


The call: A customer called us because their A/C wasn’t working properly. Our team advised him/her to shut off the unit at the thermostat. When the technician arrived to diagnose the AC unit, he found the evaporator coil frozen because the unit was still on.


Technical explanation: When your AC is “low” on refrigerant, not only will it freeze the indoor coil, but it will also damage the compressor. That means it will take longer for repairs to be made, and possibly further damage the indoor unit. If the unit is frozen at arrival, a technician can’t add more refrigerant properly.


Beware: If a technician says, “I can thaw this out for you,” it means they are going to turn on the heat mode, which can damage the furnace due to overheating from no airflow. When the furnace starts overheating, it will melt this ice, but the water will start dripping too quickly for the drain to catch it all. And it will start dripping through the entire furnace, causing more damage (e.g., short out the motor, circuit board and rust the heat exchanger). Charlotte Mechanical technicians would never do this!


Don’t let this be you! Turn off the equipment at the thermostat if it isn’t working correctly – whether the customer care representative tells you to or not (ours will!). We see people cost themselves several hundreds to several thousand dollars by not shutting off the unit.


Keeping a Broken A/C on Could Lead to Water Leakage Through Your Ceiling


The call: A new customer called in stating that their A/C wasn’t working. They were informed to shut off the system and thank goodness they did. The technician found a blocked drain overflowing into the emergency pan.


Technical explanation: The company that installed the system never installed a water-sensing float switch, so the system was about ready to overflow the pan onto their ceiling.


Follow their lead! We’re so glad this homeowner followed our recommendation. Not only was there potential for water damage, but also further damage to the HVAC unit.


During the visit, the technician went around the side of the house to find a branch had fallen out of a tree and wedged its way through the top of the unit, which was about to burn out the condenser fan motor, and possibly the compressor, due to overheating. Both parts were okay (again because the homeowner had turned it off).


The Lack Of, Or Poor, Annual Maintenance Check Could Lead to Deadly CO in Your Home


The call: This instance is actually a continuation of the service call mentioned above. Due to the age and condition of the unit, the technician recommended replacing the furnace, coil and A/C. The customer got quotes from several companies and found out that we have the best warranty intown and decided to move forward with the new system. When the technician removed the furnace, he found the heat exchanger had massive cracks in it that had been there a while. Come to find out, he started using Charlotte Mechanical because he wasn’t happy with the company that had performed the “winter special check.” He and his family hadn’t been feeling well all winter! That’s because it was leaking carbon monoxide (CO) inside.

Technical explanation: A furnace burns gas or propane through the heat exchanger, which is responsible for keeping CO out of your house. If it fails, the results can be deadly. CO is odorless and invisible; it causes flu-like symptoms until it overtakes you. And, it keeps building in your body, so exposure to low levels for a long period of time can add up to dangerous amounts of toxicity. 

Be careful! This homeowner had taken the right step by having a winter maintenance check performed; it’s unfortunate the company hadn’t conducted it properly. We not only recommend an annual check, but also that you have two CO detectors in your home. Maintenance checks are very important. With spring temperatures nipping at our heels, you of course won’t be running your heat, but you will be turning your A/C on. We’re offering our spring preseason check for only $79 right now.


The “Bandage” Fix for Refrigerant Could Lead to More Service Calls


The call: An A/C system wasn’t working properly, so the technician recommended a couple different options: (1) add refrigerant (no warranty); (2) add refrigerant and a “sealing” chemical (no warranty); (3) perform a pressure test to locate leak and then quote for the necessary repairs from that point; or (4) replace the equipment. The technician stated in his work order that he recommended option 3, at a minimum, to correct the situation. The customer opted for option 1 (in fact, customers opt for option 1 or 2 a lot!).


Technical explanation: Adding refrigerant is not a “repair,” so it does not come with a warranty. Refrigerant should not leak or run low –ever! If it does, that indicates a catastrophic problem. Repairing a refrigerant leak can sometimes be a labor-intensive service and cost homeowners a lot of money to complete. But this is the only 100% certain way to stop the problem and have peace of mind that the repair is solid.


Don’t let this be you! Choosing option 1 or 2 when your system is leaking refrigerant is almost like going to a hospital with a hole in your leg and telling the doctor to put a bandage on it. Sure, it solves the immediate problem temporarily, but it’s not a long-lasting solution. We try everything in our power to steer the customer away from choosing option 1 or 2, but many do. Think about the long term if this happens to you.


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