My AC fixing experience

My AC at home couldn’t start and I deferred fixing it since I lived alone at the moment. I could run around with only my underwear and it doesn’t feel too hot that way. However, eventually I just had to fix the AC after a week of over 100F. I roughly recalled that the technician babbled capacitor problem last time someone fixed the AC. I bet the capacitor probably went bad again. Indeed, it looked pretty bad to me after I opened the panel of the condensation unit.

bad capacitor

I went to a local electrical store to buy a new capacitor, it costed me $20. Unfortunately, the fan and the compressor still refused to start after I replaced the capacitor. At this point I had no idea what to do next and so I called the company who fixed this before for help.

good capacitor

After several hours, those folks arrived. They didn’t wear masks and I didn’t feel comfortable for that. It was in the midst of a pandemic in any case. Luckily, the problem was only the condenser and so they just passed through my home and did not need to stay inside that much. They got the outside unit fixed in less than an hour. Including time to refill some refrigerant.

They didn’t explain what was wrong. They kind of mentioning some fuse problem. And then charge me $290 ($200 for the fuse and $90 for the refrigerant).

It was expensive to me. But I didn’t feel too bad as at least I didn’t need to have a new AC and was thinking the problem was solved. But just after several hours, I realized that no cold air was coming out of the vents. And then I knew that the compressor had stopped again.

I called them again. They did come to fix it after several hours. This time they said that the fuse box was bad and they routed the wires to bypass the fuse box. They were good enough not to charge me. But they said they could replace a new fusebox the next day for $300. This time I refused. For a half of it, I really doubted that the fuse box was really bad. Since they just made it run a couple hours ago with the “bad” fuse box. Besides, it is simple enough to replace a fusebox playing with only a couple screws. I don’t see how a fuse box can cost $300.

I originally planned not to worry about the fusebox until this fall. After all, the AC is also connected the circuit breaker. Even without the fusebox, it is not like there is no protection at all for power surge.

However, I guess I was not so lucky after all. Just after one night, the AC didn’t start the other day. This time, I think it was enough. I should try to figure out what was going on. Even if they didn’t charge me again this time, they probably would try to sell me something. Besides, I don’t feel safe with them in my house as they were not wearing masks as I mentioned.

Considering the components inside the condensor and its circuit diagram, at least it is not rocket science.

circuit

Moreover, after some online search, I came across this excellent channel for AC repair. After watching a couple of its video, at least I realize that AC repair was much simpler than auto repair.

And from the observation that there was not humming sound at all when I tried to push down the contactor. The contactor probably was bad.

contactor

Indeed, while the input has 240V, the output has close to 0V even when the thermostat was on and the switch was pulled in. At this point, it is finally clear what went wrong. Probably something was jammed inside the contactor.

air gun

It turned out that some dead ants were jammed inside. I used an air gun to blow for several minutes. Eventually got it cleaned and AC seemed to start great eventually.

Conclusions

I guessed I paid $200 for a lesson after all. I don’t know how they managed to make it run. Maybe they did clean the contactor also and ants got trapped again couple hours later. I think the unit is probably infested with ants and that is why it got jammed so easily. I have put an outdoor ant bait just besides the unit now. Hopefully it will mitigate this problem a bit in the future. And at least now I know what is likely to go wrong if this happens again.

As for the AC repair company, I want to add that they actually had excellent review on google (4.9/5) and I did give them good review before. Maybe I was unlucky and got the bad technician for the job this time (btw, he turned out to be the owner of the company). Unfortunately he appears to be a sly salesman busy tricking customers to pay for extra jobs. I will check with the fuse box again and give an update. But I believe that the fusebox most likely is doing great. The AC company owner also removed the hardstart booster installed by one of his employee before. He just said that those were unnecessary. However, as I checked online. Almost all recommend one of those to protect the compressor as it can reduce the current and hence the damage to compressor as the AC starts.

It seems to me that for the company owner, he just wants to make some temp fix and get more business in the future. Actually, I haven’t even criticized how sloppy for the last fix was as well. When they installed the hardstarter kit, the capacitor was already bad. But they didn’t replace the capacitor ($20) but added the ptcr hardstart kit ($10) (not the expensive rectorseal kickstart one) and they didn’t even tie up the hardstart kit and let it hang there. And all these they again charged $200 for that if I recalled correctly. My impression is that they tried to fix any problem with the hope that it will last only for one season and then the poor customer will call them again once their temp solution broke. Of course, I don’t think they are the only one who are guilty. Probably the whole business is like this. After all, inequality of knowledge gives them power. It has to be a saint not to take advantage of that. For one who doesn’t want to be a sucker, just needs to educate oneself.

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