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Thread: How much to clean a central A/C condenser??

  1. #1
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    How much to clean a central A/C condenser??

    I called about a month ago to get my central air conditioning condenser cleaned and the tech came today. They never mentioned the cost and I figured $250 or so. It was $329 and the tech was at my house for a bit over 30 minutes. (Yes, he had to travel too.) It was absolutely plugged with dirt and needed to be cleaned with coil cleaner and not just running a hose over it.

    I absolutely would have done it myself had I realized how expensive it would be. I could get some good coil cleaner and the nice applicator gun for $100. I really need to get a capacitor for my A/C unit so I can replace it myself. Besides the labor cost, getting someone out to fix a central A/C unit is running a week or more for a no cooling call. I know how to diagnose and properly discharge a capacitor.

  2. #2
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    None of it is hard to do. You just need to know how, and have the right stuff to work on it. There are some better capacitors than what come on the units, and changing one is a really simple job.

  3. #3
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    If you need a capacitor anyway I would consider adding a hard start kit while you are in there.
    Bill D

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Dufour View Post
    If you need a capacitor anyway I would consider adding a hard start kit while you are in there.
    Bill D
    How does a hard start kit work? In looking at the advertisements it appears to be nothing but a capacitor that is put across the single phase line powering the compressor. The compressor motor is not a capacitor start induction motor (I think it's a split phase start).

    I don't see any value to putting a capacitor there except to correct power factor since the motor looks like a big inductor at startup. Any insight?

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 07-29-2021 at 3:08 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  5. #5
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    The last time I had to replace a capacitor, I used one of these. It's been so long ago, that I don't remember which model it was, or even what size that unit is. Still kicking a good number of years since being installed.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008A3UJ7I...ustomerReviews

  6. #6
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    I used to do all this stuff myself back when I had more time than money. Heck I even put in my entire air conditioning system in. Now I just gave in and signed up for a tech to service the system before each season. It is a subscription based deal and come with discounts on parts and priority service, A nice thing when its hot or cold and your down.

  7. #7
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    As a one time field service technician my experience is the charges can pile up quick.

    Sometimes you can call in and complain and get some knocked off.

    (If you have read any of my posts on buying you have heard my rap on asking for any kind of discount you can think of including green teeth and no teeth.)

    Travel expenses are real and often standardized by where you are in relation to their base of operation. The time is often figured on a minimum per call. With auto dealers there may be more standard time allowed and charged than it actually took.

    One other thought, with the tech only being there for 30 minutes, they likely didn't clean the fan. If it is a 'squirrel cage' (centrifugal blower) type fan, the blades on the fan get dirty and reduce air flow. Dismantling one of those and cleaning the blades is a dirty job that few tech want to do. An efficient tech can usually get it done in an hour or so depending on how difficult it is to remove and reassemble.

    A word to the wise, if you do this and the neighbor notices, don't tell them you cleaned the fan blades or they will want you to do theirs. Tell them you had a loose belt or something.

    Added note: On my call tickets was a spot for time of arrival and completion. These are something anyone having an on site tech should look to see they are filled in properly.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 07-29-2021 at 7:23 PM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
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  8. #8
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    We used to have a good tech, who was reasonable too. But I think he finally figured out his clientele lived in a high end vacation area. I called him to ask how much to swap out a capacitor, on my Mother's AC, a few years ago. He said, $250. I swapped it when I got home that day.

    We put in a mini-split, in a hurry, for my Mother's suite when she had to move in with us, after a second stroke at 104. He installed it, while I was scrambling to do other stuff, getting ready. It lost refrigerant, after a few months. At that time, I didn't have any R410a, so I called him. $400 to put in some stop leak, and 20 oz. of R410a, when it was his install that leaked, and it took him maybe 20 minutes. He wrote the bill up to make it look like he was giving me a discount. That finished that.

    I ordered a 25 pound cannister of R410a, the next day, for $145, including shipping. It's over 300 now. I'm going back to doing it all myself. I already had most of the equipment.

    I figure doing mechanic work on our vehicles, that my time ends up being worth over $150 an hour. Looks like it will be more than that keeping our HVAC stuff going.

  9. #9
    Unfortunately, Joe Smuckerelly can no longer buy 410-A. Gotta have an EPA licensee, which can be had over the internet (hint, hint.) Tom, remember that 410-A is a blend, and cylinder has to be inverted during charging. Love seeing commercials for HVAC guys, servicing a unit without PPE, and cylinder of 410-A upright. I wouldn't want those guys working on my equipment. They don't know what they are doing. Back to original post, both Lowes and HD sell cans of coil cleaner. Remove outer grill, spray it on. Let it do it's thing and rinse off with garden hose and you are done.
    Last edited by Bruce Wrenn; 07-29-2021 at 9:42 PM.

  10. #10
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    Yeah, I wondered about him just topping it back off. I doubt parts of the mixture leak out at the same rate, but don't know. It's been working great since then though.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M King View Post
    We used to have a good tech, who was reasonable too. But I think he finally figured out his clientele lived in a high end vacation area. I called him to ask how much to swap out a capacitor, on my Mother's AC, a few years ago. He said, $250.
    He's a lightweight.

    I had one outfit come out a couple years back who had what they called "fair and simple" flat-rate pricing. I knew the cap was bad (visibly bulging), he also recommended a new contactor because of some pitting on the contacts. And then he whipped out the page describing the pricing model: anything electrical was $495. That sounded insanely high for a 1/2-hour labor and a $25 part, but it got worse. While I was reading that, he was writing up the actual estimate: turned out the $495 was per component, with a total right at $1K even after he offered to waive the $125 "service fee". Um, thanks but no thanks.

    I chalked up the $125 to education and sent him on his way. Amazon delivered the parts the next afternoon and I was up and running an hour later.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
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  12. #12
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    The tech only cleaned the condenser outside. I am pretty sure he never went inside to even look at the furnace. The blower wheel was certainly not cleaned. I'll have to look at it. I already mentioned I would have cleaned the coil myself with coil cleaner had I realized the cost would be so high.

    I don't have a need for a capacitor now, but I know they are a common item to fail and not hard to replace. I would like to have one on hand just in case. I know how to properly discharge and test the capacitor.

  13. #13
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    Slightly off the main topic, but is there a reason that they use open-frame relays* in this application? I know it's (semi-)protected, but I've found burnt insect carcasses and other cruft stuck in them...just seems like some kind of sealed unit is in order.

    (*And do they call them "contactors" just so they sound more important/specialized/exotic?)
    Last edited by Lee DeRaud; 07-31-2021 at 10:09 AM.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
    "Design"? Possibly. "Intelligent"? Sure doesn't look like it from this angle.
    We used to be hunter gatherers. Now we're shopper borrowers.
    The three most important words in the English language: "Front Towards Enemy".
    The world makes a lot more sense when you remember that Butthead was the smart one.
    You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much ammo.

  14. #14
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    (*And do they call them "contactors" just so they sound more important/specialized/exotic?)
    In one of my previous work places, "contactors" had replaceable contacts, relays didn't. That might have just been shop jargon. Many of our "contactors" were pneumatically driven.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Elfert View Post
    They never mentioned the cost and I figured $250 or so. It was $329 and the tech was at my house for a bit over 30 minutes. (Yes, he had to travel too.) It was absolutely plugged with dirt and needed to be cleaned with coil cleaner and not just running a hose over it.

    I absolutely would have done it myself had I realized how expensive it would be.
    I dont mean to offend, but why would you let them do the work without agreeing on a price?
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 07-31-2021 at 12:01 PM.
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