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Brian HVAC Guy
Brian HVAC Guy, HVAC Technician
Category: HVAC
Satisfied Customers: 915
Experience:  I have been an HVAC/R mechanic/technician for 30+ years.
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Brian. I'm going to check that relay you mentioned shortly. ( rheem heat pu

Customer Question

Hi Brian. I'm going to check that relay you mentioned shortly. (for the rheem heat pump system) .. I've noticed a new symptom... The outside fan keeps spinning now while on, yet the air inside is not cold, & the air blowing out of the outside unit is not the slightest bit warm. It's almost cool (granted I'm in 80° humid air in Ft Worth Texas area.(I'm using the other unit sitting beside it as a reference's always slightly warmer air being dissipated). I checked all lines in and out of the house (attic included) & see no freezing lines, no leeks, etc.. Could this possibly need more Freon? What is your expert thought on what could cause this?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: HVAC
Expert:  Brian HVAC Guy replied 2 years ago.
Hi, I'm Brian and I'm here to help!

If this is now a new and completely different symptom from the one in your previous question where the outdoor unit did absolutely nothing then that's odd indeed!

It sounds to me like the fan is running but the compressor isn't. Do you hear the light drone of the compressor? If not then it is probably not running and I'll go into more detail of that below. If you do hear a light drone from the compressor but are getting cool or just ambient temperature air blowing out of the outdoor unit, that is usually an indication of the unit being really low (or completely out) of refrigerant. That would be odd since you stated in your other question that the failure was sudden and it ran great up till the failure. This is not to say that it couldn't happen suddenly, just that it is not very common. You would have a large refrigerant leak in that scenario that would have happened suddenly. If that were the case you should see evidence of it somewhere in the system with oil stains from the compressor oil entrained in the refrigerant.

If, however, the fan is running without the compressor, there are quite a few things that can cause this.

1) You could have a bad compressor contactor or time delay (as stated earlier).
2) You could have a seized up compressor.
3) You could have a failed defrost control board. (the outdoor fan is controlled by the defrost board)
4) The fan motor could be shorted and running when it shouldn't (it usually runs much slower than normal in this circumstance).
5) Depending on how the low voltage circuit is wired you could have a high refrigerant pressure switch tripped.
6) The refrigerant reversing valve could be stuck midway between heat and cool positions.
7) The compressor valves may be shot.
8) Even the new capacitor(s) you installed may have failed

This is not a very simple situation to diagnose. Sometimes it can even be difficult for a tech on site to diagnose. (a really sharp heat pump tech would have no problem but unfortunately those are few!) The proper diagnosis requires a manifold gauge set, a volt/ohm meter, an amp clamp ammeter and a capacitor tester to diagnose properly. There could even be multiple issue and that would be extremely tough to diagnose. If you have access to those test tools, familiarity with their use, at least some knowledge of circuitry and are comfortable working on the unit while powered up, I can certainly help you diagnose your unit.

Let me know how you want to proceed and I'll help anyway I can. Thanks, -Brian
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I'll give some more info to see if it helps in the diagnosis of which to try next .

It was working great about 2 weeks ago and slowly losing cool over the last couple weeks. It would cool for a few hours and then not cool for a few hours. The outside fan wasn't always coming on (yet after changing the capacitors it seems to be coming on and running quite fast and quite smooth). I don't notice any oil, or wet spots anywhere along the lines around or near the system both inside or outside. I don't believe I hear the compressor humming and none of the lines are cold or hot anywhere around the outer unit or inside the outer units shell. hopefully it's just low on refrigerant without a leak... I'll have a specialist (hopefully one with heat pump experience) check/fill charge the system...

These pictures are before I cleaned the inside and all the connections 2 weeks ago. I also replaced the two capacitors. I notice the blue canister is starting to have the paint peeling and there is some sort of gummy style tape wrapped around the line coming out of the top where it connects to two other smaller lines. Not sure if that helps with this visual or not...

Image of Inside the Unit

Inside top

Expert:  Brian HVAC Guy replied 2 years ago.
Hello again Wes, sorry for the slow response, we had a wicked storm come through and knock the power out.

The symptoms you're describing do sound like a low refrigerant issue. The "blue canister" is what's called a suction accumulator. It looks pretty rusty around the bottom and the paint is bubbling pretty good indicating some serious rust under there. My best guess is that device is leaking. This is very common with suction accumulators. If there is still a fair amount of refrigerant in the system you can mix up a solution of dawn dishwashing liquid and water at 3:1 and coat any rusty or paint bubbling area of that accumulator with it. If you've got a leak there, bubbles should show up rather obviously but only if there's enough refrigerant in it to give a high enough pressure for leak checking. If that device is leaking it will have to be replaced. That's not a cheap endeavor at all!

On another note, in the picture of the control panel I do see the time delay relay. That may or may not be an issue. Test that as described earlier with your meter leads on the two brown wires connected to the outside terminals on it. That's kind of a tough test since the one terminal connector is insulated but if you pull it up off the spade connector just a little you can get your meter lead point on it under the insulated part of the terminal connector while it's still connected.

Also if you are using the heat pump in heating (and not just the backup electric heat), the unit, as it stands, as it's wired, will not go into defrost. I can see that the common wire that should be going from the defrost control to the defrost relay is missing and the unit will NEVER go into defrost in heating. So the unit will just ice up in fairly cold conditions.

Your unit definitely has some issues that's for sure! I would consider looking into a newer system or at the very least bringing that one back up to proper operating conditions. The unit, at 19 years old is at the end of its expected life cycle so consider that before spending many hundreds of dollars bringing it back up to standard. Unfortunately you would have to replace both the air handler and outdoor unit since we no longer use R22 refrigerant and the air handler won't handle the increased pressures of R410a.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Checked the suction accumulator ... not good news. And the HVAC guys came out to find the compressor is toast too... it lasted til the day before they came out. It felt like it was on fire and it was also old. Sadly it was encased in a box that did not allow it to stay cool. I believe the unit is 20 years old.

They also pointed out that the reason I received very little heat and a huge utility bill last winter from my OTHER heat pump was because the outer unit was only an AC unit hooked to an inside heat pump blower coil. (my wording is off) I only have 'air' blowing across coils on the main level unit. so it never blew hotter than 78 degrees if I was lucky = not warm enough to compete with 10 degrees baring down on the house from outside.

I am contemplating doing both units at once to save and have the heat issued solved come next winter. My new concern = they want to put a smaller unit in for the main level.

They install Goodman or Coleman systems (should I push to find a company that does carrier or is that fine to use Goodman/Coleman?) and

They want to down grade the size to a 3 or 3.5 ton unit though I currently have a 4 ton unit...

My wife is concerned the smaller unit will have to run more often and increase our utility bill. It wasn't bad on price last August (our hottest month) and it didn't have to run too often. They are saying smaller will run more often and claiming it will bring down the utility bill with a the amperage to start and stop the unit (x # ***** times per day) being less amperage than it running all day (x # ***** amps). I understand there will be less stress on the compressor, but do not understand = How is this going to be cheaper when the system ran round the clock in the winter (doubled our utility bill) compared to it only having to burst on periodically each day/ night (that carried a lower utility bill)???

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I should also mention we were at a house last year that had a Trane unit (2.5 years old) that could not cool the house when it got over 105 degrees. the system was struggling and fighting to even get the house down to 80 degrees - a temperature we couldn't sleep in. they too had done the calculations of the sq footage divided by the tons of air moved

We are roughly 1800 sq ft on the main level with 4 long tall skinny single pane windows and a poorly insulated wall with a vaulted ceiling that eats the heat in the winter and holds heat in the summer and only has 2 vents to heat/cool the entire great room that leads to that vaulted area. In 2 months we are starting a project that will add roughly 500 sq feet and need an extra 4 - 6 vents added in multiple rooms being created and shifting other vents. putting us at roughly 2300sq ft with a poor front wall and crappy windows. I'm going to change the windows out, but that's a large project.

Expert:  Brian HVAC Guy replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry to hear your ac is toast. I kind of figured that from what I was seeing and what you were describing. It just wouldn't be worth the money to repair at that point.

Your new questions go into an entirely different realm from your original one. I'm sorry to say that by the terms of service on the site you should open a new question regarding advice on purchasing a new ac system. I will also offer an additional service offer that can encompass my advice on your new concerns about system replacement. Accepting the offer can take the place of opening a new question.

Thanks much,
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Sorry, didn't realize the questions were linked all together. I'll snap it over to a new thread question

Expert:  Brian HVAC Guy replied 2 years ago.
No worries Wes. As experts here we are expected to follow the terms so I have to let you know. :)

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