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We have a Westinghouse/Nordyne FS4BI-036K 23 SEER system and…

Customer Question
We have a Westinghouse/Nordyne...

We have a Westinghouse/Nordyne FS4BI-036K 23 SEER system and lately at night when it gets colder outside (we are in central Florida) we get the "RSOD" (red screen of death) on the thermostat and low pressure switch fault on the display. Our tech came out a couple of weeks ago and said it was definitely low on freon, injected the sealant/dye into it and it worked for about 10 days or so, but, now the problem is happening again. It will run just fine during the day

Contractor's Assistant: Just to clarify, do you think this is a larger HVAC problem, or something specific to the thermostat?

Just reporting what I saw on the thermostat, definitely a problem elsewhere.

Contractor's Assistant: Do you plan on doing the work yourself?

Nope.

Contractor's Assistant: Anything else we should know to help you best?

The unit works during the day when it is warmer outside so in my mind that tells me it isn't a simple low pressure switch failure (because it wouldn't "chose" to only fail at night) and the fact the tech already had to top off freon.

Submitted: 8 months ago.Category: HVAC
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Answered in 6 minutes by:
11/30/2017
HVAC Technician: airheatman, HVAC Technician replied 8 months ago
airheatman
airheatman, HVAC Technician
Category: HVAC
Satisfied Customers: 9,371
Experience: Furnace, A/C and heat pump specialist.
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If tech did not find and repair leak it is probably low again.Just recharging does nothing but buy time until leak can be found and repaired.

The reason for it only doing it late in the evening or overnight is that the system holds about 10.5 lbs of refrigerant.It is probably only leaking a lb or so when this happens.

During the day with a load on the structure the suction pressure might be borderline but just high enough to prevent lockout, but in the evening when it gets cooler, the load is reduced, thus dropping pressures and allowing low pressure lockout.

This should be a warranty issue and I suggest you demand they locate and repair leak, nt just keep topping it off.

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Customer reply replied 8 months ago
We have the same unit over at our offices and about 18 months ago it, too, had the same problem. A single visit with the dye/sealant fixed that one and as he said at the time, "Putting in the sealant and the dye will either fix the problem or help me diagnose where the leak is, if it doesn't fix it." That one still works fine.But, this one clearly still has a problem so he is scheduled to come back tomorrow.Over the phone he said it is obviously still leaking, could be a range of things and wouldn't know until he came back.He also surmised that since the house was built in 2002 and originally had an R22 system in it before we upgraded to the Westinghouse in 2008 or so, that if the installers just reused the copper that was there originally that copper could have develope leaks along the lines.I was hoping for some more specific stuff to be armed with when he comes back.(BTW, I do trust him and he has done well by us but I figured it would be nice to have extra info.)
HVAC Technician: airheatman, HVAC Technician replied 8 months ago

I understand. Let me address a couple of the issues.

1. Using the same tubing is fine as long as they flushed it with R11 to remove any mineral oil residue.Not impossible but unlikely for older copper to develope a leak unless rubbing against something.

2.The copper used in these newer units however is almost all imported from China a stress cracks are way to common due to the quality of the material and high operating pressures of the R410A.

3.The dye on rare occassions will seal a leak but not designed to This is one of the drawbacks of the dye is that it can seal small leaks and therefore can also clog up the tiny oriifices in the metering devices.

4.Since he has already added dye, it is also possible that you may no longer have a leak but now are getting a low pressure cut out due to the dye clogging a metering device.However that is not as likely since it only does it when load is reduced at night.

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Customer reply replied 8 months ago
About 3 feet of the copper tubing is run underground outside (from the compressor to the wall of the house then through the concrete block and up the inside wall of the garage into the attic and about ten more feet to the air handler).The stuff he used (and I read the package stuff while he was using it but can't for the life of me remember the brand) was definitely sealant and dye, not just dye.He said once his dad started using this stuff several years ago their replacement of coils and other stuff went down drastically but they were fine with that since customers loved the lower repair cost (and that was our experience at our offices as I mentioned).Since (relatively speaking) AC systems are pretty simple (compressor outside, tubing running to coil inside and then the coil itself) the leak is "somewhere" (duh!) and the task now will be lighting it up and watching for the glow.I guess I was hoping for something more reassuring like, "Well, most of the time with these sorts of low pressure switch issues, the problem turns out to be... or..."
HVAC Technician: airheatman, HVAC Technician replied 8 months ago

I understand. Just being honest most of the time with these sorts of low pressure issues, the cheap imported crap we are getting dumped on from China is the culprit.

Now it is not out of question that the actual pressure switch could be out of calibration as if you look on these parts you will also see an imported from Mexico or China on them.

To accurately diagnose of course I would have to be onsite with gauges and test equipment and catch the unit in this troublesome mode.

As for the dye/ sealant, I am not knocking your tech as it appears you have a lot of trust in him, but personally only use spectroline bye on which has no sealing properties. The reason is, as stated earlier, if it can seal a leak it can clog a tiny orifice in metering device and cause us to lose a compressor.

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Customer reply replied 8 months ago
It seems to me that the pressure switch most likely isn't the problem (since I would presume if it was out of calibration it wouldn't have worked after the unit was filled with freon to the proper pressures and worked for 10 days or so and just like prior to "topping off"/"refilling" only have the problems at night now that the problem has come back).I was just in the attic (pull down ladder on this side of the house where the air handler is located) and pulled the "front" off of the air handler.I do have a "party" black light (yeah, I am that old...) and turned off the lights in the attic with that light in one of those protective cages and though with the lights on I did see rust where the galvanized sheet metal met all of the copper tubing of the coil with the lights off and just the black light on I didn't see anything "glowing".I didn't pull the cover off of the "back" side (that is far less accessible and I'll let the HVAC tech do that tomorrow) so, of course, that side could look like a crime scene sprayed with luminol and I just didn't see it since I wasn't looking back there.The fact, also, that the unit still cools during the day is a good sign to me (it was 74 in here before I went into the attic, I cranked it down to 68 and it is now registering 72(At night we keep it at 66 since we are from the midwest and not being able to sleep with the covers on is just not right (that, and my wife is going through "that" phase and meat locker temperatures at night are in order))So, I'll go outside tonight with the black light and nose around the compressor in the dark and see if I see anything.Other than the little bit of black light investigating in the attic I guess I am still no farther along.
HVAC Technician: airheatman, HVAC Technician replied 8 months ago

No without hooking the gauges up we are doing a lot of assuming,but most likely still a small leak somewhere.

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