Saturday, August 20, 2016

HVAC: Home Edition: Undercutting the Contractors

I am now in month four at Erwin Vo. Tech for HVAC (Heating, ventilation, air conditioning.)  The last two weeks things have finally starting coming together for me.  The things that I have learned from the book are finally being put into real life practice.  And honestly, it couldn't have come at a better time.

You see, the A/C unit at the house had it's scheduled maintenance.  The company that maintains it said that it needed a few things.  First on unit #2, the dual capacitor was weak, and eventually it would need a new one.  The second issue with unit #2 was that the squirrel cage blower wheel needed cleaning. 

Well, after everything I've seen I wasn't sure how true it was.  I know a lot of companies perform the "inspection" for free, and then jack up the price on needed work.  What defines "needed work" can be open to interpretation.  Usually a capacitor either works or it doesn't.  There is no in-between.  Now I will be honest, in that, if a capacitor is weak it may be a sign of dying ...... sometime.  It could be a week, it could be years.  What you don't want is a capacitor to quit working, and then need an "emergency call" to the A/C company.  Then the price will really be jacked up.

So I wanted to get ahead of the curve.  I took a peek at the estimates for the work.  To change the capacitor was $194.24 (before discount,) and cleaning the blower was $256.10 (before discount.)  So if I could take care of this instead of the A/C company it would save a lot of dough.

My instructor was able to purchase the capacitor for $9.40.  I immediately paid him for it in cash, and was ever so thankful.  So when I made it home I got all my equipment and tools out. 

I took lots of pictures, so I will tell the rest of the story along with the pictures I took.  That way, you can understand what I am talking about.

First up, the tools.

And here is the $70, nay, $9.40 capacitor.

Here is the unit.

Here are the guts of the unit.

Here is a close up of the old capacitor.

I made sure to perform the correct math to make sure all the wires were going in the right places on the new capacitor.

So I put the connections on the new capacitor, and then drilled a new hole on the strap.  This capacitor was skinner, but longer than the old one.  So I adjusted the strap to hold it nice and tight.

And here is a picture of the all the completed work.

Honestly, I spent most of my time performing math and adjust the strap.  Other than that it didn't really take long.  So that was now out of the way.

A few days later it was time to tackle the squirrel cage blower.  Again, any little bit of dust on it can result in an A/C company saying it needs cleaning.  So before I even took anything apart, I took a peek at it.  You know what.  They weren't lying.  It needed cleaning.  It needed cleaning badly.  So I took it out and this is what it looked like.

There's nothing too technical about it.  It's just dirty, and I needed to get in there by hand and clean it out.  I used wire brushes, my big flat head screwdriver, and an air compressor to get in, and get that thing clean.  Did I mention it was dirty?  Because I looked like I rolled around in black dirt.

Again, it was more time consuming than it was hard.  I will say this.  My instructor showed me how to clean a blower just two days before.  I also knew that I would have needed a special tool to take the motor out.  If I could have removed the motor, then I would have used a water hose on the blower.  But since the motor was intact, I knew not to get water anywhere near it. 

Using the compressed air really helped.  I was able to get the little bits (and big bits) out of the blower.  I was surprised at the amount of dirt I was able to get out of it.  I ended up with a big ole' pile at my feet.  So this is what it looked like after cleaning.

Not perfect, but still ten times better than it was.  Once the unit was re-installed it actually sounded quieter.  That let me know that all the work I preformed was valid.  And hey, no one had to pay $450 (before discounts) to the A/C company. 

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