Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Day In The Life Of an HVAC Service Technician.

HVAC Work In Texas.

Yesterday a new system was sold the old fashioned way-with a verbal agreement. We Texans are still more often than not bound by honor, and a gentleman's code of conduct. Say what you will about our education system, I'll agree with you that it's poorly maintained, and ran by idiots-but Southern hospitality, and Southern manners reign supreme. It was 105 degrees yesterday in Mesquite, Texas; and the home owner was ready to do what must be done to ensure the happiness, health, and comfort for his renters.
Today my Father beat upon my door at 6:30 a.m., though he is rather savage when he does so-it's probably the only way to do the deed with proper outcome. I woke up. I wasn't happy about it, but I recognize the need to get this thing done early.
Today we'll return, the boss and I, to the place where we were yesterday. The current system in the home in question is still working-intermittently. It has a problem that can not be serviced. I'll see if I can explain: The compressor in the system has overloads that are failing. What is happening is that when the system satisfies the thermostat the condenser cycles off-as it should. No problem there. The problem is that fifteen minutes later(round about) the thermostat will again call for cooling-well, the compressor is too hot to start again after such a short rest. This aged compressor needs about eight hours of rest before it can and will start again -and this is because, as I said, the overloads are failing. This compressor is bad.

Texas Heat And HVAC Tools.

This is the digital thermometer that I usually use. . . well, it's a picture of one just like it.
This is the digital thermometer that I usually use. . . well, it's a picture of one just like it.
This is a recovery machine.
This is a recovery machine.
This is a recovery cylander
This is a recovery cylander
This is a vacuum pump.
This is a vacuum pump.
This is a common electronic leak detector
This is a common electronic leak detector

HVAC mechanic, here and now.

My digital thermostat said it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. The same digital thermometer read 105 degrees Fahrenheit again today. I'm willing to bet that it's not going to be much different tomorrow.
I have to tell you-I'm a sucker for a system change out like this one for many reasons. First and foremost is that I don't have to do it. Second, the homeowner is going to be much happier with it, and (three) so is the family living in the house. Fourth on the list, but nowhere near final, is the fact that this new system is "green," it's not only more efficient electrically, it uses refrigerant that does not contain chlorine, and therefore, does not harm the ozone layer.
You, the gentle reader asks, "whatever do you mean Todd, that you won't have to do it?"
Thanks for asking, I mean just what I say-the boss has hired via contract labor someone to put it in for us. That's a condenser outside, and an air handler with a coil on the inside. What am I going to do?? LOTS.-there is more shit involved with changing out a split residential system than you know.
The boss and I arrive on the scene, and it's my job to recover the r-22 refrigerant in the old system. This isn't hard. It is tricky though, and if you've not been trained then you'd never get it right in a million years.
I'm using a brand new refrigerant recovery machine. Why? Because you only want to carry one recovery machine with you out in the field. What do I mean? I mean that nowadays, since I regularly encounter(mostly) r-22 systems AND (seldom) r-410a systems I want a recovery machine that can handle both.
Plus, a recovery machine only weighs in at about fifty pounds. I try not to lug extra recovery machine around if I can help it. Also required are extension cords, gauges, recovery cylinders, extra hoses, hand tools. . . . .and don't forget that five gallon paint bucket you'll need to fill with water in order to cool the gas in the recovery cylinder.
Yes. Your $800 recovery machine that you bought in 2000 isn't up to snuff. You now must own an $1,000.00 "oil free" recovery machine-because r-22 mixes with it's compressor's oil, and travels the refrigerant circuit-and this oil is completely inhospitable with r-410a hoses, gauges, recovery machines or cylinders.
The new recovery machines work with "either/or" because they do not have oil in THEIR compressors. A recovery machine, after all, only pumps refrigerant in exactly the same way as an air conditioner. And please, don't let the E.P.A. catch you working in HVAC without a recovery machine on your service vehicle.
Now, we know that it's 105 degrees outside, what's to keep my $1,000.00 recovery machine from overheating? Good question! The only way to prevent the death of your brand new $1,000.00 recovery machine is with a five gallon paint bucket, and water.
Let me explain: The liquid, high pressure side of your recovery machine in going to get very fucking high in this heat. The only way to combat this is to place your recovery cylinder into a bucket full of cool water. You'll need that hose running, slowly, into the bucket to ensure fresh cool water-but please, do not let this water flow encounter your extension cord You know as well as I do that electricity, water, and you do not mix.
So I'm in a mud puddle of my own creation in 105 degree heat recovering refrigerant for Al Gore, and for some Segoville, Texas victims of the economy, global nonsense, and Al Gore. I've also decided that I'll not be shocked one time more this Summer. I've been lit up like Christmas more times this Summer than I ever care to be lit up again. I should be dead from the hits I've taken this Summer alone. People just jump out unit disconnects, or do away with them altogether to such an extent that I'm willing to assault the next idiot who I see jumping power around a motherfucking unit disconnect.
We have "widow makers" to solve the problems of getting power for recovery machines and vacuum pumps. I'm nobody's husband-but I'll be damned before I'll use a "widow maker." I don't care what anyone has to say about that. I truly DO NOT USE THEM.
Well, the refrigerant is recovered after a bit-and we will be very pleased to use it on another call somewhere. We know that it is not tainted refrigerant-but the bullshit laws in place stipulate that we are supposed to have it recycled. Bollocks that, and I mean "fuck that," if you don't speak English.
It's time to take warranty materials and parts to the supply houses for cash and credit-we've been lugging that crap around long enough, and when we get back this thing ought to be ready for a vacuum.
Now, I can't very well leave my tools, my extension cord,etc left out in "battlefield Segoville, Texas," now can I(?), so I'll just have to get this stuff back out, and back to where it needs to be. Plus, I have to get out the 50 lb vacuum pump; but before we are ready to vacuum, we have to check for leaks both inside, and outside.
There will be a minimum of four welds outside at the condenser: two for the liquid line filter, and two for the two refrigerant lines. On the inside there will be two welds-for the two refrigerant lines. I must now pressurize the system with______, and spray leak detector bubbles on the welds. If I see bubbles coming from the welds-then my welds are no good, and I must fix what the installers didn't get done correctly.
Luckily, I have no bubbles resulting from my leak detector spray. Yes, normally you use a $300-$1,000.00 electronic leak detector to check for leaks-but in a situation like this one simple spray leak detector will work. Besides, the $800.00 electric leak detector decided to give up the ghost last week. Fuck, those things are expensive.
I hook up the vacuum pump, and let her fly for a short while-this application doesn't require a long vacuum; and as soon as I'm done I'm ready to release the refrigerant pre-charged into the new condenser. Now, units are supposed to be pre-charged to where little to no refrigerant need be added for a new system to have a complete, proper, and efficient charge. I am sad to report that it's just a sign of the times that our humanist world can not seem to ever, EVER have an honest pre-charged condenser.
They are always a little shy, and who does this cost? The contractor, the technician, the homeowner. The little guy always gets screwed.
And so it is again today-despite having no leaks, a short line set, and a top of the line system-it's factory charge is insufficient. I measure ambient temp(105), suction pressure(155 pounds per square inch), and figure with the aid of a chart what the discharge pressure should be(458 pounds per square inch provided that the other two conditions are met). . . . .and charge the unit to it's most efficient, and designed setting.
I'm done now, and it doesn't take me long to get it right. I only scored "Universal," out of a possible highest score of "Universal" when I took the E.P.A.'s chlorofluorocarbon test. Oh, I thought I knew everything then-but in fact, I knew next to nothing. Nobody else in my class scored "universal," and I still wound up knowing next to nothing. Life is harder than it's advertised to be. our nation's media is to blame for more heart ache, more sorrow, and more murder than can ever be estimated. I hope that those individuals who proliferate the garbage seen on today's television sets get their due. But in the meantime I'll take the cash put into my hands for a day of labor-drink my beer, and post my thoughts on the net.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. I didn't realize it got that hot in Texas. Hopefully you have a good hvac system installed.