South Carolina Technician's Training/Ability

Discussion in 'Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by Jim O., Jul 30, 2016.

  1. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

    Bought 18 y.o. home with two WF Premier 2 units. Folks who originally installed the units still do maintenance. We respect the longevity of the contractor's company but question the training of the technician. They were called regarding one unit's inability to maintain the cooling set point. Questions:
    1. can you check Freon charge using only one pressure gage rather than the normal two?
    2. my ammeter shows a total current draw of 15A while the nameplate FLA is 34.6 - he had no comment on this - doesn't this indicate low Freon or 2nd stage not coming on?
    3. when asked why the 2nd compressor stage was not coming on he had no answer
    4. he added water to the system but did not check pressure differential across coils to estimate flow - temp differential was 89F in, 91F out (closed vertical loops, ambient temp 90F, output air at registers 61F, t-stats at 76F)
    5. called boss who said "the unit itself would calculate when it needed to bring on 2nd stage and not a Y2 t-stat signal"?
    6. system continues to maintain t-stat setting till late in the day then increases to 79F at all three t-stats and current draw never goes above 15A
    7. do I need to find a different service organization?
  2. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    The Pro's will answer your questions, but there are some that a DIY owner can answer.
    1. Typically the 2 gauges are used to check the low pressure side (Low Pressure Gauge) and the high pressure side (High Pressure Gauge), the two reading can be used against he owners manual tables to determine if the compressor is doing it's job or needs Freon.
    2. The lower current draw being half of the Full Load Amps points to the Compressor running in the 1st Stage or a low Freon charge if running in 2nd Stage.
    4. Not checking the loop water pressure drop thus flow rate is valid issue. The 2 degree temperature drop is low, and can be checked on the Owners Manual Table to see what the correct temperature difference should be, given loop water temperature, mode of operation (heating/cooling) and Stage of Compressor operation, 1st or 2nd stage.
    5. Even on an Year Old Unit there could be a card that calculates when the 2nd Stage should start, but the Y2 T-stat signal is the only way I know of to energize the Compressor Coil that pulls the ring up to close off the bypass orifice to allow full Rated Ton operation of the Compressor.
    6. Your Unit is not cooling your house, thus it has a problem.
    7. If I had observed what you described as a technician looked at my Unit, I wouldn't invite that company back again. Except for Freon work, I would Do It Myself until I determined everything was working as it should which would point to the Freon Charge or Compressor issue, which would require a Freon Certified technician.

    If the Company determined my compressor was damaged, I would get a 2nd opinion. If the Unit needs to be replaced, I would find the replacement Geothermal Unit that best fits my home, based on how well the old Unit Heated & Cooled my home over the years, and upgrade if needed.

    If you decide to let a company provide the Unit you want, write a contract and use the Model designator to specify the exact features through the Model designator code, that you want. Get it in writing then get 2 more quotes to see what the Average cost will be for your Unit. Pick the cost that appears to be fair.

    You can trust someone to do the install, then have to overpay them since you had no idea they may not have been "Trustworthy".

    "Like a New Born Baby, it just happens every day". Quote from the song "Paint It Black".
  3. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    1. Yes if you know the corresponding temperatures.

    2. No. It indicates that the compressor is doing work not how much work.

    3. Do you know for sure that second stage is not running? How?

    4. If you hear the water flowing then you have air and therefore need more water.

    5. Shows good thinking, when in doubt ask. He did not ignore your question in point 3.

    6. That the unit(s) do not keep up at the end of a long run does not tell me why. I need to be able to measure not just know room temperature to set point. Is this system zoned? Why are there three thermostats? Are they programable? Do they have the ability to lock out the user?

    7. No. Do not be such a helicopter customer. Breathing down the tech's neck while he is trying to assemble information on the system is not helping him and it is upsetting you.
  4. geoxne

    geoxne Active Member Forum Leader

    Jim O.

    You say the house is 18 years old. Until I hear otherwise from you I will assume the HPs are 18 years also. If so, your HPs have a 2 speed reciprocating compressor that actually has to shut down for 60 seconds before it can reverse rotation and drop in/out a piston to change speeds (Half and Full). Many things can go wrong in the process. A full understanding of how it works is required to diagnose. It may be some thing as simple as no Y2 signal from the thermostat.

    If the solution is not simple (read $$$$) consider replacement of the unit while Uncle Sam is paying 30%.

    Nameplate FLA is worst case scenario amp draw at 208v. It is used to calculate wire and electric service sizing to code. It does not give you any clue what the compressor is doing or what stage it is in. That is determined by a change of amperage from speed one and speed 2.
  5. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

    Mark -System has 3 zones, 3 thermostats, all set at 76F for cooling - don't know about being programmable or "lock out" and thanks for reply - agree on "helicoptering" but if I am faced with replacing HPs I want to go with company with qualified, knowledgeable, and hopefully WF trained techs - time will tell
  6. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

  7. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I think your system is aging or it never kept all three zones happy during the hottest year on record at the end of a long day. Why is it zoned? Are all three areas must have cooling zones? Pick the most important zone to cool and run the other two a few degrees higher and what happens.

    Just because you bought a system does not mean it works as expected or ever did so.

    Sorry I do not do WF. I would hurry, it is not that far until New Years Eve.

  8. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    I took a look at a 1998 Water Furnace Premier Owners Manual and Design Features booklet. The Compressors used were Scroll or Reciprocating depending on what was available during the time of manufacture. The Owners manual didn't mention either Scroll or Reciprocating compressor, only the word compressor.

    Did you ever buy a vehicle during one of those Rebate deals from the factory? The Dealership works hard to make sure they get the benefit of any rebate. This is human nature. Those in the business will deny this, but most of us have been in this situation at least once.
  9. engineer

    engineer Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    An indoor airside delta T of 15*F (76-61) suggests a problem. 20*F would be closer to the mark. First consider possibility of a return air leak from unconditioned space. If possible measure air temperature right where return air enters air handler.

    Servicing technician should be able to verify and demonstrate low and high stage operation.
    Assuming systems are equipped with PT (Pressure / temperature) ports the technician should calculate heat of rejection. That figure, compared to published data, easily indicates whether systems are in spec.
    If systems lack PT ports, competent contractor should have proposed retrofitting them unless circumstances prevent their installation.
    Our SOP is to add PT ports to all systems we are contracted to perform preventive maintenance. If PT ports are declined, we discontinue contract maintenance.

    Absent HR heat of rejection (cooling mode) or HE heat of extraction (heating mode) figures, a refrigeration manifold may be connected to assess refrigerant charge and other system performance parameters. This is ill-advised in favor of HR / HE measurements. If a manifold is connected, high and low side pressures should be taken along with temperatures and superheat / subcool calculated. That data is HVAC service 101. If tech can't / won't provide those figures find another.

    Connecting gauge manifolds to geo systems, particularly package units, is not recommended for routine maintenance owing to risk of loss of charge / compressor oil. If a manifold MUST be connected, technician should utilize methods to reduce charge loss upon disconnecting manifold. Hose end ball valves correctly manipulated greatly reduce loss of charge and oil while disconnecting gauges.

    Comparing actual compressor running amps to full or rated load amps for purpose of assessing proper operation should be done carefully - jumping to conclusions based on that data should be avoided.
  10. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

    Thanks for the above comments, have a GEOPRO tech scheduled to look at operation of both machines then go from there - will post findings
  11. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

    Progress to date:
    1. Unit does have 2 speed compressor and was receiving Y2 but was not picking up - jumpered connections and amperage went from 15 to 24 - confirms our thinking
    2. Freon only slightly low - some difficulty adding more so holding on that
    3. fan speeds were set to the very minimum - changed that and fan speed now switches
    4. PT fitting on one side would not allow intro of pressure probe due to proximity to wall but strap-on temp measurements gave 2-3 degrees across the coil - agree with "engineer's comments on that subject
    5. amp draw on dual circulating pumps indicate that they are performing to nameplate data
    6. decision time - considering the tax and other rebates available plus the age of the two systems (18 yrs.) we will likely upgrade to WF Series 5 units and go with a contractor who has multiple WF- trained techs - no question about it though, if one were to follow all the above recommendations of you guys and engage the services of a factory trained tech we could get several more years of good service from these existing units.
    On the tech subject, in 2011 or so in another home we installed a 5 ton, 20 seer unit with whole house dehumidifier piggy-backed on the system. That unit took a long time to get lined out requiring the "boss", and the only one trained on the unit, to get it operating correctly and to do follow up maintenance. They were a leading contractor in that area but the techs were not familiar enough with the system and the new technology - that made us wary of buying the "latest and greatest" equipment - before that in 1992 and beyond we got drug thru the coals with a "new" Trane variable speed compressor unit with 16 seer promising better efficiency, that gave us fits. Bottom line, the equipment, no matter how advanced, is only as good as the techs maintaining it - thanks to all, learned a lot, will add to this string as the "project" goes forward.
  12. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    The highest install quotes I've heard over the past 20 years were from companies that install Water Furnace.
    I wouldn't buy a Cadillac for the same reason, high price, and no guarantee that they will perform any better than a cheaper Ford.

    You have everything you need for a Geothermal Unit already in place. Consider buying and installing your own Unit, you'll be thousands ahead when your done.

    Geothermal is a glorified air conditioner, it's not Rocket Science so why pay for Rocket Science.

    Those who have had problems with their high dollar installed units have found that the big money installers are hard to find after the job is finished.
    Read about it on this website.

    Reason To Pay A Contractor: You get a Warranty. You get a huge bill with a large tax credit and a 10 year payback. You have piece of mind after getting over the sticker shock. You might be able to find your contractor again some day if you need him. You'll pay your contractor again to come back no matter how much you paid him the first time. When you have a major problem you'll have the manufacturer and installer pointing fingers at each other with neither taking responsibility. You may end up with your own website like this unhappy WF owner:

    I could say more, but I know you Contractors are already angry without my input.
  13. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

    Thanks for your comments - in my case the units are not performing to my satisfaction and I have no experience in designing, troubleshooting, or installing these systems. For those reasons I'll need a contractors help, for instance just a quick walk thru by one pointed out undersized return air ducting, poor return air layout, supply air leaks in the crawl space that were making puddles on the ground from condensate etc. so there will be more to this than simply installing the mechanical equipment in this case.
    For me, choosing a contractor is based on his ability to service the equipment after the sale - that will include local references, number of techs trained on the equipment, ability to make service calls within reasonable response time, access to the company owner as required, and of course a reasonable price to furnish and install the equipment.
    We all have limits to our abilities and I'll just have to go with someone I trust on this. My background includes an electrical engineering degree and service work on automation equipment on offshore oil and gas production equipment - learned by experience that sometimes you just have to "pay the price" for quality work and equipment for things to go like you want.
    Thanks again for your valued input.
  14. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    Sorry to hear your current design has some problems.

    Be careful about people pointing out your problems that might not be problems. I invited a local HVAC company to give me a quote on my duct work for the house I was building, with a Trane 4 Ton Geothermal sitting in the basement where I intended to duct it in.
    The contractor took a look and told me I oversized my Unit, and the 4 Ton Unit would have been a 3 Ton Unit if he had sold me the Geothermal. I disagreed with the 3 Ton Unit idea and told him why I chose a 4 Tone. After he continued to tell me why I should have used a 3 Ton Unit, I told him I would heat and cool the basement if I had indeed oversized by a Ton. The first Winter in the house I was wishing I had installed a 5 Ton Unit, so much for a "professional" opinion.
    The same HVAC contractor told me the duct work would cost $7,000 and I was given an estimate with no details of what they would install in my house. I was one signature away from disaster, and chocking on the price.

    I called a Tin Smith in to look over the duct work job and he told me what he would build based on the Total CFM of the Geothermal and size of the house. I agreed with his design, based on his drawings and he built and delivered the duct work in stages. I installed the duct work having no experience but knowing I could read a book from the library if I got into trouble. My Brother who lives in another State visited me when everything was complete and said the job looked very professional. He worked in the building trades between Semesters of college so he would know what a professional Duct Work install would look like. Having worked in Power Stations, I had seen a lot of ductwork so I knew how it should look when finished.

    Thinking back on my near miss with the local HVAC company, not having a detailed contract, he could have installed that plastic flexible duct work for $7,000 and raised the price tag if I said I wanted Heavy Gauge Tin. Been there , Done that on a previous deal.

    My return air ducting consists of Panning the floor joists in the basement ceiling, then connecting the panned floor joist with the appropriate sized rectangular ducts, then tying them into a large return air header matching the Return air side of the geothermal Unit, 40 x 40 inches from my memory.

    Live by this rule, never invite a contractor to your property to do work without having a detailed written contract. I'll tell you why after a quick story.

    We wanted to build a house so we interviewed a few contractors. The bank had given me a design booklet that when filled out effectively would write the contract & specifications for every detail of a home. The contractor took the Specifications Book and told me they would fill it in. As I left I realized I had just given my house design to someone else to decide for me what I would get when He and the Bank finished spending the money I borrowed. Not smart. We didn't commit to build.
    Later I saw the same builder doing the drywall at a Geothermal Open House in a new subdivision. He was using a hammer to cut the drywall around a window, and did it look like a scalloped mess. He said he would cover it up with trim. Once again I was glad I didn't commit to build with this contractor. when I did the drywall in my house when we finally built, I measured twice and cut once with a Drywall Squared and a drywall knife.

    In Ohio a contractor can put a lien on your property, with little effort. Your only defense is to have a good contract that specifies what you expect or want and the price, so if the contractor doesn't meet your specifications, you have a contract to take him to court over if he puts a Lien on your property in order to force you to pay. Some contractors will take advantage of you if you allow them to decide how much you owe him when the job is finished. You are standing with an open Checkbook and he might need some college money for his child.

    Being an Engineer you should do all of the work on paper/Word File or XL Spreadsheet.
    Invite several contractors to tell you what you need, do some follow up research, pick the Manufacturer & Model of the Units you want, as if you were buying a car. Know what you need and write it down, then get estimates for what you want.

    You will be a lot happier with a project when you have kept control of what you will be getting and the price you will be paying. If you invite some one and let them do it all, let me know how that works. I've been around the block a time or two and have learned who you can, and can't trust to give you what you were looking for.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2016
  15. engineer

    engineer Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Mister Wrecks Tech may be onto something - all us licensed, insured, trained, and equipped contractors are in fact over paid, underachieving thieves, pirates and charlatans looking to victimize hapless homeowners into making our yacht and Ivy League college tuition payments through fraud and deception!

    I feel so busted!...Maybe I can get a job flipping burgers or retrieving shopping carts at our local Walmart SuperCenter.

    On the other hand, consider an alternate reality - MWT has so alienated every competent, established trade contractor within 50 miles of his home. That leaves him only those thieves, pirates, and charlatans willing to bid his work...with predictable negative outcomes shortly followed by internet whining and wailing.

    The best days of my professional life occur when I or our sales staff timely identify demanding, disdainful, high-maintenance personalities such as MWT early lenough to decline to bid their work - let someone else die trying to take that hill!

    An angered contractor? Far from it - I enjoy reading and responding as it hones my abilities to sense and steer clear of his ilk lurking in our own area of operation.

    Thank you for your service, MWT!
    docjenser likes this.
  16. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    Way to be.

    Since I am broken and on the dole, I do not get riled up by Doc or overhead issues.

    It is nice to be reminded it is still possible to fire or not take bad customers.

  17. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

    I'll just try to tip toe around the internal jousting above! Continuing my thoughts though on "service" and settling on a contractor who one can "work with", my belief is that most contractors don't want to pick up in the middle of a DIY attempt gone sour. For that and other reasons, including techs familiarity with newer equipment, we purchased two Trane split systems to replace our 18 yo combination units from a local contractor. We'll put one air handler, 5T, in a clean and dry crawl space (relocated from garage on one end of the house) in order to improve balance in the intake system between N and S ends of house, enlarging that ducting too. The other air handler (2T) goes in attic space. Both units have dual speed compressors and variable speed air handlers. For the larger unit, 5T, the calculations indicate a max load of near 5T but the existing 5T unit won't go into second stage and is drawing half or less of rated amps while still producing noisy supply vents when smaller zones are calling. Hoping that the combination of "auto zone sizing" on the Trane 950 plus variable speed fan and two speed compressor will let us make it all work without major supply duct modifications. Any comments on turndown - think we can turn fan speed switches down enough to adjust to low load conditions?
    (we have a cautious eye on home resale and were nervous about going with a smaller unit while still being aware of the problems with oversizing - on we go)
  18. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    If the Trane Units are like the Carrier 2 Stage variable speed fan Geothermal Units, there are small rocker switches on the ECM Cared that allow you to select various speeds with a table of how the switches should be arranged for each stage during Winter and Summer operation. You should have the capability to set the speeds the way you want them in each stage. Even the old electric fan motors had 3 wires to allow the installer or owner to select the best speed for his system, Hi, Medium or Low speed.

    If I had a duct noise issue, I would read up on the details of my Unit Operation before changing fan speeds. You need to consider how you're affecting Unit efficiency, humidity removal and other considerations before changing fan speeds.
  19. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    My concern about this thread continues as I hear non-doctors talking about open heart surgery.
  20. Jim O.

    Jim O. New Member

    Good timing Mark, the guys are here this a.m. to begin installation of two Trane Series 5's. Do you want to scrub up for the procedure?

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