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Losing My Cool

Michael Flack

IF THERE’S ONE THING that causes more marital stress than money, it’s the thermostat. I figured combining both into one article would be nothing less than genius.

As I grow older, I’ve come to appreciate my father’s fascination with the thermostat, because now I, too, am constantly adjusting it. In my case, based on the current and future temperature, humidity and cloud cover, the adjustments are in the most economical direction. My wife is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of gal, which in the summer wouldn’t necessarily be an issue, except that she sets it on brrrrr, which is right between nippy and hypothermia.

A few months back, cold air stopped issuing from the living room duct. Since our home has two air-conditioning systems, the situation wasn’t catastrophic. I knew, though, that immediate action was required. If the now slightly overworked second system crapped out, a stay at a “nice” hotel would be required—”nice” being a word that strikes fear into the heart of any husband.

I contacted the outfit that had performed an annual HVAC inspection a few months prior, at which time no issues were detected. The firm was booked up for the next few days. That made me both upset and elated—upset that they couldn’t arrive instantaneously, but elated to know I wasn’t the only person having cooling issues.

That same day, my wife had been visiting a girlfriend who was also in the middle of a cooling crisis. She was able to arrange for her friend’s HVAC guy to stop by our place the next day. The fact that his name was also Mike made it seem like fate.

Given that the evaporator coil inside the air handler was a block of ice and the exterior suction line was equally ice bound, my experience as a naval nuclear propulsion officer—along with skillful use of the internet—informed me that the issue was low refrigerant. Mike concurred and, if I remember correctly, was quite impressed by my refrigo-logical know-how. Two pounds of R-410a were duly injected and I was duly charged $65 a pound.

A week later, guess what? The cool air stopped issuing and the ice returned. An appointment with Mike was made, with him subsequently ghosting me. I was getting desperate, so desperate that I reached out for help via Angi. That’s what they call Angie’s List these days.

The company that Angi personally recommended for me got the job done, which in the end required an entire new HVAC system. The owner of the company, Bryan, also informed me that low refrigerant pressure means only one thing—your air-conditioning system has a leak.

That brings me to a few weeks ago, when my recently overworked second AC system stopped issuing cold air. Bryan was contacted again. Since there was no icing present, I was at a loss. The HVAC tech determined that, once again, low refrigerant was the culprit. He recommended that some R-410a be injected.

I then asked something along the lines of, “Where did it go?” He asked if I’d like him to check for a leak. To that, I replied, “Yeah, that might be a good idea.” Well, I’m proud to announce a leak was detected in the evaporator coil. Leak sealant and two pounds of R-410a were duly injected and I was duly charged $150 a pound.

A happy ending, however, was not to be had. A week later, cool air again stopped issuing. Two weeks and $2,500 later, a new evaporator coil was installed.

Just in time for fall.

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