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A/C in cold weather


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I inspected a house last Thursday, outdoor temps around 20-30 degrees. Unable to test A/C systems due to cold. Today the buyer says wants to run the units tomorrow, temps today in northern NJ around 50-55. Tomorrow will be the same. The seller has given permission to test the systems.

Will there be any risk to damaging the comp/cond units or foaming the oil? Still seems too cool out. My feeling has been over 60 for at least three days.

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I'd refuse to do it.

If you go out there, run the system and it breaks down immediately or even later on they'll blame you and say you should have known better.

Have the client insist that the seller call an HVAC tech to see if an HVAC tech is willing to do it. If an HVAC tech is willing to do it and screws it up he'll be the one holding the bag, not you.

There isn't enough margin in this business to risk wiping out all of the profit from an inspection by doing something foolhardy just to be the nice guy.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I'd refuse to do it.

If you go out there, run the system and it breaks down immediately or even later on they'll blame you and say you should have known better.

Have the client insist that the seller call an HVAC tech to see if an HVAC tech is willing to do it. If an HVAC tech is willing to do it and screws it up he'll be the one holding the bag, not you.

There isn't enough margin in this business to risk wiping out all of the profit from an inspection by doing something foolhardy just to be the nice guy.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Well said, I agree. What I have heard locally is not to run the system unless there has been three or more days of temps 60-65.

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I inspected a house last Thursday, outdoor temps around 20-30 degrees. Unable to test A/C systems due to cold. Today the buyer says wants to run the units tomorrow, temps today in northern NJ around 50-55. Tomorrow will be the same. The seller has given permission to test the systems.

Will there be any risk to damaging the comp/cond units or foaming the oil? Still seems too cool out. My feeling has been over 60 for at least three days.

You bet there's danger there. At those temperatures, liquid refrigerant might well end up at the compressor suction where it can damage the reed valves in the compressor because there's not enough heat to evaporate all of it at the evaporator coil. The liquid exits the condenser at a much lower temp in winter than summer.

Compressors are intended for gases only.

I don't test under 60 degrees ambient. I ain't buying someone a new compressor.

As for Scrolls, Bill may be right but I wouldn't risk it. Why test in the winter? It's not a valid test since winter ambient temps are far outside the design values.

Marc

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I've already let them know that I am not willing to take the chance and used Mike's recommendation that the seller can make good.

The buyer wanted me to put in the need for a $10k escrow to cover the three units if they should fail (installed 2002) to provide adequate cooling when needed. I told them that that is the attorney's job. They informed me that the attorney told them to tell me to put that in the final report. I said no.

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I've already let them know that I am not willing to take the chance and used Mike's recommendation that the seller can make good.

The buyer wanted me to put in the need for a $10k escrow to cover the three units if they should fail (installed 2002) to provide adequate cooling when needed. I told them that that is the attorney's job. They informed me that the attorney told them to tell me to put that in the final report. I said no.

I'm glad you told them no.

I won't test AC systems under 60?F and when temps are that low I exclude any AC system in writing in the report. Why would I then want to somehow enmesh myself in the negotiating end of the transaction by putting something in my report that says they should put money in escrow when I don't give a rat's ass who pays for what when once I've completed my inspection?

It seems that real estate professionals, banks, insurance companies and attorneys are constantly trying to define our responsibilities for us and are abdicating their own.

If they want you to do the attorney's job, tell 'em that you'll have to use the attorney's billing scheme and make sure you charge them for that phone call.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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We made it real simple here:

WAC 308-408C-130(2)(e) Air conditioning systems

The inspector is not required to operate cooling system components if the exterior temperature is below sixty degrees Fahrenheit or when other circumstances are not conducive to safe operation or when doing so might damage the equipment.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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What do you do with a heat pump, same rule? Don't run in cooling mode under 60-65, what about a limit for running in the heat mode?

Test it in heat mode if it's the winter season, in cool mode if it's summer.

If ambient temps are 60 to 65, test it in either mode.

Marc

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If you were to run it and something goes wrong I bet your E & O will not protect you......

I just say no almost all winter long.

Most buyers understand it once you explain it to them.

Correct, E&O would not cover it. But, your GL insurance would kick in for the coverage. G&L takes care of things you break and E&O takes care of the things you miss or your client thinks you missed!

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If you were to run it and something goes wrong I bet your E & O will not protect you......

I just say no almost all winter long.

Most buyers understand it once you explain it to them.

Correct, E&O would not cover it. But, your GL insurance would kick in for the coverage. G&L takes care of things you break and E&O takes care of the things you miss or your client thinks you missed!

Right, I had that wrong. But what I was thinking is that the GL may not cover it if they were to investigate a little and found out you ran the system when you were not supposed to.

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  • 1 month later...

Im curious, how do you guys "check" ac units?

A good tech can test ac as low as 55 ambient using superheat and subcooling methods and i prefer digital gauges, while monitoring refrigerant state.

But units shouldnt be operated "normally" or for extended periodsnof time below 60 ambient to avoid liquid slugging

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Im curious, how do you guys "check" ac units?

A good tech can test ac as low as 55 ambient using superheat and subcooling methods and i prefer digital gauges, while monitoring refrigerant state.

But units shouldnt be operated "normally" or for extended periodsnof time below 60 ambient to avoid liquid slugging

Home inspectors generally don't connect gauges to the refrigerant system. If something happens such as a valve stem starts leaking, we're not equipped to fix it.

Marc

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