August 04, 2012 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
About to replace your home or office air conditioner? Well, don’t be in any hurry, or you could wind up throwing thousands of dollars down the drain, another victim of a multi-billion dollar industry fraud on the American people. We are not exaggerating.
“The biggest names in this industry are selling A/C units which they know are prone to defects, will fail, and in warmer climates, often within two to three years of installation, costing the homeowner thousands of dollars to repair,” Modesto-based Mitchell Bailey, president of Bailey’s Heating and Air, Inc., tells You and the Law.
Bailey is one angry dealer among many who are hoping for action by either the federal government or a class action lawsuit “to help reimburse consumers across the country for money stolen from them by manufacturers who have closed their eyes to the problem.”
And just what is the problem? Christina Couture of Hanford learned in early May, when both of her Tappan A/C units failed.
“Ron, the service technician from my dealer, Kennies, explained that refrigerant had leaked out of defective copper evaporative coils which had to be replaced, and that the same exact problem is occurring all over the country. He felt very bad for us, because we had the system less than four years.
“Parts were covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, but not labor, and for my system, that would run about $600 per unit, for a total of $1,200. It was suggested that I call Nordyne, the company who manufactures many A/C brands, including Tappan, because perhaps they would do something to help me.”
Google search turns up Nordyne in Ripoff Report
She phoned immediately, but no one at Nordyne was in any big hurry to help.
“After leaving several voice mail messages, a week later ‘Bob’ returns my call and says, in an uncaring tone of voice, that nothing can be done about the labor charges. The fact that my A/C was less than four years old didn’t faze him one bit! Later, I Googled Nordyne, finding the Ripoff Report and discovered that I was not alone. That’s why I turned to you, Mr. Beaver, to look into this situation. An A/C should last many years.”
She’s right. In 2000, the U.S. Department of Housing stated that the average life expectancy of a home central air conditioning unit is 15 years, not four. In our legal opinion, Nordyne’s position, if tested in court, would not stand up.
A change in refrigerant from R-22 Freon to R-410
The origins of this problem are connected directly with the type of refrigerant — R-410 — that is replacing R-22 Freon, which has been used for more than 40 years. R-22 does not damage air conditioner copper evaporators. But R-410 systems with copper evaporators experience these leaks.
“While it can be made from aluminum, evaporator tubing in A/C units has generally been made of copper and extremely reliable, with leaks in R-22 systems extremely rare and almost always the result of some physical cause, not anything chemical,” Bailey points out.
“But since home R-410 air conditioners came on the market, beginning around 2006, the common denominator to these leaks appears to be lubricant. We think a reaction takes place inside the tubing, creating a positive static charge, attracting chemically aggressive chloride molecules found everywhere in the environment, and these little molecules eat away at the copper,” he explained.
“With R-22, we rarely replaced an evaporator coil. But this summer I expect to replace over 50 in units that are less than five years old,” Stephen Stout, president of Hanford-based Kennies Indoor Comfort Specialists, tells You and the Law.
“This is an industrywide problem that affects virtually all manufacturers the same way. There has to be a link. Why are so many coils failing on multiple brands of equipment, produced around the same time? In almost all instances, the manufacturer will not pay labor charges and will replace defective coils with the same, bad ones. This is so unfair to the public,” Stout observes.
Blaming consumers and Chinese drywall
“If these were planes falling out of the sky, they would have retooled their factory yesterday. But because it is individual customers, one at a time, manufacturers do not care. They blame Chinese drywall, South American copper, Chinese copper tubing, sea salt and consumers for not maintaining their systems. But you never saw these type of leaks before R-410.” Bailey maintains.
There are systems which won’t cause you a nightmare. Next time, we’ll tell you what to look for, how to protect yourself from labor down the road, and why a good technician knows precisely when your heating or air conditioning system is going to fail.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.