Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The great AC Caper

We've been in our new home for 10 months now and are scheduled for our 10 month punch list visit in two weeks.  I thought it was going to be a breeze, but we seem to be piling up the complaints.  More on that later.  First, this:

We had a tornado!  I was going to post pictures and tell you the whole story, but now that will have to wait because I've got a bug up my butt about the air conditioning and wanted to solicit some thoughts and opinions from you good folks to see if you've had any similar issues.

We've had a series of pretty terrible storms here in the Mid-Atlantic (and I'm hoping all my DC area Ryan friends have their electricity back and aren't too badly damaged!), coupled with horrible, horrible heat.  <puts environmental scientist cap on> For what its worth, this is the type of weather that can be expected to become more and more normal with the effects of climate change.  Keep this in mind as you are landscaping your homes and planning on where to plant trees and what types of trees to plant (like, ones less likely to blow over on your house. Please don't plant pears.  They are the worst).

So, after last week's 100 degree days, the AC unit started choking a bit.  BF likes to keep it around 70 <see above climate change piece to know why, besides having to wear a sweatshirt in the house, this makes me crazy>;  when the house was at 75 and wouldn't cool any more, I chalked it up to the fact that an AC unit can only do so much against that kind of heat.  Until I realized it wasn't on!  The fan was on, but the compressor wasn't.  And the circuit breaker was flipped.

Fast forward a week.  We have been flipping the circuit breaker back on periodically as the unit has tripped.  First I thought it was the heat, but now its happening routinely even on normal days like today (high 87 or so, and its right nice outside now, and it STILL won't stay on).

Today, the electrician came.  He checked everything and replaced the breaker at BF's request, even though he thought it was good.  He swore the problem was the AC unit.  We call the AC guys for an emergency visit (we are fed up with having to wait from 12-4 for someone to come over).  AC guy checks it out, and swears its the wiring, not the unit.  He's been here for an hour or so still trying to diagnose the problem, but it appears as no progress is being made.

We are caught in the middle.  Both the electrician and the HVAC guys are on contract with Ryan for these repairs and we are still under our warranty period.  HVAC has no incentive to find a problem, because it will cost them money.  Same too for electrician.  Our new project manager, while competent, has many more homes to take care of and is not nearly as responsive and awesome as our construction PM.   To make it more complicated, the AC guy says it is overheating and that it is probably because they wired the house with aluminum wires.  Aluminum?  I'm no wiring expert, but I'm pretty sure that copper wire is code, and if there is aluminum wiring in my house, we are going to have some problems.

Anyway, anyone out there experienced any similar AC issues?


  1. Aluminum wiring is becoming much more common in construction or remodeling. Just prior to selling our old home the buyer's home inspector dinged us for the main service entrance cable from the meter to the panel. I called a registered electrician to replace it and he informed me that it would be an aluminum cable not copper. My guess is because copper has become so expensive. I hope they figure out whats going on with your AC unit.

  2. I wish I knew anything helpful at all. I would put pressure on the PM to get it figured out and resolved, though. Even at 100 degrees it should be able to properly cool the house. We got zone heating and all three zones were totally comfortable and on temperature when we were in the 100's last week.

  3. We had one little issue with our AC during a thunderstorm. There was an extremely brief dip in our power that caused the AC to cough, and then it started making a rattling noise. After 5 minutes of waiting, I turned the AC off for 10 minutes and then turned it back on again. The rattle vanished and we've had no problems since then. We run our AC between 73 (day) and 67 (night) and it has always been able to easily cope with 100°.

    My one piece of advice is to use the My Ryan Home website to report the problem, which we have used successfully. It effectively places your specific concerns under the auspices of a higher echelon of Ryan Homes management that monitors the situation and coordinates between the various involved "factions".

  4. Our a/c has been acting up to... But the ac people told us that there is a problem in the system (a leak). So, we have to get an expensive leak check just to see what the problem is... Then get it fixed, or possibly have to buy a new ac. We keep our thermostat set to 78 all the time, so it hasn't been to bad when there is no in the thing.

  5. I am no HVAC person or electrician but saying that the wiring is causing the AC unit to overheat sounds like a bunch of malarkey to me. The wire type should not matter. Aluminum wiring has been around for a while and it sounds like the HVAC guy is looking for excuses. If they can't get it fixed then you may want to get it fixed by someone competent and send Ryan the bill. This is all my opinion of course :-)

  6. Thanks for the advice/input guys. I just posted a new blog entry and hope that it comes in handy if you ever have more ac issues!

  7. That's a bit hard. So both sides aren't willing to investigate further because it means more work and expenses for them? For the homeowners, that's quite unhelpful. Since they're contracted, you'd think they'd be more willing to carry out their duties. Living without AC isn't just uncomfortable, it can also get inconvenient, so hopefully, you can resolve this without any further issues.

    Esco Services Inc

  8. Hmmm. This truly is a quandry. However, it seems you guys were able to solve it via the junction box, presumably found far away from your AC. Must have been scary for your BF though; no one should be messing around electrical equipment as long as they're protected with the proper attire. Were there any issues elsewhere in the house?
    Duane Simpson @