Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting - Richard, I have a Rheem heat pump and it seems like we have the same problems with it every year. We call the HVAC guy out to get it going again but it seems the following year it is the same thing over again. He fills the system up with R-22 and its not cheap. Does my heat pump need this every year? Does the heat pump burn Freon like a car burns gas? This is year three and cost of fixing it keeps rising every year. In the Spring when we turn it to cooling we don’t get any cold air. I came across your site and saw that you take questions about HVAC. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question concerning this matter. What do you suggest? Thanks!
Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting
It looks to me like you have a refrigerant leak and I would bet that it is likely the accumulator causing this problem for you. To fix the refrigerant leak you will need to get your HVAC contractor to do a leak check. This can be pretty involved and may cost you a lot more than just filling up the system but it will save you money in the long run. Troubleshooting the heat pump refrigerant leak is not really that difficult for me. I do them all the time and have done troubleshooting on a Rheem heat pump several times to find and fix the problem. Rheem is not the only brand that has problems like this so rest assured it could happen with any other brand also.
The problem with doing what your HVAC guy is doing it that a refrigerant leak also comes with an oil leak. Some of the oil in the system is also leaking out and eventually, this will cause obvious mechanical problems. Problems with a lack of lubrication for the moving parts. That would be your compressor. The compressor is the most expensive component in the system if you had to replace it. So fixing the refrigerant leak will increase the life of the equipment. Another factor that is likely costing you money is the heat pump is likely running out of refrigerant sometime in the winter and you are heating with your backup heat source. The backup heat source, in most heat pumps, is electric heat strips. That cost more money to provide heat than running the heat pump condenser to provide heat.
R-410A and Fractionation | Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting
Another problem that can develop with a refrigerant leak in newer systems that use R-410A is fractionation. R-410A is a blended refrigerant comprised of two different refrigerants. It is considered a near-azeotropic but is still a zeotropic refrigerant. Okay, I know most people are scratching the backs of their heads right about now so I will explain this. An azeotropic refrigerant is a single refrigerant while a zeotropic refrigerant is a blend of two different refrigerants. Under the right conditions, the blended refrigerant can separate and become fractionized from one of the blends to the other. This is why specific procedures must be followed when charging a system with a zeotropic blended refrigerant.
When you have a refrigerant leak the zeotropic refrigerant (which is R410A) has a tendency to fractionize. When fractionation occurs you lose heat absorption properties and pressures in the system become erratic especially on the high side or in the condenser. When the tech continually recharges the system he is putting a new refrigerant into a system that has fractionation and it is very unlikely he is getting the charge correct given the fractionation of the blends in the refrigeration system. Therefore, it is important to fix the leak. As a part of the process of repairing the leak, all the refrigerant needs to be recovered and sent away for recycling. One the leak is repaired then new virgin refrigerant should be used to recharge the system. Doing it this way avoids fractionation issues.
Finding the Problem | Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting
The first thing that is done is recovering any refrigerant in the system. The next thing is to pressurize the system with nitrogen. There are different methods however this is my favorite because I’ve had a very high success rate at fixing leaks using this method. Then the entire system is thoroughly checked with soap bubbles and listening for a leak. I’ve found a lot of refrigerant leaks in heat pumps with the accumulator. However, it is possible the leak is somewhere else. Once the leak or leaks are found then a repair can be made. Most of the time it can be done right away. However, if there is a bad leak in a coil sometimes the whole coil needs to be replaced. It depends on where the leak is located.
Once the leak is found and repaired then the system is evacuated and retested for any other leaks. I use the HVAC triple refrigeration evacuation before recharging the system with refrigerant. This is a very thorough process and it ensures a couple of things
- that there are no other leaks.
- that all the moisture is and other bad things are removed from the refrigeration system.
Preventive Maintenance | Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting
After all that is done and you are fixed I recommend you have heat pump preventive maintenance done semi-annually. A quick check over everything and cleaning the coils can never hurt your heat pump. It also adds to the longevity of the equipment. Checking the refrigerant charge,electrical connections, and other important things need to be looked at to make sure no potential problems are developing with your heat pump. I hope this helps you.
The only reason I would not recommend you do this is if the heat pump system is more than 9 years old. The money for an expensive repair would be better spent on a newer more efficient system. Most residential HVAC equipment has a life expectancy of 15 years. After that time it is ready to be changed for a more efficient system. It is amazing to hear from some of my customers and how much their electric bill went down after getting rid of their old system for newer more efficient system. Good Luck and I hope everything works out good for you!
Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting
Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting
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