Saturday, June 23, 2012

Winchester Model 140 Review?

Today, I put another payment on my layaway for a "new" deer hunting gun and decided to check it out again and do some more research on same. This is what I found. The gun is light, well made and easy to operate. However, for deer hunting this is not a good choice as the capacity is limited to 2 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. No, this isn't due to a "bird plug" but due to the design of the gun. Although there are great arguments to say that if you can't hit anything in three rounds, I've seen animals get right back up again and run after being hit, so 5 or 6 rounds isn't excessive by a long shot, (no pun intended).  If you're hunting waterfowl, than this shouldn't apply to you because of the regulations on higher capacity magazines for same.

I went back to the drawing board and put a Mossberg 500 with a cantilevered, rifled barrel and scope  more suited to my needs. Not to mention I have a shot barrel with a C-lect choke that will fit this gun nicely. Even brand-new, this one cost only a little more than the Winchester and has a lot more options and accessories available for same. It also has composite furniture and is very easy to take apart and maintain. Not crazy about the trigger group, but all in all a very capable firearm. I look forward to actually getting this thing out and will write a review on same. Maranatha!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bathtub Drain Fix

It was a hot, hot week and the air conditioners were dropping like flies. I was able to fix all of them save for one with a bad leak, which is getting a sales appointment. As I sit here drinking a Malta Goya and contemplating the rest of the weekend; rest assured one fix is done that was a year in the making. I finally got the bathtub drain done and spent a total of $12 and some change on the project. The only thing I needed were a metal cutting reciprocating saw blade, a straight blade screwdriver, needle nose pliers, some plumber's putty, a drain kit and some patience. Drain cleaners did this one in and I waited until it was practically crumbing to replace it. In reality, this wasn't a real good idea, as a basket that's deteriorated can really hurt someone. Mine was almost big enough for my four year old to get his hand into. Because there were still pieces of the strainer support left on the basket, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that he could really come to grief. The result would be a trip to the emergency department and a ruined tub; a traumatic and expensive occurrence best left outside of reality. My fix is spending as little money as possible to get the job done and not break the tub or shoe in the process. You can buy special tools to spin out the basket, or a Dremel to cut it out, but both are expensive and in the case of the Dremel you will go through several cutting wheels getting this out. Be careful with this as you can break expensive and hard to deal with parts if you get in a hurry. Tubs can be upwards of several thousand dollars to install and can cause a lot of friction on the home front. Be good to your significant other and clean up your mess when you're finished.

If the basket isn't too rotted out from Drano you can use the pliers' jaws stuck through the basket to spin it out. However, it's likely that by the time it's replaced, the basket will be rotted out to the point this is impossible. Go ahead and try to loosen in and if the supports break, they break. If the rest of the basket isn't too bad, you can let it go and use a Flip it to hold off the inevitable. Again, if the basket's really bad, better go ahead with the next step. Find the weakest spot on the basket flange and pry this up from the tub with a screwdriver. If you have a porcelain tub, use some masking tape around the basket. This should leave you with the flange off and the rest of the basket stuck in the tub shoe. No reason to panic, but this is where your patience kicks in. Use the metal blade in a manual handle (do not use a power saw) to cut 2 or 3 vertical lines in the basket and use the screwdriver and pliers to carefully peel the pieces from the shoe without damaging same. The shoe should stay up next to the tub if supported properly, but don't count on it. If all goes well, follow the directions on the basket kit and screw it into the tub shoe with the pliers inside the basket. If you have a fiberglass or porcelain tub, use plumbers putty rolled into a snake under the basket flange to seal it. If your tub is plastic or marble, use a good silicone caulk or rubber gasket. Make sure the gasket between the shoe and tub is still useable. Tighten the basket snugly, but don't wreath on it or you'll break the shoe, basket or tub and this will ruin your weekend. Put the rest of the basket together, clean the tub and you're done. Maranatha!  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quick Fix: Finding the Control Wire to the Condensor

Went to a job yesterday where one of my coworkers removed a blower assembly on a Luxaire 90% efficient furnace. My job was to replace the blower wheel and get the furnace back together and running. As with nearly any furnace newer than 20 years, all the wires to the thermostat, humidifier, and the air conditioning condenser hook up to a control board IN the blower compartment. My problem was that the wires to the condenser and humidifier are exactly alike. Both are small and have a red and a white wire. So how do you tell? The wires should have been labeled, but the trick to finding the correct wire is with an ohmmeter and with the humidifier shut off (if it's a manually controlled one, or unhook them from the humidistat). Ohm out the two wires, and the ones that register zero are probably the ones to the condenser, since these energize the coil to the contactor.

This will work for about 99% of the air-conditioning systems out there. If the unit has a control board outside, or the humidifier control is electronic, this may not work. Better to just label the wires as you take something apart. Maranatha!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Testo 500 Guages Fix.

Testo 500
I love my Testo 500 Refrigeration Analyzer to the point that I swear by it for accurate, reliable, and timely system diagnosis. I can find problems quickly and charge quickly and accurately. For something technically audacious as a set of digital gauges, they've been durable, more so than set of dial ones. The only thing I've had to replace was a temperature clamp and a couple sets of batteries in the two years I've used them. Not bad at all, even at $350 for the set.

One thing I do find fault with is that when they go out of calibration, they need to go back to the factory in Germany for repair. This involves shipping costs to and from same to Michigan USA as well as the cost to fix them. The one thing that my supplier was sure of was that they didn't know what the cost was going to be; for any of it. As a technician who depends on these tools, waiting 14 days and spending the money to ship these to Europe is something best avoided. "I don't know" is a factor that can range from a few dollars to well in excess of the price of new equipment. This is not something I can chance right now. I know the set got wet a few days ago and  got a hell of a lot of oil through it on a tune up on Monday. Here's what I did to fix it, and if it quits, I'll tell you that in an updated article.

As for water, these gauges have plugs where the clamp leads go in, but I lost one of mine and this is how the water got in. To make matters worse, I couldn't zero in the pressures and the screen had a bit of a watermark to it. In fact it read "uuuuuuu." Be very careful when taking apart an electronic device and ground yourself out beforehand. If you don't you could fry the components with static electricity. Do not force parts together, or touch the surfaces of the board with your bare hands. Use rubbing alcohol or electronics cleaner on all parts. Do not use soap, water, or other cleaners inside the unit or you will wreck it. You will need a Phillips head screwdriver, a small pry tool, a hair dryer (DO NOT USE A HEAT GUN!) a syringe with no needle and some rubbing (Isopropyl) alcohol. Remove the battery door and the batteries and then you can remove the six screws holding the back on the unit. The circuit board comes out next, and you need to unplug the two Molex connectors to the manifold. You can use a pry tool to unclip the pins holding the knobs to the manifold and remove that from the case.

Push the touch pad from the case, clean the insides out with rubbing alcohol and let air dry. Also flush out any oil from the manifold with the syringe and said alcohol and let air dry. To remove the watermark from the display and dry the board, use the hair dryer on a low setting until the display turns black and then stop. You put the back of the case on the board and reinstall the batteries temporarily to turn the unit on and check if the watermark is gone. If not, take it back apart and heat it again, but if it doesn't go away after that and it works, leave it alone. Put the case back together and try out the buttons. You should be able to zero it out and go through all the functions without fighting it and the sight glass should be clean. Hopefully saved a few hundred bucks on equipment. Maranatha!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Leak Fix For Your Air Conditioner, Part 2 Find and Fix

If you haven't got up running and screaming reading this prose, I salute you because most customers would have sent me packing already. For those in the technical part of it, hopefully it helps or at least gives you reason to laugh. Either way, mission accomplished.
So the refrigerant, coolant, freon, etc is low. We can either add leak sealer and refrigerant and hope it stops the leak, or find and fix it. I'm not a big fan of leak sealers myself, but for a customer contemplating ruining a vacation or trying to defer the expense until next season, it's an alternative worth considering. Dump it in and pray that it hold is all I can say. Easy Seal brand seems to work the best for this, but I've also encountered several systems where the leak was too large.
The first thing to do is look for the obvious. Are the Schrader valves loose or damaged? There's usually two in the condensing unit and one in the indoor coil; these are common sources of leaks. Usually, you will hear the leaks or find them with bubbles at the the condensing unit. This is because hooking up and removing the hoses will result in a false positive with an electronic device. If you can't fix it tightening the cores, use a core removal tool that lets you replace them without recovering the charge and vacuuming the system. The one inside the indoor coil will need an electronic leak finder, such as the Bacharach Informant 2 to find as bubbles won't be very practical there. This is also good for finding smaller leaks anyway.
Another way to find leaks is visually and this means looking for oil on fittings or where someone didn't join two pieces correctly. Grab a couple wrenches and tighten all the fittings on mini splits and many indoor coils with compression fittings. Most of the time, these will cure a leak without having to take too much time and effort. However, if involves a poor joint, crack or other breach in the system, you will have to recover the refrigerant, fix the leak, charge it with nitrogen, vacuum and recharge.
Most of the time this involves using a torch and there's no substitute for an Oxy-Acetylene outfit. Propane and MAPP Gas will not get the fittings or filler metal hot enough to fill the joints and make the repair. I've had some success with low temperature brazing rod such as Harris' Blockade, but this stuff has a tendency to bubble when you try and heat it with a MAPP gas torch and has some issues with flowing. It is cheaper to use at about $15 a pack as opposed to $120 for silver brazing rod, but refrigerant is also pricey and most jobs only need less than one stick of the good stuff anyway. Bite the bullet and use it, because callbacks are a pain. Just heat up the base metal without melting it and apply the brazing rod to fill the leaks. If there's plumbing solder on the joints, just heating this stuff will remove it and then apply the silver brazing rod to it. Once you've found and fixed the leaks, let the joint cool and charge the system with nitrogen. Usually not a bad idea to have a light charge of it while you fix the leaks, but this is your call. If the charge doesn't drop, you've fixed all the leaks for now. Vacuum the system down and either weigh in the charge or by superheat or subcooling with the proper refrigerant.
To the customer, this isn't a walk in the park and the items we use to do the repair properly are not cheap either. Refrigerant is crazy expensive as of this writing. R410 costs about $260 for a 25 pound jug wholesale and over $400 for 25 pounds of R22. The latter is only going up and we could face shortages of it by summer's end. Blame the Montreal Protocol for this one. Soon R410 will be replaced because of its "global warming" potential (I can't make this horse feathers up) with carbon dioxide or good old CO2. It's $37,000 per day per violation for allowing "ozone depleting" refrigerants into the air, so we can't legally just dump R22 into a system without fixing it. Some firms will keep doing this until this stuff gets out of this world on price, but not forever. I personally believe that "global warming" "climate change" and "ozone depletion" are bunk, as someone is getting filthy rich over this planned obsolescence. However, it isn't me or the business owner that is. Every time there's a change, we have to invest in new equipment, materials and tools. I've spent close to $6000 in the past 3 years upgrading my tools and training to stay current and compliant. This doesn't include buying and replacing tools necessary at any rate. My boss has also had to upgrade and shell out more money too. Because the cost of everything from refrigerant to copper and aluminum to steel had gone up, this is not a cost a business owner can afford to absorb and still stay in business. It hasn't resulted in his pay going up at all, and though I can't complain, it hasn't booted my pay either. This is much like the clerk facing numerous customer tirades after gasoline prices spike. These guys and gals aren't getting rich either and most are barely getting by. Please understand the cost of the effort and materials when getting a quote for a job. Sure it's expensive, but it's even more expensive to do the job wrong or illegally. You wouldn't want us to do that. Maranatha!

Leak Fix For Your Air Conditioner, Part 1 Theory

I apologize for the parts and length of this article, but I'm getting a bit frustrated after trying to explain why a leak search and repair is so expensive. Customers expect this to be done for under $300 and I have to quote closer to a grand. I've been on a few jobs and the one of the most frustrating and time consuming aspects of this job, (besides arguing with customers over our rates) is looking for a refrigerant leak on an air conditioning system. Usually, the the culprits are related to careless install practices or poor maintenance. This includes, but in no way limited to, clogged condensate drains, improperly placed distributor tubes (getting hung up in standing water) or sub par (I hate this word) joining methods. I've seen installers use plumbing solder and not tighten fittings correctly. I hate to say it but have also had customers and salespeople mess this up royally and install a 410 heat pump on a belt driven blower furnace. Since R410 or Puron works at a 1/3 higher pressures than R22 or Freon 22, these fittings will work loose. I went back to a job, three times on one of these. It made me look horrible and the boss wasn't impressed, but I didn't sell nor install it. I digress. Another very common problem on mini-splits (those cute little Mitsubishi and Daiken, etc) are improper flaring and tightening of fittings. R410 fittings require a special flare as the single flare for R22 will not hold up. Any job worth doing is worth doing well.

Of course, there's always vandalism and equipment failure. Someone will try and cut a condensing unit loose for scrap or deliberately sabotage a system. Fan blades will break off and mangle a condenser coil or a compressor will call it quits and spring a leak. Sometimes vibration on thin copper or aluminum tubing will cause it to fatigue and break. As always, these will be in the worst possible spots to get a torch or replace a part or they'll be on a roof or in a crawl space.
Another obvious cause of leaks is just age. Even though a homeowner will call a 12 year old system "new" and a 6 year old car "old," the truth is that most air conditioning systems last between 12 and 18 years before they get a leak. Improper maintenance or poor installation may reduce this by half. Accidents also happen and these would require a small encyclopedia to list. I will say most aren't really accidents at all, but the result of carelessness or poor planning. Had a customer complain bitterly to me recently about corrosion on an outdoor (condenser) coil a few weeks ago and even turned it in to their insurance. It wasn't the fault of the manufacturer, nor the installer. However, animal urine and some lawn treatments can destroy a condenser coil. It was the latter in this case and now a 7 year old unit could have a leak in the near future.

An air-conditioner is just a way of removing heat from one place and transferring it to another. It's not unlike bailing water out a leaky boat. The indoor coil absorbs the heat and the outdoor coil  gets rid of it. In a heat pump, it harvests the heat from the outside and the indoor coil puts in the house. The refrigerant (customers call it "coolant") is just a heat sponge for the system; as it boils and evaporates it soaks up the heat and at it becomes a liquid cools off and gets rid of the heat. What a leak does is reduce the size of that heat sponge to the point the air-conditioner is no longer effective. In part 2, I'll go more into finding and fixing a leak, the right way. Maranatha!