Utter Air diagnosed a dead compressor. The compressor was, in fact, alive and well. It simply lacked power because one of its wires had burned off. As you can see in this video, the compressor ran fine after the wire was repaired.
With an estimated 20 minutes spent on the diagnosis, the apparent labor rate was $107. That’s quite good. If the homeowners had gone with their recommendation to replace the equipment, the real labor rate would have been astronomical.
Gotta Fix Something
The owner of this condenser lives on the top floor of a condo complex. Her location puts her directly under a dozen rooftop condensers including her own. They get really loud on hot days. Utter Air checked it out. Their recommendation is a good one: “Need to add spring isolators under 12 units above roof.”
She wasn’t going to pay to alter a dozen units, so the call should have ended with the $89 diagnostic fee – but it didn’t. She was charged an additional $98 for a “refrigerant balance”. That’s code for adding Freon. While we’ll never know if that was really needed, I don’t believe it was for the following reasons:
1) They didn’t get prior approval to add the Freon. They just did it and sent her a bill.
2) She was unaware of any performance problems that should have resulted from being low on Freon.
3) Since Freon is being phased out, most contractors charge a lot more than $98 to add it.
4) To be low on Freon usually means there is a leak some place. There was no mention of a possible leak.
5) The amount of Freon ostensibly added is not listed on the invoice.
Even if the balancing was needed, all that was approved was the diagnostic. Given the rooftop location, the diagnostic alone might have taken 45 minutes. That puts this service call’s “approved labor rate”, so to speak, at about $150.