In­com­pat­i­ble re­frig­er­ants

Change out con­denser, air han­dler with high­est SEER rat­ing you can af­ford; no per­mit to hang new door

The Signal - - Home - Robert LAMOUREUX

Hi Robert,

I live in Steven­son Ranch, in a condo that is about 15 years old.

Over the week­end, my heater went out so I called an air con­di­tion­ing re­pair com­pany. The guy came out and told me that I need to re­place the heater in the closet and also the out­side unit, (I don’t know what this is called), be­cause of the re­frig­er­ant. I’m a se­nior cit­i­zen and per­plexed, don’t they use all the same stuff? Is this true?

Claire M.


He is ab­so­lutely right, the re­frig­er­ants are not com­pat­i­ble with the old type any longer. You will have to change the out­side unit, which is called the con­denser, as well as the in­side one, called the air han­dler. They can use the ex­ist­ing lines in the walls, but the equip­ment needs to be changed out si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Know that the con­densers are rated, these are called “SEER” rat­ings. The higher the SEER rat­ing the more en­ergy ef­fi­cient the unit will be.

De­pend­ing on your bud­get, I rec­om­mend the high­est SEER rated con­denser you can af­ford. It will give you the best re­turn over the years, with re­gard to ef­fi­ciency.

You did men­tion that you are in a condo, how­ever you didn’t state what floor you’re on. If you are on the bot­tom floor, you are pro­tected from some heat by the unit above. This may be the same with re­gard to the sides/rear, de­pend­ing on the lay­out and where your unit is. If you are in fact quite pro­tected, you can opt for the lower SEER rated unit, be­cause you are likely much more pro­tected from the el­e­ments vs. a unit that is on a top floor/end unit es­pe­cially on a south side.

Take all of this in­for­ma­tion into con­sid­er­a­tion when speak­ing with your tech­ni­cian and be sure that you are work­ing with a li­censed and in­sured con­trac­tor. You def­i­nitely want to have all of your war­ranties in order and be as pro­tected as you can be, as this is a very ex­pen­sive project. Good luck to you.


Hello Robert,

I read your ar­ti­cles in The Sig­nal. Love your ad­vice and help that you pro­vide to the pub­lic. Thank you for your knowl­edge.

I am plan­ning to re­place our front door and screen door. We have picked out a fiber­glass en­try door and vinyl screen door. I was con­sid­er­ing calling lo­cal “handy­men” from lo­cal fly­ers. I am won­der­ing if it is a “per­mit-re­quired” job and should I use a li­censed con­trac­tor? If that is the case, then I would ap­pre­ci­ate your rec­om­men­da­tion of a li­censed con­trac­tor. Thank you so much and keep up the won­der­ful en­tries.

Kip M.


Thank you for read­ing The Sig­nal. No per­mit is re­quired for the new door in­stal­la­tion. If your handy­man is well-versed at hang­ing doors, then let him do it.



I live in Canyon Coun­try in a condo. I came home re­cently and no­ticed that a lot of the pop­corn from the ceil­ing ac­cess panel in my closet had fallen onto the floor. I also no­ticed that the piece of wood was crooked. This re­ally both­ered me, so I got up there and looked, and found that I could see all the way across — through to my neigh­bor’s at­tic area. Is this right, aren’t they sup­posed to have things that pre­vent the neigh­bor­ing units from hav­ing ac­cess to one an­other’s areas? I’m re­ally ner­vous now, won­der­ing if my safety is at risk. What if I’m home alone, chang­ing or even gone and get bur­glar­ized?

Rita C.


Ab­so­lutely, there should be a fire break. The fire break is rated to pre­vent a neigh­bor­ing fire from com­ing into your unit, and it also stands as a pri­vacy fac­tor.

You will need to call your man­age­ment com­pany ASAP and let them know what has hap­pened and that there needs to be a fire break in­stalled im­me­di­ately.

I would also call the Sher­riff’s de­part­ment to re­port this and get it on record, for your pro­tec­tion. Stay on top of your man­age­ment com­pany and be sure that they get this done right away.

You may also want to no­tify your in­sur­ance so that, in the event of a fire, they are aware that you are act­ing on this new dis­cov­ery and have no­ti­fied your man­age­ment com­pany.

Get ev­ery­thing in writ­ing, do not skip this step be­cause, in the event you have to ex­er­cise in­sur­ance or make a claim of any sort, you’ve shown your due dili­gence. Good luck to you.


Robert Lamoureux has 38 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a gen­eral con­trac­tor, with sep­a­rate li­censes in elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing con­tract­ing. He owns IMS Con­struc­tion Inc. in Valencia. His opin­ions are his own, not nec­es­sar­ily those of The Sig­nal. Opin­ions ex­pressed in this col­umn are not meant to re­place the rec­om­men­da­tions of a qual­i­fied con­trac­tor after that con­trac­tor has made a thor­ough visual in­spec­tion. Email ques­tions to Robert at [email protected]­scon­struc­

Metro Cre­ative photo

In older HVAC sys­tems, the re­frig­er­ant in the con­denser, pic­tured here, and the in­door air han­dler were the same. These no longer are com­pat­i­ble, so both must be re­placed if one goes out.

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