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Heating, Air Conditioning, Fridge, HVAC/Heat pump - fan was squealing, today all dead

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I have a first co 30WCU-10AB air conditioner (heat pump?) (as seen here http://www.furnacecompare.com/air-conditioners/us-ac-products/30WCU-10AB.html) in my condo.  I'm not sure if this is called a "split system" or not, but there is a condenser, coils, fan, etc, all in a box in my mechanical closet on my balcony, and this box leads to the outside.  I then have an inside portion with a blower, filter, more coils, etc.  The same inside portion is used for my heat, but I don't think the outside portion is used for heat as I turn it off via a switch when I turn on the heat (heat is run through piping to/from my hot water heater).  I do not know the exact date of install of the outside unit, which is where I believe my problem is, but it is no more than 5.5 to 6 years old as our units were originally built in 2003.

The AC had been off for a while due to winter, but this past weekend, it warmed up and I turned it on.  It was squealing from the outside AC box pretty loud on and off for a while, and to me, it sounded like a bearing going or something.  Looking back, I should have turned it off and called for help.  I let it go for a bit though, and it stopped squealing soon after and was cooling the house fine.  I heard a much quieter squeal here and there that night and the next day, but the days after that it was quiet as normal.  I was planning to look into it further and/or call a professional this Friday, my day off.  This morning my condo was nice and cool when I left for work, and everything seemed to be operating normally.

Well, tonight I got home and it was very hot in my condo, something was clearly wrong.  The inside fan was running (probably all day?) and from the inside blower unit I could hear a sound that I can't describe, but I've heard it before when I turn on the AC (I believe it to be normal).  Almost like water or gas moving around in piping, I always kind of thought it might be the sound of refrigerant cycling or something.  This inside sound was a bit louder than normal and going constantly, whereas it only normally makes the noise for 2 or 3 seconds right after the AC turns on when it has been off for a bit.  I immediately switched off the inside blower and the blower and noise stopped.

I then went to the balcony to check on the outside unit.  When I opened my mechanical closet I could smell that electrical/semi-mechanical smell of something that has overheated and/or burned up.  I removed the access panel and felt around.  The case of the condenser was very hot (just about too hot to touch, but not quite) and the motor for the fan (big round cylinder type fan) was very hot, too hot to keeping touching (and hotter than the condenser).  I tried to spin this fan, and it is difficult to spin.  I can definitely move it, but it does not spin freely at all.  I smelled around the condenser and fan motor, and the fan motor, in my opinion, definitely seems to smell as a motor does when it is way overheated (and possibly burned up).

So, I'm not a professional, but it is my estimation that the noise I heard when I turned on the AC this weekend was a bearing(s) related to the cooling fan inside the outside unit going bad?  And the bearing must have finally went bad tonight?  I haven't tried turning the system on or anything to see if it the fan spins or anything else, as I don't want to do any further damage.

I plan to call a professional on Friday, my day off, and we can live without a/c (or heat) until then.  I'm curious in the mean time, though, does it sound like it's the outside fan motor that is dead (the squealing, plus should it spin freely)?  If the outside fan motor went, did it likely cause subsequent damage to the condenser or anything else?  I'm worried, because everything inside of the outside unit was hot, and also, the inside of the condo was very hot, almost as if the heater was on (it was hotter inside the condo than I think it would have been if the system was completely off).  I don't know enough about these systems, but it doesn't seem good that the inside of the condo was not cool/cold (did the condenser go too?)

Also, if you are allowed to estimate, what type of cost might I be looking at?

Thank you so much for any help or advice you can provide.

Sincerely,
Andrew Czop

Answer
First of all, I thank you for all the detail you provided.  First of all, you have a split-system because it is SPLIT into an inside unit and an outside unit.  It is air-cooled, so it is probably NOT hooked into your water heater.  It is probably only the drain line you are seeing.  When the motor outside burns out, you smell it and it causes the compressor (the hot black thing outside) to overheat and possibly also go bad.  Don't run the unit on cool until that outdoor condensing fan motor is fixed or replaced.  If you were in Florida and I came to quote the job, (finding only a problem with a motor outside minnd you but checking everything) I would probably quote you 200-300 or so, depending.  You'd need a fan motor, a capacitor, and the wiring checked, possibly the compressor hooked into a hard-start kit with a timedelay at this point, what with the age to the unit and everything.  Your quotes from other companies vary, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear a quote of around 350.  Anything over 500 I would decline, if they will do only what I have said.  If you get a quote of under 300, I'd be suspect that the guy either isn't licensed or it is a simple problem like only the capacitor that he is changing and dropping the price a little, but it would still be a gouge.   Mind you, my price is dependent upon EXACTLY what I find when I am there...But that goes without saying I would think.  I do wish you luck, and feel free to let me know of any other issues you encounter.

Heating, Air Conditioning, Fridge, HVAC

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Frank A.

Expertise

I will be happy to answer any basic HVAC question by a homeowner, installer, or technician about their split-system maintenance, repair, and installation. I would not be willing to do extensive research into the particulars of a specific system, but any homeowner looking to get questions answered about why we contractors charge what we do, explanations of why a certain part is needed, how to improve indoor air quality and basic repair. I specialize in ELECTRIC HEAT and HEATPUMPS...NOT gas or oil. Although I may be able to answer the odd question about gas and oil, please do not ask me questions pertaining to them because I am not an expert in that aspect of the field.

Experience

I repaired my father's unit when I was 9, and always had an interest in the field. Became a helper at 16, and am now a certified contractor for residential systems in HVACR. So I have over 20 years experience in the field, and add about 7 more of just dabbling and study.

Organizations
ACCA, Rheem Team, Trane Certified Contractors, Nordyne Distributors, a host of others.

Publications
HVAC Insider, A/C Experts, HVAC Contractor South Florida, mentioned as a reference in Trane Instructional Videos 2-5. My company was recognized in HVAC Insider in 2008, 2009, 2010, etc. I am personally mentioned in the articles pertaining to my awards.

Education/Credentials
EPA, Journeyman, Licensed contractor, NATE, Puron, Trane, Carrier, Rheem Team.

Awards and Honors
I won the ACCA technician award on the state-wide level 8 years running. This is the all-around A/C repair competition where most large companies each send their best guy to compete for the plaque. I am 12-for-17, rated as the #1 technician in Florida. I have the plaque to prove it. **I placed second in 2011, ending my 9 year run. But won it again in 2012, and the award should arrive in late January.

Past/Present Clients
Tommy Lee Jones, Santana Moss, Wayne Brandy, Jennifer Lien, Patrick Stewart, Jason Taylor, Kirsten Dunst, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, Robert Picardo, Ethen Phillips, Ashley Judd, Debbie Gibson among others.

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