“Multiple, invasive” repairs on my air conditioning unit – can you help?

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By Christopher Elliott

Dan Gallagher’s Bryant air conditioning unit doesn’t work right. Who is responsible for fixing it?

Question

I replaced my central air conditioning in May with a new Bryant unit after the thermal expansion valve on our previous unit failed. I registered all equipment through Bryant’s website to activate a 5-year parts/labor and 10-year parts warranty.

In August, on the first truly hot day of the year, I returned from work to find the inside temperature was 85 degrees. In checking the outside of the unit, I noticed severe icing of the coolant lines.

I promptly called the installer. He arrived a short time later and diagnosed a thermal expansion valve, explaining that a replacement would be performed the following morning, and that there are a rash of these failures affecting new Bryant products. We limped the system through the night, awaiting the repair.

I contacted Bryant through their customer care center the next morning and eventually talked to a senior representative. I asked if the thermal expansion valve was a known issue and what to expect. The representative forwarded my concerns to a manager in the Indianapolis area and told me to expect a return call.

I also contacted the installer and explained my concerns at the invasive nature of a thermal expansion valve replacement. I’m worried about the contamination risk to the system and that it might shorten the unit’s life.

A technician returned to replace the valve as scheduled. He recharged and activated the system. Within five minutes, the new valve also failed. The tech spent the next hour-plus attempting to restart the system, to no avail. After several phone calls to his management, they decided to attempt replacement of the indoor coil. The unit is now running.

The installer apologized for the mess

But this morning, my wife called me at work to say there’s a thin film of fluid and dust covering the laundry room floor. I contacted the installer and they apologized for the mess, offering to come and clean up at my convenience. I’m going to take care of this on my own.

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I’m highly concerned that subjecting my new system to multiple invasive repairs will shorten its life. Having the same failure multiple times in a short time period also raises reliability concerns around the system. On one hand, I would like the Bryant equipment removed and replaced with something from another vendor – but I know that’s going to be a huge hill to climb. I am also very happy with my installer, who has been nothing but responsive and helpful – they are just dealing with bad parts.

I would like Bryant to offer an explanation for the failure and to extend my 5/10 warranty to 10/10 as a show of confidence in the product they installed. It need to commit to a complete system replacement in the event of another valve or coil failure. I am spending too much time dealing with my “new” peace of mind.– Dan Gallagher, Brownsburg, Ind.

Answer

Your new air conditioning unit should have worked. The installer should have cleaned up the mess. Period.

But when your case crossed my desk, I wasn’t too worried. Bryant is known for offering quality products and standing behind them. Lisa Townley, Bryant’s brand manager, said it best in a recent news release: “Bryant is a company with a long history of providing customers with reliable, worry-free comfort.”

If your account is to be believed, your installer replaced your old AC with a new one that was just as flawed. The least Bryant could do is to apologize, if not also to stand behind its now-fixed unit.

The thermal expansion valve, or TXV, is a component in air conditioning systems that controls the amount of refrigerant flow into the evaporator. It’s a critical component, and your concerns about the unit are warranted. It looks as if you received a lemon. (Related: It’s hot out there! How long until my Carrier air conditioner gets repaired?)

This is hardly our first botched installation case. But I was curious to hear Bryant’s side of the story, given some of the reports of TXV failures on the units that you found when you tried to resolve this.

The resolution: A positive outcome

My advocacy team and I contacted the company several times to see if it could address your complaint. It didn’t respond to me directly, but an operations manager at the Indianapolis Bryant distributor got in touch with you by phone. (Here’s our guide on how to get a repair, replacement, or refund for your broken appliances.)

He mentioned that the failures you experienced were an issue, but were more common in smaller tonnage units. Bryant’s distributor agreed to extend its new installation priority service through the next cooling season. They also made a commitment to replace the system if they can’t “precisely” identify and eliminate the problems with your current unit. (Alas, no warranty extension to 10 years, though.)

It is unclear if my intervention or if your own persistent calls to the distributor made the difference, but it doesn’t really matter. The issues appear to be resolved, at least for now.

If it isn’t, please contact me in the summer of 2015, and I’ll ask Bryant about your AC again. Maybe this time, it will respond.

Did Bryant do enough for Dan Gallagher?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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