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This document contains a blow-by-blow description of the problems we've had with our air conditioning system.

March 1998

We decide to install a ducted reverse cycle air conditioning system in our house in Echunga, and solict several quotations. The two which look most interesting are:

Tuesday, 31 March 1998

The Daikin salesman had told me some horror stories about icing, so I called up Barry Machin of Airtech, who had offered the Pioneer model, and asked him about this. He told me that he thought there would be no problem, but suggested I called his engineer, Brian Dalton, who confirmed that there would be no problem with icing.

Based on this information and Airtech's claim of superior service, I send a letter to Airtech ordering the unit on the same day.

Tuesday, 14 April 1998

Airtech install the air conditioning system. By and large they do a reasonable job of the installation, though they made a mess of the lounge room wall when installing the controls. We're more than a little disappointed with the temperature control, which measures the temperature at only one place in the house. I also notice that the unit is protected by a 20A circuit breaker, although the unit is rated at 23.8A. I draw this to the attention of Jeff, the engineer, whose attitude is “she'll be right, mate”. I am impressed, but not positively. We retain $200 of the agreed price pending repair of the wall.

Wednesday, 15 April 1998

The unit fails several times by tripping the circuit breaker. I call Airtech, but am not able to get any satisfaction.

Friday, 17 April 1998

I write a letter to Airtech asking them to fix the problem, and also ask them to solve several other problems.

Monday, 20 April 1998

Jeff from Airtech comes and replaces the circuit breaker. He does this without informing us, cutting power to my computers in the process. After this, we have no further problems with the circuit breaker.

Jeff also tells me that he wants to repair the damage he did to the wall. I refuse, since I don't believe he will do it to my satisfaction.

Late April 1998

Airtech sends a repairman to fix the wall, which he does to our satisfaction. We pay the remaining $200.

Thursday, 7 May 1998

The unit does not heat properly. On examination, the unit proved to be completely iced up and required several hours to thaw out again.

Friday, 8 May 1998

I call Barry, who promises to “look into” the icing problem.

Monday, 11 May 1998

Jeff from Airtech comes along and checks the refrigerant pressure. This is normal, so he goes again. We hear nothing more about the icing.

Tuesday, 2 June 1998

I write a letter to Barry asking for resolution of the outstanding problems.

Thursday, 4 June 1998

Barry replies to my letter, addressing only some of the smaller issues. He ignores the problem of icing.

Wednesday, 10 June 1998

We have another bad case of icing. This time they send an engineer called Lockie to look at the unit. Lockie determines that the unit has been incorrectly installed: there is not enough air gap between the unit and the wall behind it. He moves it further from the wall and claims that that will solve the icing problem.

Sunday, 1 August 1998

We have another bad case of icing.

Monday, 2 August 1998

I call Barry and complain that we are still having icing, and also remind him of the still unaddressed issues from my letter of the 17th April.

Wednesday, 4 August

Pat from Airtech comes to look at the unit. He has never seen one like it before. Although it is functional, there is noticeable icing on internal components. He checks the refrigerant pressure, which is slightly low, but not low enough to explain the icing. He also notes the low output temperature from the compressor, and poor joints to the piping.

We looks at the ducting together and come to the conclusion that it has probably been laid incorrectly: the air delivery to the different rooms is uneven, thus explaining the difficulty of keeping the temperatures constant. He agrees to go back and talk to Barry, who should investigate both the ducting and the still unresolved question of icing.

Monday, 30 November 1998

I call up Barry and asked why nothing has happened. Barry says “I thought everything has been attended to”. I express my extreme dissatisfaction, in particular with the question of icing. After a not very friendly discussion, we agree that I would send in a letter explaining the situation, including the possibility of extending the ductwork to the extension of the house, and that Airtech would get back to us.

Tuesday, 1 December 1998

I send in the letter as discussed, accompanied by plans of the extension.

Thursday, 10 December 1998

After hearing nothing, I call Barry to find out what was happening. Barry says that Colin was looking at the ductwork and would get back to us. He had called Brian Dalton, who would attend to the problems with the unit. At this point I discover that Brian does not work for Airtech, but runs his own company, Air Management Systems. I am left with the impression that Barry was misrepresenting the situation when he recommended I call “his engineer” before purchasing the unit. He suggests that I call Brian, who was waiting for my call. I point out that it was his job to attend to the service of the machine, not mine, but I take the number.

Sunday, 3 January 1999

The unit fails completely. All attempts to start it cause the circuit breaker to trip.

Monday, 4 January 1999

I call Barry, who says that Brian Dalton is responsible for the unit, and I should contact him. Brian has not called me since the beginning of December.

I call Brian Dalton and ask him why he didn't contact me in December. He claims never to have heard of any service call. He tells me that he can't get anybody on site within a week, but gives me the mobile phone number of his engineer, Lockie, who proves to work for him, not Airtech. I call Lockie, but only get his voice mail.

Lockie calls back later in the day and says he could try to make it on Saturday, the 9th. I say that that's not acceptable, and finally he agrees to come on Thursday. I say I'll try to get Airtech to do something earlier.

I call Barry, who tells me he doesn't have any service personnel at all to deal with this system, and that Brian is the only show in town for this particular maker.

Thursday, 7 January 1999

Lockie doesn't show. Yvonne calls him, and he says that he thought Airtech was going to do it. He can't come until the following Wednesday. I speak to him on the phone, and he says he suspects that the compressor has failed, since that's the usual cause of tripping circuit breakers.

Thursday, 14 January 1999

Lockie comes and looks at the unit, and confirms that the compressor has failed. He comments that this is probably a consequence of the unit having iced up severely, and says that they're not really very good at de-icing. He looks at the mounting and says that, though he had moved it further from the wall in the previous June, it was probably not enough, but it was as far as he could go without resoldering the pipes.

Lockie also tells me that Pioneer have a very bad reputation for reliability, and that as a result Brian was no longer doing business with them. He promises to call Brian the same evening to ensure that the compressor would be ordered immediately.

Tuesday, 20 January 1999

I call Brian Dalton to hear why the unit hasn't been repaired yet. I am told that Brian is overseas, and that nobody else can help me.

I call Barry, who tells me his standard “I thought the matter had been resolved”. He doesn't give an answer when I ask whether he had checked. He promises to follow up.

Monday, 25 January 1999

I call Brian Dalton again, but he still has not returned to work. I call Barry, who says he can't do anything, but suggests I contact the manufacturer directly. I send Pioneer a fax asking them for immediate attention. I never get a reply.

Wednesday, 27 January 1999

I call Barry to hear what he has done. The answer: nothing. He says that the guarantee is a manufacturer's guarantee, and that they are not allowed to work on the units. He suggests I call Brian.

I call Brian, who tells me that he is not going to do any more work for Pioneer because they never pay him for it. Still, since he supplied the unit he feels some obligation, so he gives me the names of people to contact at Pioneer. I decide not to follow up with this, since Pioneer is obviously unwilling, and I don't have a contract with them.

Thursday, 28 January 1998

I call Barry again and ask him, as the supplier of the unit and the only company with which I have a contract, to do something to resolve the situation. He refuses, saying it's a manufacturer's warranty and that they have nothing to do with it. He also expresses the opinion that all issues in my letter of 1 December 1998 have been resolved. In fact, none of them have been resolved, and it appears that they haven't done anything about them.

I call the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs, who confirm my position and explain the conditions on which I must insist in writing. I send the letter the same day, asking not just for a resolution of the compressor problem, but also of the other issues which have been open from as early as two days after installation.

Friday, 29 January 1999

I call Barry, who has received both the fax and the registered version of my letter. He says that they have taken the matter into their own hands and sent a fax to Pioneer, and that I will receive both a copy of this fax and also a reply to my letter by fax in the course of the day.

Monday, 1 February 1999

I call Barry and ask him what the situation is. He tells me that he still does not have any response from Pioneer, and that he wants to give them at least until tomorrow before contacting them on the phone (an action which he had recommended to me much earlier).

Later in the day I get the promised faxes, unsigned. The fax to Pioneer asks not just for the compressor, but also for a confirmation that Pioneer will indemnify Airtech for the labour.

Tuesday, 2 February 1999

I call Barry and ask about the current situation. Nothing has changed. I confirm receipt of the faxes and voice the opinion that Airtech's insistence on indemnification for the work will slow things down. I give him the names of the people at Pioneer which Brian gave me on the 27th January, and he promises to call the owner of the company.

Wednesday, 3 February 1999

The air conditioner has been out of service for a month.

I call Barry, but he's out. He returns my call, however. As I had suspected, the problem had been that Pioneer was not willing to bear the labour cost of replacing the compressor. Barry said that Airtech had now agreed to bear this cost, and that a compressor was on its way from Melbourne.

Thursday, 4 February 1999

No message from Barry. I call in the afternoon, but he's out, and they don't expect him back before the morning.

Friday, 5 February 1999

No call back from Barry. I call again at 10:30 am and hear he's still “on the road”. They promise again that he'll call back.

I call again at 2:30 pm. Barry's in the office, and tells me that they're still waiting for the compressor to arrive in Adelaide. He can't confirm that they'll be able to install on Monday.

Monday, 8 February 1999

11 am: I call Barry, who tells me he has heard nothing about the arrival of the compressor. He tells me that Pioneer have told him that they have authorized the sending of a compressor from York in Melbourne to their agents in Adelaide, but the agents will not give any information about the whereabouts of the compressor until it arrives. They had not tried to contact York to find out what was happening, so at the moment they have no idea when or if the compressor will arrive. I tell Barry that I'm not happy with that, that today is the last day of the grace period I have allowed for in my letter, and that they should do more. I ask about the contact people at York, and he says he will find out - in other words, he hasn't tried to contact them himself - and call me back. He doesn't.

Tuesday, 9 February 1999

11 am: I call Barry, who tells me that the agent for the compressor in Adelaide has been very helpful and is confident that the compressor will be here today. He will call me as soon as he knows something. He doesn't.

Wednesday, 10 February 1999

9:20 am: I call Barry, who tells me that the compressor has just arrived in Adelaide. He will contact Colin and arrange a date for installation, probably tomorrow. I suggest today, and he says he will see what he can do. He doesn't call back.

Thursday, 11 February 1999

8:30 am: Barry calls me and says that somebody will be along in the late morning to install the new compressor. 1 pm: Pat and another engineer from Airtech arrive. They discover a number of wiring problems, none of which would explain the icing. The ice detector is failsafe: a circuit means “no ice”.

Thursday, 22 April 1999

Although the weather is not particularly cool, the unit was not heating. I found the coil iced up again, thus disproving former hypotheses about the cause of the icing. I called Airtech and spoke with Mark. Barry was not available, Colin was in a meeting, and Mark could not decide anything. To quote the Airtech quote of 22 March 1998:

Each member of our team is qualified to assist with virtually any inquiry that you may have.

In fact, I have never had any useful interaction with anybody at Airtech except Barry. I have never been able to speak to Colin, and even the letter he sent was unsigned.

Mark said he would get Colin to call me back. Nobody calls back.

Finally I have had enough. I wrote Airtech a letter asking them to replace the unit.

Sunday, 25 April 1999

The unit ices up again.

Wednesday, 28 April 1999

We have still heard nothing from Airtech. The unit ices up again.

I call Barry, who is now available. He tells me that there is nothing they can do to fix the problem, but they are under no obligation, since they have sold us a “perfectly good unit”. I tell him that I will take the matter to the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs, to which he agrees. He says he has spoken to Colin, and they don't know what to do. He tries to put the blame on Brian Dalton, with whom I had spoken before purchasing the unit.

I write a letter to the Office of Business and Consumer Affairs.

Thursday, 29 April 1999

I receive a fax from Colin, again unsigned, offering to send somebody on site on the following day unless I objected. I did not object.

Friday, 30 April 1999

The Airtech engineers arrived without warning while I was away from the house. They made no attempts to contact me, but left again without even leaving a message. I didn't find out until later that they had even come.

Saturday, 1 May 1999

The unit ices up again.

Monday, 3 May 1999

I send a letter to Colin asking why the engineers didn't come, and reporting the new incident of icing. Barry replies by fax almost immediately, saying that they had come and were unable to contact me, and that he could not confirm that they would come again.

Saturday, 8 May 1999

Engineers from Affordable Air Conditioning are on site installing an air conditioner in the new part of the house, so I ask them to check the refrigerant pressure in the old unit. They do so and find, at an ambient temperature of 14°, a pressure of 380 kPa (54 psi) on the low pressure side of the compressor, and a pressure of 1900 kPa (270 psi) on the high pressure side. They were of the opinion that these were excellent values.

Monday, 10 May 1999

I write a letter to Barry reporting the measurements and asking again for resolution of the problems.

Note from 29 May 2004: This tails off before the (happy) end. Finally, some time in winter 1999, Colin came along, took a look for himself and fixed the problem: the icing sensor was in the wrong place. From then until May 2004 we had no more trouble with the unit.

Friday, 16 July 2004

We found the bug! See my diary for the details until I can update this page.

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