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AC Smoking/ terrible smell

I was sitting on my couch yesterday watching a little Columbo when all of the sudden plumes of the most foul smelling smoke started pouring into the apartment from my AC. (Not unlike the smoke monster from Lost) I unplugged it, taped a plastic bag over the cover to prevent more foul air from coming in the living room and am now trying to decide what to do.

The unit is a Friedrich RS16 QuietMaster Deluxe, 230v 16300BTU wall mounted air conditioner. They don't make this model anymore so I'm wondering if it's even worth getting repaired. New comparable models of Friedrich's are around $1,100!

This is my main question: Do I have to replace the old unit with one of the exact same dimensions?

I live in a co-op with brick exterior walls. The appliance salesman seemed to think my best bet was going with a slightly larger unit, Friedrich CP18F30 ($550) and paying them $300 to deliver the new unit, widen the hole and provide a lentil to support the brick, and remove the old unit.

Does this sound like the way to go or is a salesman trying to do what salesman do? Do people generally replace large, more inefficient units with smaller ones? How do you fill the hole?

If anyone has some insight I'd love for you to share it!


Re: AC Smoking/ terrible smell


My guess is that the foul "smoke" you smelled was refrigerant. When I was a kid, our fridge decided to call it quits with a loud bang one Sunday afternoon, and it filled the kitchen/dining room with a horrible smell, (that smelled like ammonia). When that happens to a fridge, the cost of evacuating the system, fixing the leak, and then recharging the system with new refrigerant normally costs more than a new fridge. I expect the same would be true for an air conditioner.

Most likely there's additional space available around your existing air conditioner. People will pack anything into that space that will fit snug and won't allow air to escape around the air conditioner, like that bubble wrap packing material.

A "lintel" is a steel support that supports the weight of masonary over openings in a wall. If there's a window above your air conditioner, then there will be a steel lintel above the window supporting the weight of the brick. If there's no window above your air conditioner, then you already have a steel lintel above your air conditioner. If you didn't, your old air conditioner woulda been crushed by bricks years ago.

I would remove your old air conditioner and all the old packing materials that have been stuffed into the wall space around it, and measure the size of the rough opening you have. Then, buy a wall mounted air conditioner that will fit into that size of opening. Secure the new air conditioner in place with screws and ensure that water drains to the outside of the unit. Then, pack the space around the new air conditioner snugly with bubble wrap to prevent air leakage around the new air conditioner.

My feeling is that your salesman is of dubious character telling you that they will deliver and install the new air conditioner for $300. He doesn't know what kind of work that will entail, and "widening the hole under a lintel" is something that shouldn't be taken lightly. Certainly, there's no way anyone is going to install a steel lintel for $300. I think he's giving you a highball price knowing that it'll cover a lot of contingencies, and if it takes negligible work to install the new unit, they'll still charge the $300 already agreed to. If the delivery crew realize that it'll take a substantial amount of work, then they'll stop the job right there and tell you they can't do it for $300 because of this and that and the other thing, and want you to agree to a much higher wild guestimate for the labour to install it.

It's a 230 volt unit, so I expect it's probably hard wired in. Is there a very large plug (like the size of a dryer or range plug) and receptacle by which the old unit was plugged in? If not, it's hard wired, which means that the wires from a cable in the wall connect directly to a terminal block inside the old air conditioner. If you're not familiar with 220 volt wiring, it's better to let the store installation people disconnect the old air conditioner and connect up the new one.

I'd say you're a lot better off removing the old packing materials around the old air conditioner yourself and shopping for a 220 volt air conditioner that's got greater cooling capacity, but that will still fit into your opening. If possible, try to get one that has the electrical power cable going into the air conditioner in roughly the same location as the old one. Efficiency goes up, so you generally replace big heavy old things with smaller lighter new things. Chances are that you should be able to find an air conditioner of greater cooling capacity that will fit into the existing opening.

Re: AC Smoking/ terrible smell

There are a few issues here:

1. It sounds like an older model, and it will be hard to fix, with absolutely no warranties.

2. You don't have to replace the old unit with the same physical size new unit. A slightly smaller unit will fit in and gaps filled later. Window A/Cs come with useful kits to fill gaps and holes.

3. However, if you liked the cooling power of the old unit, you might as well stay with a comparable unit that has the same BTU rating.

4. The salesman is drumming for business, so don't take his advice to get a larger unit. Don't let him come over with his sledge hammer and knock your bricks out.

5. If you need the store to deliver and properly install the A/C in place because you can't do it, and $300 is their price, then let them do it.

Re: AC Smoking/ terrible smell

Wall-style AC's fit into a metal box called a sleeve. IIRC there are only two standard sizes of wall sleeves. You can just buy a new unit the right size and it'll slip right in.

Re: AC Smoking/ terrible smell

Thanks for your opinions! I'm going to check out some other units, look up sleeve sizes and call the co op maintenance department and get some advice there as well.

Thanks again.


Re: AC Smoking/ terrible smell

Over the last few decades, AC units have been getting smaller and more efficient. It would not surprise me that a higher BTU unit would be smaller than the old dinosaur you have in there.

Re: AC Smoking/ terrible smell

More confusion now. All of the AC units I'm finding are running on 110v, 115v or 220v. My old AC is listed as 230v in the manual. Does that mean I have to get an electrician to come and rewire the apartment if I buy a 220v AC to replace my old 230v AC? Is a 10 volt difference something that something that calls for rewiring???


Re: AC Smoking/ terrible smell

No, 110 volts AC means 115 volts AC means 117 volts AC which also means 120 volts AC. It's different numbers, but it just means normal household wall outlet voltage, which changes throughout the day and throughout the year, and which can be measured in different ways, and so there's some validity in calling it any of the voltages mentioned above.

Similarily, 220 volts AC means 230 volts AC which also means 240 volts AC. All of those simply mean the voltage that gets supplied to the house, condo or apartment.

So, there's no rewiring required, and so the services of an electrician will not be necessary.

PS: You don't need to know the rest...

Power comes into your house, condo or apartment via a 3 conductor cable. The conductors in that cable will have red, black and white insulation on them. The red and black wires will each carry 110 volts AC relative to the white neutral wire which has no voltage applied to it. However the voltage in the red and black wires will be 180 degrees out of phase, so that when the red wire is at +110 volts, the black wire will be at -110 volts, and vice versa, so that the voltage between the red and black wires will be 220 volts AC.

Most of the circuits in your house, condo or apartment will be connected between EITHER the black wire and the white neutral wire OR between the red wire and the white neutral wire. So, some of the electrical outlets you plug appliances into will connect that appliance between the black wire and the white wire, and some will connect it between the red and the white wire; in either case the appliance is supplied with 110 volt AC power. And, in all of those cases there will be a fuse or circuit breaker in your electrical panel that limits the current flow through those circuits to 15 amps. Normal household circuits deliver 110 volt 15 amp power, and that kind of circuit is referred to as 110 volt, 115 volt, 117 volt, or 120 volt depending entirely on your personal preference as to what to call it.

However, appliances like electric stoves, electric clothes dryers and central air conditioners will require more power than can be provided by a 110 volt 15 amp normal household circuit. In those cases, all three wires (the red, the black and the white) all go to the appliance to provide the 220 volt AC power to it, and the fuses or circuit breakers on the panel will allow 30, 40 or even 50 amps to the cables supplying these appliances. The bake element in an electric stove, for example, will connect between the black wire and the red wire so that there's 220 volt AC power going through it and the breakers in the panel for the stove will typically be 40 or 50 amp breakers. That's how much power you need to get a bake element cherry red.

So, the wording "110 VAC", or "115 VAC", or "117 VAC", or "120 VAC" on an appliance all just mean that you can plug the appliance into a normal household wall outlet.

"220 VAC", "230 VAC" and "240 VAC" all just mean that you need at least both power wires (red and black) but probably need all three wires (red, black, and white) going to that appliance, and that it's probably gonna draw more than 15 amps from each power wire too. Typically, electric stoves use 220 Volt 50 Amp cables, electric clothes dryers use 220 Volt 30 Amp cables, and I don't know what's standard for 220 volt air conditioners, but whatever cable provided power to your old air conditioner will be suitable for your new air conditioner as well.

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