The post you are about to read is based on a factual account to resolve information received from a mechanical contractor in direct contradiction to that provided by the equipment supply manufacturer for two large package rooftop units (RTUs) serving a 2-story healthcare facility in a north suburb of Chicago.
It all began while I was in the process of conducting an annual roof inspection for a commercial property where I happened to observe what appeared to be a reoccurring flue gas condensation condition exhibited by two large 25-ton package rooftop units given significant surface rust present/running down the exterior RTU equipment cabinet enclosure beneath the flue gas openings. This prompted me to obtain a copy of the RTU manufacturer product catalog to review the specifications for determining the metal used to fabricate the heat exchangers provided including any RTU equipment manufacturer warranties in force at the time. According to the product catalog, the model number displayed on the RTU equipment ID label indicated heat exchangers made of aluminized steel. Moreover, according to the equipment manufacturer, the RTUs initially provided a 1-year parts warranty in addition to a 5-year standard heat exchanger and 5-year compressor warranty that had since expired given the warranty information on file with the manufacturer. While the information provided by the equipment manufacturer would have normally been sufficient and accepted without question, this was about to change once the tenant decided to contact and hire a mechanical contractor to professionally evaluate the RTUs given the flue gas condensation condition described above. This resulted in a service call completion notice issued by the HVAC mechanical contractor hired by the tenant, stating the RTU unit heat exchangers were not only in good condition but made of stainless instead of aluminized steel indicated by the model number and warranty information on file with the equipment manufacturer. Needless to say, the allegation made by the mechanical contractor was deemed suspect given it was allegedly based on a limited visual inspection by an unknown service technician.
Further Investigation/Feedback Warranted
Given contradictory information alleging the type of metal the heat exchangers were made of in addition to evidence of a reoccurring flue gas condensation condition, it was altogether important to determine once and for all the metal used to fabricate the heat exchangers given that the integrity of aluminized steel can be severely compromised by flue gas condensation whereas the stainless steel heat exchanger is impervious to rust and offered an optional 10-year (as opposed to the standard 5-year) manufacturer's warranty that would have still been in force at this time if in fact it had been issued at the time of purchase and transferred when the property was later sold to my client. Needless to say, if the heat exchangers were determined to be stainless steel, this would end up being beneficial for both the owner of the property as well as the tenant responsible for the care and maintenance of the RTUs according to the lease agreement.
Findings & Conclusion
Short of contacting and hiring a metallurgist to determine the metal used to fabricate the RTU heat exchangers in question, I decided to tactfully approach/ask the equipment manufacturer representative if she would be willing to check the information previously provided by the RTU manufacturer for possible errors/omissions given the current debacle created by the mechanical contractor's service call. I also elected to contact the mechanical contractor hired by the tenant to ask if they would be willing to confirm the service technician's assertion that the RTU heat exchangers were stainless steel. Without hesitation, the mechanical company's authorized representative declined stating the company would only agree to issue a retraction suggesting I accept the information on file with the RTU equipment manufacture regarding the standard 5-year aluminized steel heat exchanger. Needless to say, given the representative was unwilling to place confidence in their service technician by backing up the stainless steel heat exchanger allegation, why should I or anyone else for that matter? In contrast, the equipment manufacturer representative wasted no time in responding to my request to check the information they previously provided for possible errors and omissions. To say I was surprised with their response is an understatement given the rep was quick to contact the factory regarding the model and serial numbers displayed on the equipment manufacturer's ID label to learn that the heat exchangers installed at the time of purchase were made of stainless steel. Unfortunately, I was also informed that there was no record of an optional 10-year manufacturer stainless steel heat exchanger warranty ever applied for/issued and that it was required to be done at the time of purchase. Hence the reason for the standard 5-year heat exchanger warranty on file that had already expired several years previous. As my client was not the original owner, it's anyone's guess how this ever came to be. However, according to another equipment manufacturer representative who has allegedly been with the equipment supply company for 31 years, he was quick to point out that all too often a buyer may be unknowingly charged for an optional manufacturer equipment update that qualifies for an extended warranty never applied for by the contractor that installed the equipment. All considered, I can only assume a lack of communication/correspondence at the time of purchase given no copy of a formal written notice from the equipment supply manufacturer to the mechanical contractor or original property owner to confirm/verify a stainless steel heat exchanger upgrade much less whether the optional extended 10-year warranty had ever been applied for or waived.