Coil conundrum: Faulty Lennox AC units anger homeowners

A manufacturing design with Lennox-brand AC units has caused new homeowners much grief as they fork over hundreds of dollars for unexpected repair expenses.
By: 
Feb. 1, 2017

Homeowners living in newly constructed communities with Lennox air-conditioning units installed have reluctantly spent hundreds to thousands of dollars replacing faulty evaporator coil systems. 

And they’re not happy.

After two to four years, the AC units tend to freeze up or stop blowing cold air. It is believed the troublesome coil systems malfunction due to poor manufacturing. While Lennox uses uncoated copper tubing inside its systems, most AC companies use aluminum coils, said Terry Strickland, the owner of Polar Express Air Conditioning & Heating LLC. 

“Everybody else is going to full aluminum coils,” Strickland said. “Lennox is still the only one using the copper aluminum, and it’s not holding up. The copper we’re using today is so much thinner than it’s ever been because, again, everybody’s trying to save money.”

As someone who spends his time fixing AC units regularly, he’s seen several homeowners with Lennox-brand units experience this same issue. Last year, he estimates he made about 12 to 15 replacements, mostly in newly built homes in Winter Garden and Windermere. 

A class-action lawsuit from 2015 over the issue has resulted in payouts for some homeowners who fell victim to unexpected repair expenses. Homeowners eligible to join the class-action lawsuit were told they could get up $550 in reimbursement. However, Lennox still denies all the claims of the lawsuit and states it does not believe the copper tubing was related to the failures. And although Strickland said Lennox plans to move to aluminum coils, that transition hasn’t taken place.

“The coils that I pick up are still the same coils they’re having problems with, and the same coils I’m putting in are the same coils they’re having problems with,” he said. “And all they’re doing is trying to Band-Aid it until it’s out of warranty.”

Strickland said he’s often had to go back and replace a homeowner’s coil a second time. Generally, the lifespan of any AC unit, depending on the user’s maintenance, is 12 to 15 years. As a result, Strickland said he’s quit purchasing and selling AC units from any brands Lennox owns.

Tod Young, a homeowner in Windermere Trails who closed on his home December 2013, had to spend $1,400 to replace his coil system after only two years. He was surprised to have his AC unit malfunction so quickly.

“It’s a new house ... so you would expect that the AC unit would not clock out within the first two years, and you’d have to spend $1,200-plus to have it replaced,” Young said. 

Young’s AC unit started failing after the class-action lawsuit already had been settled, so he had to pay for the expenses out of pocket. He’s noticed there have been several AC repair trucks all over his community, which was built by Meritage Homes, and much discussion about the same AC issue on the social-media website NextDoor.

“Any day, you can drive through our community and you’ll see either Armstrong Air Conditioning or other AC repair companies in people’s driveway, daily,” Young added. “And they’re all having the same issue.”

Michael Manganiello, who lives in a town house in Wickham Park, paid $800 to have his AC coil system replaced. His 4-year-old AC unit stopped working last August. He couldn’t believe his unit would malfunction so quickly either, because the previous homeowners only resided in the home for six months each year, and he had routine AC maintenance done annually. 

“I’m not one of those notorious AC users who constantly have it on,” Manganiello said. “When I’m not home, I set it to 78 or 79 degrees, and when I’m home, I leave it at 77.  ...  I  shouldn’t have any AC problems, especially when the unit is less than four years old.”

A few months later, after getting the coil system replaced, he noticed an advisory on his neighborhood’s website informing residents that many people in the community had experienced the same AC issue and there was a class-action lawsuit.

The experience has left Manganiello wary of Lennox units.

“I definitely won’t purchase anything related to Lennox in the future,” Manganiello said. 

Lennox officials did not return repeated messages seeking comment.

––––

Contact Gabby Baquero at gbaquero@orangeobserver.com