National Compressor Exchange Inc. ships out all of its remanufactured compressors with computerized test results.
National Compressor Exchange Inc. ships out all of its remanufactured compressors with computerized test results. According to the company, results are printed at the time of the test and included in shipping packaging. Test results include meg-ohm resistance reading; oil-pressure, oil-temperature, and high-temperature calculations; and more.

If you’re hoping to save money, a remanufactured compressor might be just what you need. However, there is a strong sense of “buyer beware” when it comes to rebuilt HVAC components.

As Ken Bodwell, retired president of Innovative Service Solutions, Orlando, Florida, put it, “I’ve used compressor remanufacturers from all over the country, and there are good [ones] — and a lot more bad.”

The key, according to Bodwell, is for a contractor to develop a relationship with a remanufacturer that he can place his confidence in. One remanufacturer that Bodwell learned to trust during his years running a business was Sonny Cappabianco, president and owner of Motors and Compressors in Orlando, Florida. According to Cappabianco, the relationship between a remanufacturer and contractor can be developed to aid both sides.

“It’s built on a relationship where they feel confident to call you to work out a problem or an answer to something. And we have learned from them and the problems they see out there in the field, so it’s a two-way street,” Cappabianco said.

Seeking Quality

There are a variety of OEMs and independent remanufacturers offering remanufactured compressors, but it’s clear there are vast differences in the quality of the end product.

Richard Staiano is president of National Compressor Exchange Inc. in Ridgewood, New York. As one of the nation’s largest independent remanufacturers, he is very proud of what his company has achieved during its 37 years in business. He’s very open about his commitment to quality, stating NCE’s remanufacturing process involves a “complete overhaul.”

However, Staiano said, there are differences in the degree to which a remanufacturer will go to rebuild a component to its original form. And, because of this, he recommended contractors visit the site of their remanufacturer to see what they’re buying.

Staiano invites all potential customers to visit his company’s facility, but estimates only 3-6 percent of his customer base has “gone out of its way to visit our plant.”

As part of their due diligence, Staiano noted contractors should research remanufacturing companies on their own as well as ask peers for word-of-mouth recommendations. “But, other than that, they have to visit a compressor facility of their choice,” he said.

“Once the sale is made, it’s very easy for the rebuilder to try to skimp to make the most money and just paint it so it looks good,” Staiano explained. “That’s not the way you build a reputation for quality and longevity.”

Overall, he said, contractors can save money with remanufactured compressors, but, he reminded, “You have to know the quality of what you’re getting.”

Cappabianco also invites customers to his facility. He’s focused on quality control, from teardown to the final test run.

“We invite people to come for a step-by-step tour of our process,” he said, which has helped him build solid relationships with customers. “We tour people through here so they can see exactly what goes on,” he added.

And, part of his focus on quality is evident by the final steps in his remanufacturing process.

“Each compressor is test-run under load before it leaves here,” Cappabianco said, noting each compressor receives at least four test runs in-house. “Until you test-run under load, you don’t know how the compressor is going to perform.”

Randy Tebbe, manager, applications and service engineering, Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., has heard more than a few horror stories from contractors about the rebuilt components they’ve purchased. For example, he cited a contractor who initially thought he’d saved $400 by purchasing a rebuilt compressor, but it ended up costing him close to $1,000 since the unit had been rebuilt with the wrong gaskets. And, even after the contractor had installed the correct gaskets, the compressor still didn’t perform as well as the one that had been replaced.

“That’s because the rebuilt compressor had only been updated to fix the most obvious problems. It hadn’t been brought back to new compressor specs,” Tebbe explained.

In contrast to this scenario, Tebbe said, a remanufactured compressor should be “fully remanufactured to the latest specifications by the OEM with testing and certification to new equipment levels and a warranty that provides a degree of security for all parties involved.”

An advantage to OEM remanufacturing is that “it typically is done at the same facility that builds and tests new products on a daily basis, using the same manufacturing and testing equipment.”

Further describing the process, Tebbe said: “Remanufacturing means that complete — not partial — disassembly occurs, with full replacement or upgrading of hundreds of parts that meet the latest specifications. All critical components, such as reeds, rods, discharge pucks, bearings, gaskets, seal joints, the oil pump, internal line break protectors, and solid state modules, are replaced.”

Plus, he added: “Remanufacturing also means compressors go through a dehydration process to ensure minimal moisture levels. Painting of external parts protects against the elements, such as moisture and salt corrosion, and meets adhesion standards to avoid peeling paint.”

From his perspective, Tebbe said contractors need to understand the difference between independent remanufacturers and the original equipment manufacturer.

“OEM-certified remanufactured compressors meet the same stringent requirements as new production compressors for new refrigerants, lubricants, and electronics,” he said. “With OEM-supplied compressors, contractors are getting the latest in technology and design for today’s modern refrigeration systems.”

Problem Solving and Training

Once contractors have found the level of quality they are seeking, there are additional benefits to be gained from remanufactured compressors. Of course, there’s always the cost savings. But Cappabianco pointed out that many of his customers are seeking more than just cost savings — they’re also seeking answers to why their equipment failed.

“We’re spending a lot of our time conversing with the service guys out there who have problems in the field,” Cappabianco said. “We take a look at what happens in the compressor and lead them on to what’s occurring with the system. For a lot of our compressors, they [customers] want to know what caused the compressor to fail, so we do a lot of picture taking and reports.”

This has also led to Cappabianco offering industry training for contractors, both through ACCA’s Florida chapter as well as at private company events.

“More training is needed, and we have to get out there and educate, educate, educate,” he said.

Publication date: 3/30/2015

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