Here at the ACHR NEWS, we recognize that HVACR contractors are our greatest resource. Often, you are the eyes and ears on the ground for us. 

This was certainly the case a few weeks back when some contractors began letting us know about a problem they were having with thermostatic expansion valves (TXVs) this summer. Butch Welsch, from St. Louis, had to replace eight TXVs in one day in July. Paul Sammataro out of Plano, Texas, reported his guys were changing out two to three per week. Current ACCA chairman David Kyle lamented the dissatisfied customers the issue was generating.

The NEWS prides itself on providing contractors information that will help them in their businesses. Nothing brings me more joy than hearing a contractor say he improved his company’s bottom line after reading something in this publication. Well, maybe the Olive Garden’s never-ending pasta bowl brings me more joy, but you get the point.

A few weeks back, The NEWS began chasing down this story. We dug through the smoke and discovered a fire. It was confirmed that the unusual number of TXV failures was due to the presence of a sticky, sludge-like substance found on the cone of the TXV. There is a lot of chatter about the cause of this issue, with many pointing fingers at the unit’s compressor.

That is where The NEWS hit a brick wall. While contractors were more than willing to discuss the problem, we did not find as many talkers among the OEMs and suppliers. They were as quiet as I am when visiting the in-laws. And, probably for the same reason, anything said could eventually cause problems.

Was some of this an attempt to build cover from a public relations standpoint? Maybe. Was some of it the cause of legal concern? Probably. Was it an effort to maintain supplier-manufacturer relationships? More than likely.

The NEWS doesn’t blame those folks. They have to worry about their businesses and bottom lines, just like contractors do. We respect the decisions and choices they felt they had to make.

The NEWS walks the line of informing our readers while keeping our advertisers happy. But, at the end of the day, the HVAC contractor does not care about this inside baseball. They want valuable information to help them in their businesses. And that is why I am writing this editorial. While the publication simply can’t provide the entire story — we have been told about the problem but not the solution — we can provide a few items and try to raise awareness.

The most important fact is: This is not a TXV problem. If you simply replace the TXV, there is a good chance you will be back at that house in front of an angry customer. It has been discovered that a foreign contaminant is causing the TXVs to stick, resulting in the system failures. This is not relegated to just one OEM but has affected numerous.

This is a very complex issue that is changing daily. The solution might very well be different depending on what manufacturer’s brand you install.

Finally, this last point is probably the most important. Over the last few weeks, multiple OEMs and suppliers have released service bulletins to update distributors and contractors on the problem. I urge readers to look them up and review them carefully. HVAC contractors are extremely busy, and sometimes it’s hard for manufacturers and suppliers to disseminate information. But all contractors need to read these to get a better understanding of the issue so they can convey the facts to their customers.

Contractors need to come up with a plan to protect themselves financially if they are facing this issue. One service manager told The NEWS that it doesn’t matter where the fault lies — all that matters is that the contractor creates a plan to handle it.

The NEWS will continue to monitor this story. However, we wanted to write this editorial so as not to be negligent in keeping our HVAC contracting audience the most informed in the industry.

Publication date: 10/6/2014

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