Tech Tip: Replacing Refrigerant Lines Outside

We recently replaced refrigerant lines that were leaking as part of a heat pump change-out job. The customer was very anxious about running new lines because the outdoor unit was on the ground but the indoor unit was in his attic. He has a brick house in a very nice neighborhood, so opening up the walls was not a good option.

Several of his neighbors had their lines replaced, and they were done in an unsightly manner. One neighbor had the new lines run up outside his brick walls, and others had the same thing done, but a galvanized sheet metal shroud was used to cover the pipes.

We’ve found that a better way to hide refrigerant lines is to encase them in a downspout. This is especially true if the house already has gutters and downspouts installed, so we can match the existing downspouts.

To start we just cut a hole in the roof overhang (soffit) the same size as the downspout.We then fish the lines through the downspout, with about five feet of line extending past the top of the downspout. Taping the lines together first makes the installation easier. Then, with one tech in the attic to pull the lines and one outside pushing the lines, the refrigerant lines are pushed through the opening until the top of the downspout enters the hole in the soffit. Having two techs installing the lines helps keep the lines from getting kinked. The line in the attic is then spliced to the existing lines, or extended to the indoor coil as needed. It’s easy to put elbows on the outside part of the lines and extend them to the new outdoor unit as well. Sometimes, depending on roof construction, the lines are strapped to the house. If the roof has a shallow pitch, we may use stand-off brackets and mount the downspout a little further out so the lines don’t get kinked going into the attic. We’ve also used downspouts to hide both power and low voltage wiring as well as drain lines. We’ve even used this method on three story condos with very good success.

Most home supply centers carry aluminum downspouts in white and brown, to make it easier to match the existing downspouts and/or trim. They come in different sizes, and I’ve also seen PVC downspouts as well. Using downspouts creates a more professional appearance for your job and will make your customer happier as well.

Kevin O’Neill, CM, is the co-owner of O’Neill-Bagwell Cooling & Heating, Myrtle Beach, SC. He has 31 years experience in the HVAC service business, is a 24-year member of RSES, and was a finalist in the 2005 NATE Certified Technician Competition. Kevin can be reached at 843/385-2220; email [email protected]

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