home air conditioner help, please!

OK, I live in Palm Springs, yeah it’s hot but we get used to it, right? Only all of a sudden, my outdoor AC fan unit is making horrendous sounds. Starts out with a noise comparable to 100,000 crickets chirping. Then it moves into a squealing phase, but then it goes back to normal operation. I had a service call the other day ($65 just to hear the noise), and he said it was the bearings about to go out.
I said is that dangerous, like if it keeps running will it heat up and cause a fire. He said it was a possibility. FYI, the unit was installed in 1979, which amusingly enough makes it older than the technician sent out to repair it. The options seem to be a new fan for about $400 or a complete unit replacement for about $2900 (4 ton, middle of the line). If it goes out completely, I have home warranty which will fix it for $35. But it has to be completely non-functional before they do their work. Should I just let it run until it quits? There’s really nothing to catch on fire, but I worry about electrical stuff.

Dang, it’s hot in here right now. This seems like one of those “screwed if you do and screwed if you don’t” situations. It’s gonna be about 110 degrees all next week. Hell, who am I kidding - August is our hottest month. So what’s the verdict?

Does it still cool?

If so, let it run till it drops. If you’re concerned about possible fires, only run it while you’re home. At 25 years, you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

You could sabotage it, I suppose… Not that I would do anything like that, of course. :wink:

OK, a reply from a bona fide (former) A/C technician. Yes, the bearings in your condenser fan motor are toast. No, it won’t cause a fire, but your A/C will cease to function shortly, when either the bearings sieze, or the additional load caused by the bearings kills your fan motor completely.
Btw, $400 to replace a fan motor is robbery. Those motors typically cost the service company less than $50, $75 if it’s a Lennox or such that had special non-standard fan motors. Replacing it is about a 30 minute job for a pro, maybe an hour and a half for an amateur. I would not be so foolish as to advise you to replace it yourself, but that’s what I’d do (have done 4 times) in your situation.
Next, who is your home warranty company? I worked for several of them and if we had been dispatched to your home, we would have definitely replaced the condenser fan motor and billed the warranty company for it. I wouldn’t expct that fan to last more than a week, maybe much less. If you called some random A/C company rather than your warranty company, then you’re out the $65. Chalk it up to “education expenses”.
My advice, call the warranty company, tell them your A/C is working intermittently and you’ll get the fan motor replaced. If you wait, there’s a chance that you’ll lose the compressor as well, and the warranty company will only pay to repair your unit. If you want it replaced (and you should), you’re on the hook for the difference and the difference is whatever the A/C company that your warranty company sends out feels like charging you. We made pretty good money replacing entire systems when the warranty company was paying for the compressor and the homeowner covered the remainder. Believe it or not, it’s faster and easier to set an entire condensing unit than it is to replace the compressor.
Final tip. If the fan motor goes out completely and you have no cooling until the service company arrives, you can temporarily keep your system running by placing a standard box fan on top of your condenser blowing up into the air. Be sure to seal around the sides of the fan so that the air is forced to go over the condenser coils. Like me, it’s not pretty, but it works.
Good luck.