Samsung Mini Split Total Fail


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We just removed a Samsung mini split 5 zone installation. The "installation" from beginning to end lasted over three months. The specifications were:

1. compressor 36000
2. fan 1 7000 (shop)
3. fan 2 9000 (office)
4. fan 3 9000 (bedroom)
5. fans 4, 5 9000 (downstairs one space)

It's a small house, about 70 years old, built in the late 40's, cinder block on the bottom, wood frame on top, located in North Texas (Dallas). The house never had central heating or cooling. We opted for the splits after much research. I picked a Samsung because they make good products... or seem to... or so I thought.

I thought that about Samsung until we got this unit installed. Now I'm not so sure.

From the get-go it didn't "seem" to work right. We managed to get the install done before the summer heat ended, and from the very first day we couldn't seem to get it to cool. We called our installer several... well.. I should say, we were in "constant communication" with our installer regarding our complaints.

Our primary complaint would be, we would be in the office, and the system would seem to be cooling comfortably, and then as the day progressed, the office would "seem" to get warmer. It 'seemed' like it wasn't cooling. After a couple of days of this I had our installer back out to "charge-up" the Freon. Perhaps, we thought, there was not enough pre-charge in the system to accommodate our lines. He added an ever-so-small amount of Freon. But it still "seemed" to not make any difference. Eventually, on one of the many service calls, he completely removed (and weighed) the Freon and replaced it to the "exact" amount required. None of this made any difference.

We certainly understood the consequence of having "leaky" windows and ceiling fans, but we were also operating from the stand-point that we had also simple "leaky" window A/C units installed, and they could cool our spaces just fine. This new mini-split system from Samsung just didn't seem to be able to do even half as good as our window units.

When our installer would come out to "service" the unit, he would look everything over, and he would review the lines at the back of the compressor, and he would verify that they were "sweating" like they should be, and he would check that the fan units were blowing cold... but were they?

Out of desperation, and a sincere desire to understand what the system was doing, and be able to more effectively communicate what we were experiencing with the system, we built "multi-zone, multi-sensor" temperature data-logging modules. Each module had three digital temperature sensors on it, and we had three modules (we didn't have time/energy to build 5-monitoring units).

What we quickly noticed was that when we had one room cooling, the office let's say, and we would "cut-on" one of the other rooms, the office would go out of regulation. The fan, in other words, would stop blowing cold. As soon as we would "cut-off" the other room, the office unit would immediately return to properly cooling and proper regulation. Changing the temperature set-point, calling for cooler air, made no difference. Inspecting the outside compressor revealed it was 'barely' running.

This explained what we were experiencing. What we were experiencing was the fan "seemed" to be blowing cold, but it actually wasn't. The room wasn't really cool, it did not have that "crisp/dry" AC feeling to it. Plus I was sweating. As the day wore on, the condition would get worse, until finally we would switch on the window unit, at which point the room would immediately cool down.

Note that still to this day we have not removed the window units, because we could not rely on this mini-split. Thank goodness we didn't remove them!

So, this story drags on and on, but I have attached an image of one of our sensor studies that I sent to our installer for answers. We never got any. We finally got them to remove the installation, and give us a total and complete refund for parts and labor to the tune of about $8000.

We have a whole set of complaints about heat-mode, but I'll stick to cool-mode for now.

My questions to the group here are;

1. What's with this Samsung? Is this just a Samsung thing, or do all mini-splits behave this way?
2. One of the Samsung field support technicians commented on "it wouldn't do this if they had located the expansion valves inside the fan handlers instead of putting them in the compressor". What did he mean by that? Is it "not common" to put expansion valves for the 5-fan handlers inside the compressor, or are the expansion valves normally located inside the fan handlers?
3. In "heat mode" all five fan handlers would output heat. It was told to us that this was necessary to "recover oil" from the system - therefore all 5-fan handler "valves" had to be wide open, and the system was to regulate room temperature by changing the fan-handler fan speed. Is this true?
4. Is there a manufacturer that is actually good and reliable, or is Samsung the best there is and we were just three-times-unlucky? We're now considering a Mitsubishi or LG.

But, even though we had Samsung techs visit our space multiple times, and record data logs from the system, while it was failing, we never heard anything back from them about anything we should be doing any differently.

By the end of the 3-month project, we had effectively installed the system three times: once on first installation, second when all the circuit-boards and sensors were replaced, and third when the entire compressor unit was replaced. Never at any time did any "service call" for Freon or electronics or the new compressor make any difference in the performance profile of the unit.

Attached is one of "many" recordings we made of this performance characteristic profile. It clearly illustrates the "regulation loss" we would experience. Please note we experienced this "regulation loss" in any room, not just the office. If we ran just one room at a time, the system would perform just fine. Cut on only one other room, and neither would work worth a damn.

We would appreciate any feedback from the folks here. We are astonished that we had such a poor experience. We were told by Samsung technicians that they have installed 1000's of these systems with no complaints. We tried everything in our power (including building a multi-sensor, multi-zone data-logger to record our experiences) to "make it work". Nothing we did made any difference. Nothing our installer did made any difference. And the visits by Samsung technicians yielded nothing.
 

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This is what the Samsung delivered in 'heat' mode. It would send heat energy through to ALL the heads. They would get significantly warm when the fan wasn't on, and when the 'fan-only' was turned on, they would blow hot and unregulated. We were told that in 'heat mode' we were to turn all units on heat and fan-auto. And then they had a software 'patch' that was supposed to 'turn off' the fan completely once the room came up to temperature.

My first question is, then, if the fan is 'off' how is it to know what the temperature in the room is? If it has to turn the fan on to 'sample' the room temperature, is it not then dumping all that heat energy right back in to the room?

This hardly seemed like 'control' let alone 'zone control'.
 

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Mark, I would agree that something doesn’t seem to be working properly. I am not an HVAC technician but one of my friends in Florida was. I know that when he retrofitted an older house with a central unit he would do an exhaustive study on the house before doing installation calculations. This would include the windows, walls, insulation and the roof. Some smaller homes would require larger AC units just because they “leaked” so much.

Did your technician do a thorough audit of your house prior to installation? Anyone can install an HVAC unit but it takes a very knowledgeable technician to make it function at optimal performance.
 
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Hi Silent,

Yes, my installer did a thorough audit of the house. It was a well-planned and calculated installation. He calculated our total square foot, each room size, the total BTU requirements as well as cross-room circulation where appropriate.

The issue ended up being, that the unit would 'regulate' a 'single-room', but as soon as a second or third room was 'cut-on' then the first (and all other) room(s) would go out of regulation.

The Samsung engineers had no explanation.

I've been talking with someone who has a 4-zone Daikin and he's been running tests for me in similar conditions, and has way better results to report.

We are now looking in to installing one of those.
 
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Mark, I guess Samsung must be too interested in producing high profit items such as smart phones and computers. Keep us updated on the Daikon system. This will be valuable information for people in the future.
 
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I have a single-zone Daikin that I've just finished installing - so far so good! It runs and regulates great, but it's a single-zone, I'd expect no less. We are ordering a 3-zone system next, and will be installing that for the "upstairs" portion of the house.

We decided to go with "two" separate units after the Samsung Fiasco experience. We figured if one of them fails, at least our home won't be entirely without climate control. I was just too edgy to consider a 4-zone or 5-zone like we had with Samsung.

The 'pedestal' shown here I built for a couple reasons... 1, I wanted something heavy that would absorb any vibration, and I wanted it a couple feet off the ground to keep the muck out of it when it rains. The second unit we will be mounting directly above this one.
 

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