Troubleshooting Air Conditioner and Heat Pump Problems
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This page contains a list of Air Conditioning problems and parts that I use to repair the problems. I see these problems most often every summer in our 22 year old HVAC business. Let us help you repair your air conditioner and save money!
If you have any questions I will be happy to try and answer them. Please
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Hello Everyone! We Hope All of You Have A Happy, Healthful & Prosperous
*Summer Air Conditioning Tips:
your air conditioning system off if there is a threat of a storm.
A lightning power surge, or if the power is goes off and on can ruin your
air conditioning system. We get lots of repair calls after a storm. These
calls could be prevented if people could remember to turn their air
conditioners off during a storm.
I would like to suggest keeping an extra capacitor
on hand. I see lots of capacitors go out during the hot summer months. We
sell capacitors on the following page: Please
click here to visit our capacitors page.
your outdoor air conditioning unit is not coming on at all, then we would
suggest that you first check the circuit breaker to make sure the breaker has
not tripped. Even if the breaker does
not look like it is tripped. Flip the breaker completely off then back on. This
is the first question we ask a customer when we receive a service call and the
says the outside unit is not coming on. "Have you checked your circuit breaker?"
Many times we have gone to homes where the breaker was the only problem. This
simple circuit breaker check could save you an expensive service call.
*When resetting a circuit breaker always
only touch the plastic handle of the breaker with one hand. Do not ground
yourself out to the breaker box or touch any other metal when resetting the
breaker. Always wear shoes. You do not want to be grounded to the box in case
the compressor has ground out.
Below are listed the parts that I see
go out most often. We even have one device that will help start your compressor if it is locked up called "Super Boost!"
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Listed below are many of the air conditioning problems that
I see on a daily basis in our heating and air conditioning business here in Louisville, Kentucky. I wanted to list some of the problems and give you a chance to purchase the parts and repair your air conditioner.
Please see the section near the bottom of this page, "What to Check for If Your Air Conditioning System is not Working." I try to give step-by-step procedures on how to troubleshoot your air conditioning system.
Please click on the thumbnail picture below to see an air conditioning troubleshooting flow chart. This should help you troubleshoot to see what is wrong with your air conditioner. Please click on your browsers back "<" button to return to our site.
Please click here if you
would like to open a PDF file that shows the air conditioner troubleshooting
flow chart. One of our customers suggested the PDF so you can print it
out and take it to your air conditioner for easier troubleshooting. We would love to have your business!
Please always, make sure all electrical power is turned off before attempting to do any heating or air conditioning repairs. Please read our disclaimer and "Safety First" related information near the bottom of this page. Thank You!
Problem #1:Outdoor condensing fan motor has stopped running. This problem could be caused by a bad motor run capacitor. Please see our Run Capacitor Page to purchase a new capacitor. Here is a link to our capacitor page: Please click here for Motor Run Capacitors. If your motor capacitor is not the problem, then more than likely you need a new motor. Is the fan blade tight, stiff or hard to turn? If the fan blade is hard to turn then you probably need a new motor.
Problem #2: Air conditioner compressor will not start. When power is applied to the air conditioning outdoor unit the fan starts, but you hear a sound like the compressor is trying to start, "UGGG"..., for about 5 to 10 seconds and then all you hear is the outdoor condenser fan run. The compressor is locked and will not start. What is happening is the compressor is trying to start, but because the compressor motor is locked it tries to start for a few seconds and then because of the high amperage being drawn goes off on internal overload. The internal overload protects the compressor windings from overheating and burning up. I see this many times during the start of the air conditioning season. Some compressors just have a hard time starting after sitting all winter long. Some compressors are locked up so bad that I can not start them and must tell my customer that they need a new compressor or new air conditioning system. Many times I can get the compressor started again without having to buy a new compressor or new air conditioning system by using the device that I sell below. It is called, "Super-Boost." I keep two or three of these on the truck. They have saved many of my customers from having to buy new air conditioning systems. Below is a description of the "Super Boost" with an opportunity for you to purchase.
The Super-Boost could save you from having to purchase a new air conditioning compressor or system!
The Supco, Super-Boost has the following features that make it a life saver when it comes to air conditioning repair:
The Supco can save stuck compressor by increasing the compressor's starting torque by 500%.
The Supco, Super-Boost is a solid state relay and hard start capacitor no loose parts or complicated wiring. Just wire it across your run capacitor as shown below.
On dual capacitor systems just connect between the "C" and "Herm" terminals. Please see picture below:
The Super-Boost can be used on all PSC single phase 115 volt thru 288 volt air conditioning units from 4,000 to 120,000 BTU.
It can be used on a wide range of air conditioning compressors from 4,000 BTU window units to 10 ton commercial units.
The Supco Super Boost is used for tight or locked compressors, if you have low voltage, or for quick recycling of the compressor.
Below are pictures with an opportunity to purchase. Thank You!
Problem #3: This problem is probably the second most common problem that I see every summer. The problem is a bad compressor or fan run capacitor. The Air conditioner outdoor unit will not come on. Either the outdoor fan does not run, the compressor does not run, or both the fan and the compressor do not run. You checked and reset your breaker and the outdoor unit still does not come on. You can hear a little humming sound, sometimes a "Uggg" inside the unit when power is applied. The "Uggg" is the compressor trying to start. You might hear the low voltage contactor humming. You pull the disconnect and disconnect the power to your outdoor air conditioning unit. Please make sure your electrical power is off before working on any air conditioning equipment.You take the door or cover off your outdoor unit's control box and find a bad, swollen run capacitor. EPA stopped allowing manufacturers to produce capacitors with cancer causing PCB's. Since they stopped allowing the use of PCB's the capacitors now have a shelf life. Many times I see capacitor problems that will not allow the compressor or the fan to come
on. Many times you can clearly see that the capacitor is bad because it is
swollen or even blown apart with capacitor oil everywhere! Sometimes you
will need a special meter to test the microfarad (MFD) or (uf) rating. "MFD"
and "uf" mean the same. Some capacitors will have "MFD" on them and some
will use "uf". Most of the time you can tell the capacitor is bad because it
is swollen up. Please see the picture below for the comparison between a
good and bad dual run capacitor. Capacitors are called "Dual" because the capacitor helps run both the fan and the compressor.
Bad round dual capacitor on the left. Bad oval capacitor on the left. Good oval
Good round capacitor on the right. capacitor on the right.
Solution: You need
to purchase a new capacitor. We have many different types of capacitors
listed on our Run Capacitors Page
We would love to have your business!
There are so many different types and sizes of capacitors that
we have them listed on another page. We will be adding more capacitors as time goes on. Here is a link to our Capacitor Page with an opportunity to purchase Capacitors:
Please Click Here to Go to Our Run Capacitors Page
Problem #4: Air Conditioning outdoor condensing unit or heat pump unit will not shut off. It continues to run no matter what you do. The only way you can get the outdoor unit to shut off is turn off the breaker or pull the outdoor disconnect. Also, sometimes when the contactor fails the outdoor condensing unit will not come on at all. Dirt or insects (I see ants many times) can get in between the contact points while the contactor is off, and cause the air conditioner not to come on at all.
If the contact points are pitted and burnt they might now supply enough
voltage for the compressor and fan to run. If your contactor has burnt or
pitted contacts it is a good idea to replace the contactor. When the contactor is stuck in the "On" position (contacts welded together), Ice will form on the indoor evaporator coil and all the way out to the outdoor unit. I have seen 1 or 2 inches of ice form on the line set and outdoor unit compressor. You will not get hardly any air flow through your duct work when this happens because the evaporator has become a complete block of ice. If this is your problem then your contactor points could be stuck, welded together causing the outdoor unit to run continuously. Many times when ants or insects get between the contactor points the outdoor unit will run (burns the insect out), but because of the uneven wear (arcing) in the contact points the contactor will soon fail. Arcing causes a tremendous heat build up and pitting of the contact points. If you are in an area of the country where insects are prominent in and around air conditions, then I would suggest you blow your contactor out with compressed air or check and make sure you do not have any insects in between the contactor points at the beginning of each cooling season. You might want to keep a spare contactor on hand?
If your contactor looks like the single pole contactor below, with burnt or pitted contacts then you need a new contactor. The picture below is a single pole contactor out of a Rheem air conditioner.
Solution: You need to solve this problem by purchasing a new contactor. We sell them on the following page: Please click here to go to our contactors page.
Contactor's Purpose: The contactor has a 24 volt relay, when this 24 volt relay is energized from the thermostat, a call for cooling, the contacts on the contactor close, making a high voltage (220-240) connection to your compressor and outdoor fan, causing the outdoor unit to come on. There are several types of contactors that we sell. They are sold on the following page: Please Click Here to Go to Our Contactors Page. *Please make sure your electrical power is off before attempting to remove or work on air conditioning equipment. Before changing out a contactor or working on an air conditioner please make sure you pull the outdoor disconnect or indoor breaker that controls the air conditioner. Turn the furnace off or thermostat off so no low voltage is going through the low voltage wiring.
Term-Lok Compressor Terminal Repair Kit Model TLC-3-10:
Problem #5: Compressor will not run. First, you turn off the power to the air conditioning system. Second you remove the compressor terminal cover and find that one or two of the compressor terminals have burned completely off. Yes! that is why the compressor is not running!
Solution: Remove the old burnt terminal/terminals, and use the "Term-Lok" compressor terminal repair kit to replace the burnt terminals and wires.
The "Term-Lok" compressor terminal repair kit is one of my favorite items to have on the truck during the summer time. The "Term-Lok" compressor terminal repair kit has saved many of my customers from having to purchase new compressors or air conditioning systems. I see many, many burnt compressor terminals during the course of the summer. Many contractors will tell their customers, "You need a new compressor or new air conditioning unit." Most of the time this is not true! All you need to do is use the "Term-Lok" kit to repair the compressor terminals and you are back in business for a long, long time. Before I found out about the "Term Lok" compressor terminal repair kit I would try to solder the terminals on using a soldering gun. I found out the hard way that the solder would not hold but for a short period of time. Before long, I would get a call again, "My air conditioner is not working." I would go look at the compressor terminals, and there again, one of the terminals or terminal was burnt completely off again. I could not believe it! Since I have started using the "Term-Lok" repair kit, I have not had one call back for burnt compressor terminals! This new Term-Lok compressor terminal repair kit is not cheap, but it is much better than having to get a new compressor or air conditioning system. This compressor terminal kit costs $40.00. I figure the kit is so expensive because of the brass terminal connectors and the way they have permanently connected the #10 gauge wires. What I really like about this kit is that it lasts! No more burnt compressor terminals! The kit is called "Term-Lok" because it actually locks the wires to each compressor terminal. You use a small Allen key wrench to tighten or lock the solid brass terminals to the compressor terminal stubs. There is an Allen screw that can be placed in either the bottom or top of the brass terminal. This makes the installation easy. If there is 1/4 inch left on the compressor terminal studs, then you can use the terminal lock kit to fix your compressor. Be prepared for the hot summer and have a compressor "Term-Lok" terminal repair kit on hand. Please click on the "Add to Cart" button below to purchase using a secure VeriSign or PayPal server. Thank You!
Above is a Close-up of the three brass terminals with Allen wrench and screws.
Above is a picture of the entire kit. The wires are 36" long #10 Gauge wire
Above are some pictures taken of the label:
Below is a picture of the Installation Instructions. Please click on the thumbnail below if you would like to read the instructions. Please click on your browser's "<" back button when finished reading to return to this page. We would love to have your business!
International Refrigeration Products Low Voltage Universal Transformer #TFM4031:
Problem #6: Nothing works on your heating & air conditioning system. The fan will not blow in the fan "ON" position. The gas burners will not light, the outdoor air conditioning unit will not come on.
Solution: Use a Volt Ohm meter, set the meter to "Volts AC," to check and see if you are getting between 24-28 volts between your "C" and "R" terminals on your low voltage board, or between "R" the red low voltage thermostat wire and ground. You might have to tape the blower door safety switch, to keep the voltage on so you can perform this test. Turn your power back OFF after completing this test using the Volt meter. Check for fuses on the furnace control board to see if the furnace has a low voltage protection fuse. If the furnace has a fuse pull the fuse out and see if it is blown. If the fuse is blown check all your low voltage wiring to make sure it is not grounding out anywhere. I have seen pinched wires that are stuck between furnace doors, animals that have chewed through wires and just weathered low voltage wiring that has lost its insulation due to the hot sun over the years. Any wires that are touching together can cause the low voltage fuse to blow. The fuse protects the expensive furnace control board from getting burned up because of a short to ground. If the fuse is blown then I would go to the local hardware and purchase 5 to 6 new fuses. If you do not find the problem that is causing the fuse to blow right away then you will need more than one fuse for testing. If your fuse is OK or your furnace does not have a fuse, and you are not getting low voltage between the "C" and "R" terminals then you might need a low voltage transformer. I have seen some of the transformers just go bad. Below I explain the job of a transformer. We have pictures of the JARD Magnetics transformer with an opportunity for you to purchase.
What is a Low Voltage Transformer? The job of a low voltage transformer is to take 110 volts AC on the primary end, and transform or lower the voltage to 24 volts on the secondary end. That is why on the transformer label, below it has "PRI" 120, 208, 240 and SEC 24V 40VA. The transformer that we sell can be used with multiple voltages either 120 volts, 208 volts or 240 volts. You would hook up the right color coded wire to use the voltage that you have. The color coded voltage wiring directions are on top of the transformer. For example: The white and black wires would be used for 120 volts for most furnaces. The White and Orange wire would be hooked up if you were using the transformer to replace a bad transformer on an outdoor air conditioner or heat pump that uses 240 volts.
Prevent Your Air Conditioner or Heat Pump from Cycling Off and On too much with a
Delay On Make Timer. Beacon Model TDOM:
This Beacon Delay on make timer replaces the following timers: ICM102B, EAC700, EAC701, TD69, 3310-06, 3239, 32367, IC-310, IC-213, & AC-800.
Problem #7- You might consider purchasing and installing the following device if:
1. You have to reset your air conditioning circuit breaker often.
2. If you have electrical storms where the power is going off and on. I
have many calls after electrical storms. Please always turn your air
conditioner off during a storm.
3. If the power goes off and on often in your home. If the power goes off
and on often in your home then this can ruin a compressor. When your
air conditioner is turned off you should wait at least 3 to 5 minutes
before you turn it back on. If you do not wait the 3 to 5 minutes then
this causes a tremendous strain on the compressor motor because the
motor is trying to start without the pressures being equalized. Please
give your compressor and air conditioning system time for the pressures
to equalize before starting your air conditioner again.
4. If you have children living in your home, renters, or other people who
do not understand that you should wait 3 to 5 minutes before cycling
and air conditioner off and on.
Solution: Purchase a delay on make timer pictured below. You can set this timer to the length of time you want to wait for the air conditioner to come back on from .03 of a second to 10 minutes. What this timer does is delay the amount of time you want your air conditioner to come on when low voltage power is applied to the timer. This low voltage timer is simple to install. *Some of the new thermostats have this delay feature built into them. If you have a thermostat that has this delay feature, then you do not need to purchase the Delay On Make Timer pictured below. If you want to protect your air conditioning system from short cycling and possible compressor damage, then the Delay on Make timer is for you! Please remember to turn off all power when working on air conditioning equipment.
Below are pictures of the timer with an opportunity for you to purchase:
Below we have thumbnail pictures with installation instructions, wiring diagram, mode of operation & specifications. Please click on your browser's "<" button to return to our site. We would love to have your business!
Prevent Refrigerant Leaks With A
Box of 10 Model #JB NFT5-4 Quick Seal Schrader Valve Caps:
Problem #8- Air conditioner is freezing up. You see frost or ice on the suction line (black insulated line) Any areas that are not insulated are covered with ice. You are not getting hardly any air flow out of your registers. Your evaporator coil is iced up completely. Most of the time this is caused by being low on refrigerant charge. There are other causes such as:
1. Dirty air filter or some air flow restriction.
2. Dirty blower
3. Slow or dragging blower motor (might need a new capacitor).
4. Dirty stopped up Evaporator coil (Need to have HVAC tech clean coil)
5. Long Air conditioning run times. Setting thermostat below 72 degrees
with cool outside conditions.
6. A stuck contactor that keeps the outdoor unit running even when the
indoor blower is not running or when the thermostat is calling for
cooling. We sell contactors above.
Most of the time a freeze up condition is caused by a low refrigerant charge. Since the air conditioning system is supposed to be a leak free, sealed system this means you have a leak somewhere. I use the Schrader valve caps sold below to make sure that I do not have a leak in the Schrader valves when I take my manifold gauges off. I install these Schrader caps for insurance, because I have seen leaks in these valves many times. These caps have a rubber seal inside of them and insure a leak proof seal.
Below are some pictures with an opportunity for you to purchase:
Above, Schrader Caps Installed
on an outdoor AC unit.
Above Schrader caps in box ready
to ship. They come in a box of 10.
More on refrigeration leak detection:
I have other leak detection tools such as an alarm type electronic leak detector, $215.00 and a UV black light leak detection system $550.00. I think that finding refrigerant leaks is the hardest job any HVAC technician has to do. With the new EPA rules and regulations it is a must to find the leak and stop it, or I can face a huge fine. First, you visually look for refrigeration oil spots. This is a sure sign of a bad leak. If I can not visually see the leak I use my electronic leak detector, and if that doesn't work I inject a bottle of florescent leak detection solution into the system let it circulate and try to search for the leak with a black light. The leak with show up bright yellow when the UV light hits it. The UV black light leak detection system needs to be done in low light conditions. Sometimes I ask the customer to come back after dark to find the leak or I crawl under a tarp to block the sun light out. This is really fun when it is 90 plus degrees out! Wow! You talk about hot! It is really cool and rewarding when you see that bright yellow leak shining back at you! You can show the customer exactly where the leak is too, but sometimes you have hidden areas that even the light can not detect. About 90% of the time it is the indoor evaporator coil leaking. It must be poor coil construction, added to the expansion and contraction of the metal during the heating and cooling seasons that cause these coils to leak. I replace on the average about 20 evaporator coils a summer! Some of these coil are only two to three years old. I can't believe it! It is just poor construction. I would like to recommend that you get a warranty of at least 5 years on your air conditioning system that would include the indoor evaporator coil. Many times the coils are only warranted for one year. Thanks for reading my frustrations with finding refrigerant leaks. I hope that you do not end up with one of those leaking, out of warranty evaporator coils that I see every summer! God bless you and your family.
What to Check for If Your Air Conditioning System is not Working:
1. Check the circuit breaker to make sure the breaker has not tripped. The breaker would probably be a double pole 30, 40 or 50 amp breaker. Even though the breaker looks like it is on I would still flip it all the way to off and back on again just to make sure. Sometimes one leg of a double pole breaker will hold in the other leg and make the breaker appear to look like it is, "ON" when it has actually been tripped.
2. Make sure your thermostat is turned down to a temperature that will allow the air conditioning system to come on. Sorry! I hope I did not insult your intelligence! I want to try to cover everything! I have been on several service calls when not having the thermostat turned down far enough was the only problem. If your thermostat has the little levers on it then it would not hurt to flip the little lever from "OFF" to "COOL". On several service calls I have seen all that it takes is a flip of this little lever on the thermostat. Sometimes the contacts in the thermostat do not make the connection and flipping the levers will reestablish the connection. I would turn your fan to the "ON" position. Did the fan come on? If the fan did not come on check the switch on the side of your furnace to make sure it has not been turned to "OFF". Make sure your filter access door and furnace door are secure. Many of the furnaces have a switch activated door for your safety. When the door is not completely on the furnace will not operation. This keeps the furnace from coming on when someone is servicing the blower or filter.
3. If your outdoor unit is running listen to determine if the fan is the only thing running or is the compressor running too?
4. Turn off your electrical power to the outdoor unit by pulling the disconnect switch or turn off the indoor circuit breaker. Take the screws off your air conditioner control access panel. Check with a multi-meter to make sure the power is actually off. Touch the top of the compressor. Is the compressor very hot? If the compressor is hot then the compressor could be out on thermal over-load. You need to wait and let the compressor cool down before you test your system again. Sometimes I use water from a hose and gently let it run over the compressor to cool it down quickly. Sometimes it can take 2 or 3 hours for a compressor to cool down. After it has cooled down reapply power. Did the compressor start? Did the fan start? If the fan did not start with the compressor then this is why the compressor over heated. Check your fan motor and fan run capacitor to make sure the fan blade is free and the capacitor is in good shape. You can check the fan bearings by spinning the blade by hand the blade should continue to spin 3 to 5 seconds after you spin it. If it doesn't then you probably need a new fan motor. Another reason the compressor over heated could be that the system is low on refrigerant. Is the suction line (the line with the black insulation) cold like a cold coke can right out of the refrigerator after the unit runs for 10 to 15 minutes. If it is not cold, then you need to add some refrigerant. The refrigerant is what keeps the compressor running cool. If the system is low on refrigerant then you do not get the cool gas coming back to keep the compressor running cool. The compressor over heats, and this will eventually melt the windings down in the compressor and contaminant the whole refrigeration system! This is not good. Eventually the compressor will ground out and you will need a new compressor or new system. Please make sure that suction line is cold or you might be low on refrigerant charge. You will need to call a service technician to charge up your system if it is low. Now EPA require that you be licensed and certified to purchase and use refrigerants.
5. Inspect your wiring to make sure that you do not have any burnt connections. Repair the burnt connections if you have some.
6. Inspect the capacitor/capacitors to see if they are swollen looking. If they are swollen purchase a new capacitor from our capacitor page. Click here for Our Run Capacitors Page.
7. Take the compressor terminal cover off and inspect the terminals on the compressor. Sometimes the compressor terminal cover can be a bear to take off. I use a screw driver to release the metal clip that holds the cover on. Sometimes the cover slides off. Sometimes the terminals unplug from the compressor. If any of the compressor terminals are burnt then you could probably use our Term-Lok compressor terminal repair kit to repair the terminals. Please see Term-Lok compressor terminal repair kit above on this page.
8. Inspect your contactor. Is your contactors points look burnt? You might need to purchase a contactor that we have listed above on this page.
9. When you plug in the disconnect and apply power to your outdoor unit does the fan start and the compressor try to start, but make a "UGGGG" sound. This means the compressor is locked up. The compressor is an electric motor, enclosed in a case, with a piston similar to what you would find in a car. When you hear that "UGGG" sound it is telling you that the piston is locked up. We need to try to unlock the piston. If we can not unlock the piston then you need a new compressor or air conditioning system. You might want to purchase a Super-Boost hard start capacitor. I have used this device to save many a compressor. The Super-Boost is also listed above on this page. If you purchase and hook-up the hard start capacitor and the compressor still will not start then I am afraid you will need a new compressor or system. I say, "System" instead of just outdoor unit because it is recommended that you change both the outdoor unit and the indoor evaporator coil when you install a new system. Manufacturer's say that it will damage the outdoor unit if you do not change the evaporator coil too.
Best of luck! I hope this has helped you to trouble-shoot and repair your air conditioner! I hope you can get your air conditioner up and running again soon! I admire you for trying to repair your air conditioner yourself. Please be careful and make sure the power is turned off and you do not get cut on those sharp sheet-metal edges. Just take your time and think things out step-by-step. God bless you and your family.
Sincerely, Steve Arnold, President,
Arnold's Service Company, Inc.
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Please Remember Safety First
Please read our disclaimer and safety related information below before attempting to do any type of Heating or Air Conditioning Repair. We do not want to see anyone get hurt or shocked! Thank You!
*Please always turn off all electrical power, and discharge the capacitor/capacitors (if working around capacitors) before attempting to inspect or repair any heating & air conditioning equipment. Check to make sure the electrical power is off with a reliable meter. I have never been shocked by a capacitor (knock on wood) and rarely see them discharge, but it is a good idea to discharge them before working around them. Please read below. It tells you how to discharge a capacitor.
Please read the following:
How To Discharge The High Voltage Capacitor: The capacitor is discharged by creating a short circuit (direct connection) between the two capacitor terminals and from each terminal to chassis ground (bare metal surface). Please make sure that you are touching the insulated screw driver handle and not the metal part of the screw driver before attempting this procedure.
Do this by touching the blade of an insulated-handled screw driver to one terminal, then slide it toward the other terminal until it makes contact and hold it there for a few seconds. (Sometimes this can result in a rather "pop!")
Repeat the procedure to create a short between each capacitor terminal and chassis ground.
If the capacitor has three terminals, use the same procedure to create a short circuit between each terminal and then from each terminal to ground.
Disclaimer: Arnold's Service Company, Inc. assumes no liability for any incidental, consequential or other liability from the use of this information. All risks and damages, incidental or otherwise, arising from the use or misuse of the information contained herein are entirely the responsibility of the user. Although careful precaution has been taken in the preparation of this website information, we assume no responsibility for omissions or errors.
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Sincerely, Steve & Barbara Arnold
11506 Seatonville Road
Louisville, KY. 40291