March 16, 2006

Furnace Follies: The Sequel

Devoted readers may recall that we had a few minor adventures in home
heating a couple of months ago. NW Natural came out and checked it,
did the one of four possible things that was free that might have been
the issue, and it's been fine since then. It seems we've been dealing
lately with one of the other three things, and hopefully have found the

Monday morning, we woke up to no heat. Fortunately, that was the day
that Matt had conferences, so he didn't have to go in until noon. We
picked a name from the book (Home Service Heating), called, and a guy
came out and fiddled with it. The gist (Matt talked to him about the
specifics) was that the furnace thought it was overheating, so it shut
down. He pushed a button somewhere in its gizzards to reset it, and on
we went.

Until around 5:30 that night, when I noticed I was a little cold. Then
I went to look at the thermostat and saw why: it read 64 degrees!
Uh-oh. I call Matt; he's in conferences, of course, so his cell is
politely and professionally OFF, and he can't tell me where the magic
button is. So I called the furnace people again. They very nicely
sent the guy out again; he showed up at my door about fifteen minutes
later, with some tiny electrical THING hanging from his lips.

It turned out to be a bypass device, since he'd figured out by its
behavior that what the furnace needed was a new part. The part that
keeps it from overheating, in fact. He did, however, turn the whole
shebang on once the bypass was installed, and stuck his entire arm into
the relevantly heating part; he said if he wasn't grabbing his arm in
agony, she wasn't overheating and the monitoring part was definitely
skewed. This solution (bypassing the fried part) was not ideal, but it
would keep us in warmth until the part could be shipped. Having
chatted with a NW Natural guy a few years ago, I was not as worried
about heating this way as you might think; most of my hatred of the gas
is from the gas line itself (and the flame). I tend to have a lot of
respect for electrical devices with multiple back-up redundancy
protectors (see how redundant that is?), which this furnace is.

Tuesday the furnace worked (and I turned 35. Kudos, warm thoughts, and
thanks to those of you who were kind enough to send felicitations. :-)

Wednesday the furnace worked.

Today, Matt left for Nat Quals (and the furnace was working). I got a
call this morning, saying the part was in and would someone be home
today or tomorrow to install it? So, around noon our same guy (Ron)
appeared, installed the part, and went on his merry way.

I realized in retrospect that although the furnace was on, it hadn't
cycled while Ron was here, since the temperature in the house was
humming along perfectly at 70 degrees. This turned out not to be
so....well, hot. Two hours later, I noticed it was 69, and thought,
you know, I haven't heard it kick on lately. So I turned it up to 73
(it's calibrated to try not to be more than two degrees away from
wherever it's set, so that should have been plenty...). Nothing.

So, I called the repair folks again. Back comes Ron (fortunately, not
waking up Laura from her nap, though my chance to sleep was pretty well
shot for the day.) It turned out to be something "stupid", to quote
him, a wire snagged somewhere it oughtn't to have been. All is well
now, as far as I can tell. It remains to be seen how much of all this
we'll be charged for; we already paid for the initial visit, and
obviously we'll pay for the part, but I'm not sure where the rest will
fall out. Anyway, we're glad to have heat for the nonce, and hopefully
this will be the end of that particular saga for a while. (Ron was of
the opinion that there was a lot of life left in the furnace, though
it's an '89...the year I graduated from high school. :-) We did talk
to him on Monday about other options; I've always wanted a heat pump,
unless I find out about something even more energy efficient and
practical, and we may go that way in a few years. But we'd prefer to
put off big expenses wherever possible, of course. )

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