A Rather Heated Situation

The trouble began last Saturday. No, that’s not quite right. The trouble probably began months, if not years ago, but it became painfully apparent last Saturday. I had been out a good chunk of the day, getting my motorcycle repaired. When I got home around mid-afternoon, the house felt refreshingly cool. But then again, I had been hot and sweaty at the time. All I know is I ate a late lunch, sat down in my recliner, and promptly fell asleep for two hours.

When I woke up, the house felt neither refreshing nor cool any more. I walked past a floor register and placed my hand over it. I felt precious little air moving—a bad thing, since we keep our fan set to constant on—and what little movement I could discern did not feel cool at all. I walked over to check the thermostat, which confirmed that something was indeed wrong. The system was set to 74 degrees Farenheit, but the ambient temperature was 77, and climbing.

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I could hear the A/C unit running outside, so I went into the basement to see if the furnace blower was running. It was. As I have said in the past, I am not mechanically inclined. Still, I tried to figure things out before calling my local HVAC shop. I pulled the filter’ couldn’t see through it. I replaced the filter, then went around feeling vents again. Air flow may or may not have been marginally better, but coolness wasn’t happening. The thermostat read 78, then 79, then 80. This was a bad trend.

Under other circumstances, I’d have stripped down to minimal clothing, poured myself a cold drink and waited until Monday, to avoid paying emergency service rates. But we have pets in the house, including a somewhat elderly cat (she lies about her age) and a rabbit, both of which are adversely affected by heat. People? Bah. My own children? Lett’em cook. But my animals? I picked up the phone.

The shop’s answering service had the tech on duty call me. I told him what I saw and what I had done so far. He suspected a few possibilities, but wanted to try the path of least resistance, to save himself a trip and save me a $180 house call charge: Shut down the A/C, but let the fan keep running. If the system is iced up, let’s try to defrost it. I did as instructed and thought air flow was improving, but after turning the system on some hours later, it was apparent that cool was still not happening. Fortunately, the outside temps had dropped overnight and between fans, shades and windows, we were able to limp along until Monday morning.

My local shop has always been responsive, though not necessarily cheap, and they were able to get a tech out the same day. The news wasn’t good and by the time the final bill was tallied, I was only happy that we hadn’t endured an emergency service charge on top of everything else. The system had lost most of its refrigerant and fried its contactor. So while it gave the appearance of working, it wasn’t actually accomplishing much—just like a number of people I have known over the years.

On top of all that, the system itself is over 20 years old. It probably got installed when the house was built—along with all the other contractor grade garbage the builder had used. But I digress. The point was that parts for this thing are no longer easy to come by. So along with the sizable bill that for this visit came the advice to start thinking about replacement.

As I sit here writing this, my family sleeps soundly, humans and pets alike. My thermostat displays the happy news that the intended temp and actual temp are one and the same again. My bank account, on the other hand, is many hundreds of dollars lighter than it had been when this story began. Three pounds of refrigerant, some sort of stop leak product/process, a new contactor (whatever that is), and the services of a guy named Bob all contributed to this intense lightening of my finances.

But my house, my family and my pets are all quite comfy tonight. Who am I to complain? Thanks for hanging with me.

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