CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)


HED:Coldly, I fought the laws and the laws won

By Charlotte Wolfe

Daily Journal

Murphy's Law has been at it again - if anything can go wrong, it will. Sure enough, last Thursday night, while the weather was quite chilly, I heard this funny noise in the hallway where the internal heating unit is located.

Then the unit stopped. OK, I thought. This is a split-unit heat pump. It's warmed up to the desired temp and when it drops a little, it'll come back on.

I waited. It came back on, sort of. Normally, it just clicks and whirls right on up to the normal speed. This time it just clicked and then sounded more like Grandpa groaning, trying to get his rocking chair going, but just couldn't.

The outside unit was deathly quiet. Trying to be optimistic, I kept telling myself it was just going through its cycle, too. An hour later, no noise still from outside.

Great! The inside unit was still trying to get going, the outside unit was not coming back on and the little red marker on my wall thermostat was going down, down, down.

For safety reasons, I just cut it off and let the fan blower rest since its giddyup and go apparently had gottyup and went.

So what's a person to do at 11 p.m. with no heater when it's getting colder than you know what in the house?

I ran for the bed and covered up while the warmth was still in there and didn't put my nose out until morning. Of course, morning came, and it was colder than before and all I could think about was that cold toilet seat.

The fireplace was my next stop. As long as I stayed in the living room, everything was OK. Wrapped up in several layers and an afghan, I finally reached the company, explained the problem and begged for help.

Within 30 minutes, my regular repairman was there. Soon, I knew the fan motor in the internal unit was shot.

Here's where the next law comes in: Firmage's Rule of Auto Repair (or heating units): That which is attached with only two bolts is directly behind something attached with eight.

I had noticed silence for quite a while and had wondered if my repairman had propped up in the hall closet where the unit was mounted and fallen asleep. Then I heard a grunt and he told me that you'd think if these motors went in, that they'd surely come out. I just grinned and put on more wood.

The motor finally came out, and off the repairman went to get a new motor. When he got back, I guess he'd worn the unit down, and it seemed to go in a little better than it came out.

He then started it up and all I remember is saying how I hated the smell of a heater when it came on for the first time. Then I saw smoke in the dining room and "suggested" that we had a problem.

I have a real fear of fires and I'll admit I basically panicked. I probably scared this guy a lot more than the smoke. He checked everything out and was perplexed, too. There was no fire, just smoke from the initial startup of the fan motor.

As he told me later, the wiring is color coded and he hooked it up just like it should have been. I instantly knew what the problem was since my cousin, the electrician, had found in his repair work for me that very little was right in the house before he fixed it.

So with the wiring redone, the fan came on, minus the smoke, and the fan now sounded like Grandpa going faster in that rocker than he'd ever imagined.

As the house heated back up, I shed my afghan and the additional layers of clothes, and prepared for the continued bitter cold.

Thus comes the "Third Law of Workplace (or Homes) Climatology: Repair of the heating system signals the onset of warmer weather." And it's been warm ever since. There oughta be a law.

Charlotte Wolfe is managing editor of the Daily Journal.

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