Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marriage 301, Lecture 396: If you can't take the heat

The 8', lit from the inside, inflatable penguin still has not been installed in our front yard, much to my great disappointment.

(Because I want us to look like tacky people. No, I don't. I don't mind inflatable penguins in other peoples' yards. Just don't want one in mine. But I lost on this one. SH agrees that it's tacky but claims that's what's so funny about it.)

It has not been installed yet because we have had a lot of Drama around here lately. The Minor Drama* has been that our furnace was

1. not working properly, then
2. not working at all

It is difficult to concentrate on putting up an 8', lit from the inside, inflatable penguin when you are worried that

1. you are going to have to replace your 11-year-old furnace whose warranty ran out in Ought Nine, which was a mere 12 months ago
2. You are worried about freezing to death in your own bed
3. You are worried about your cats freezing to death
4. You are worried about your pipes freezing, bursting, and causing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of damage
5. You should have just stayed in the darn apartment with the Crazy Laundry People who did laundry every single day at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. You gotta stay on top of it, you know.

Why is our furnace not working?

Because we did not have it maintained.

We know to have the pear tree pruned every year if we want more than a dozen pears.

We know to have the sewer lines roto-rootered every other year, even though the roto-rootering guys told us just to wait until the next time the basement flooded, then have the lines cleaned in [(Number of years between cleaning and flooding) minus one year] years.

But did we know that we should have the furnace serviced annually?

We should have known.

1. I had my 80-year-old furnace serviced every year when I lived in Memphis.
2. My dad was a maintenance control officer, which meant he was in charge of making sure the planes were inspected and maintained before there was a problem. It's not like I haven't heard of preventive maintenance before.
3. On my overland return from Chile to the US in 1995, I stopped in Panama to visit my old high school. I asked my cab driver what he thought would change once the canal was completely turned over to the Panamanians in a few years. He thought about it for a minute, then told me that when the Americans ran things, the Panamanians would laugh. "They had their black binders and they would look at the binder, then replace a perfectly good cable. We thought they were idiots. But now, nobody does any preventive maintenance and nothing works."

So this was our own stupid fault, although I will point out that the previous owners of the house also did not have the furnace maintained. But still, we should have had it checked, especially when we noticed on the service record posted RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FURNACE that it had not been serviced since it was installed in 1999.

We noticed it had stopped working completely last night at 5:49, 49 minutes after the repair place had closed. SH already had a service call in for today, but now we were without furnace heat completely. We played around with it for a while, SH turning on the emergency override switch, which he knew to do as he is Terminator Engineer and can read those stupid manuals.

I would have gone straight to space heaters, but he wanted to Fix The Problem instead of Watch Friday Night Lights or Watch A Movie, which I thought was crazy, but he's a guy and he's a fixit guy, so I don't want to stifle his creativity, especially if it means saving hundreds of dollars that I could spend on shoes and purses. (See: Gold-digging Catholic Ho.)

It wouldn't work and wouldn't work, even though we kept opening it and shining a flashlight on it (that is almost always effective), so SH called the 24-hour emergency line at the repair place, where he got a recording that emergency calls cost $189 an hour with a one-hour minimum, which made me realize majoring in English was a huge mistake and I should have become an HVAC chick, but it's a little late now.

That was the motivation to try again and lo, Terminator Engineer finally got the emergency override to work. We cranked the thermostat up to 80 in hopes of pumping enough heat into the house that if the furnace stopped in the middle of the night, the 6 degree temperature outside would not drag us into freezing before the repairman could get here.

We watched Tami try to leave the baby at day care unsuccessfully only to triumph at the end and went upstairs, when SH realized that the thermostat was programmed to drop to 58 overnight and the switch from 80 to 58 made the heater turn off and no matter how much SH cussed and moaned the Song Of Something Bad Happened, it wasn't coming back on.

I voted for a night of being cold-ish rather than calling the repair place again and SH thought so too, so he put a space heater in the kitchen and in the upstairs bathroom and left them on all night, which should give us a happy surprise when we get our next WE Energies bill because as my friend Ilene was told after she had used her space heater all month 24-7 in an attempt to save money, it is like running a hairdryer all day. Lots of volts or whatever that is that sucks up money.

We woke up, called the repair place and asked to be first in line. The repairman was already on a call, but came to our house at 9:15 and diagnosed the problem in 56 seconds, which is about 1/60*$189, or $3.15 of emergency labor without the one-hour minimum but only $1.67 of straight time labor, but again. Bad career decisions on my part.

SH was as happy as a guy can be, talking to the repairman, who told us he tinks dat we need to have da maintenance every odder year at least. He stayed for 75 minutes, cheerfully discussed everything he was doing with SH, declined my offer of coffee, and handed us an invoice for $235, which is pretty darn cheap if you ask me, even though I did realize that the $120 for the part he had to replace would have been covered under the warranty a year ago and the problem would have been discovered had we called for preventive maintenance. The End.

* The Major Drama is the Gold-digging Catholic Ho Drama.


Sam Sattler said...

I had the opposite problem here in Houston early this fall (I know you know that Houstonians still run their air conditioning systems until after Thanksgiving). Our AC went out. Repairman came out. System was dead. Had to replace the entire system, partly because of new coolant standards that go into effect in Jan. 2011.

Bottom line: $7800 spent

Only 6 weeks earlier I replaced a similar system at my dad's house: $6400 spent.

You guys were very, very lucky to get by for that charge. :-)

Class factotum said...

Holy smoke. $7,800?

Yes. We were lucky.

How much would it have cost without the new regulations?