A Transformer Tale

One thing about buying a unique fixer-upper opportunity house is that you get to learn how to fixer-upper stuff you never thought you’d deal with. I’m currently in fixer-upper hell over a lack of air conditioning. And as a side note, the heat doesn’t work either, but it’s May so who cares. So I have fooled with this AC problem off and on  for over a month now, and I think I am finally on the right track. Hopefully. Maybe.

Since neither the heat nor the AC work, after I established power actually getting to the AC, I started thinking I had a faulty thermostat. It’s one of those programmable ones. I hate it, but its supposedly more energy efficient etc. Well, I trace the wiring from the thermostat back to the furnace. There, inside the furnace on the circuit board, I find no red indicator light, and a burned out 3 amp buss fuse. I was thrilled. Could I seriously fix my AC for the cost of a 5 pack of buss fuses?!?! Of course not.

What I did learn though, is that if I put a 3 amp fuse in and press the reset button, the 3 amp immediately blows. However, if I put a 5 amp fuse in, and press the reset button and hold it down, the red light comes on and burns steady with no flashing. if I let the reset button go, the light goes out. For shits and giggles, if I hold the reset and turn on the AC, the 5 amp fuse blows. All this experimentation, along with some help from Google and YouTube led me to this…

IMG_20170510_165334 That’s a furnace transformer which appears to be bad. And filthy. But bad is the part I am worried with. After hauling all over town to get another one, I finally find a universal transformer that should, in theory, work. It doesn’t look the same, though. Not even a little bit.

It looks like this.


But I had already bought it, so I figured I would try it. Keep in mind here that my fixer-upper tools are very, very limited. Like I have a couple of screwdrivers,2 different size hammers, a broken pair of bull nose pliers, a pair of needle nose pliers, and a razor knife I currently can’t find, limited. But by God, I was FIXING this AC, period.


My first bad moment was realizing the furnace is NOT labeled in my breaker box. The entire left side of the breaker box is all labeled, “lights and outlets,” with no mention of which room or anything else. The right side is labeled, but none said furnace. Since my furnace isn’t working, I couldn’t just flip breakers until I found the one for the furnace, so my only other option was to just flip them all off. My hallway gets extremely dark without any lights on. And for all the naysayers that think fans just circulate hot air, trust me when I tell you the temperature went up 10 degrees while all those fans were off.

There I sat, cross legged in the floor of a very dark, very hot hallway. I had a tiny little flashlight, my assortment of screwdrivers, and a paring knife. Why did I have a paring knife, you ask? Because the stupid terminal ends didn’t match up so I had to put new ones on, which meant removing the old ones and stripping the insulation down for the new ones. Which led to my second bad moment.

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to stab myself on the inside of my left knee. Not horribly bad or anything, but enough that the alcohol prep I used to clean it lit me up. Playing it smart after that, I put the paring knife on the floor next to me. Where I promptly managed to jab it in the side of my right foot. Again, not bad, but by then I was hot, sweaty, cranky, and in no mood for paring knife shenanigans. So I picked up the knife in a fit of temper and threw it down the hall into the living room.


It may be hard to tell from the picture, but it stuck in the floor. I was not amused. I was even less amused when I realized that I still needed it for one more wire. I have what can only be called a colorful vocabulary. And now my neighbors, and people up to 3 blocks away know it.

I finally got the “universal transformer” wired up, turned on all the breakers again, hit the reset button and…nothing. Even less than before. At least the indicator light would come on as long as I held the reset button before. I couldn’t even get that to happen. By now I am soaked in sweat, most likely smelling like a herd of dead goats, and cursing like a sailor. Added to that, I realize I have no terminal connectors that match the ones I originally cut off. Of I go to the car parts place about 5 minutes from my house. I am now the proud owner of 101 terminal connectors and a pair of wire cutter/stripper/crimper things.

Off go the breakers, out comes the new transformer, and in goes the old transformer. I still have no AC, but I am convinced I am on the right track, and with the right transformer, I shall smell like dead goats no more.


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