Tag Archive | HVAC

I think I strained my whatchamacallit

When I bought my house, I was gifted a nifty 1970’s desk that has real potential. Yes, I like kitsch. So anyway, I set up the spare bedroom as my office, a thing I have wanted since the beginning of time. A mom cave; my own space to do my writing, surfing, kibbitzing, and daydreaming. It was awesome! I had the desk, a couple of cute chairs and an occasional table, even a smallish grandfather clock. There’s a nice size window that lets in the morning sun, limiting my need for the kinda crappy overhead light. Of course, it was still springlike outside when I did this and I was filled with joy. Until summer hit and I discovered that my central AC is central non-AC. Let’s be realistic here. I just bought a house. I don’t have a spare 5 grand laying around to replace the AC. What I have is 2 small window units and a portable AC unit that has seen better days, but only cost me $40 at the local deal-n-dash. I tried, really really tried, to tough it out in my new mom cave. That window with the morning sun made that little room hotter than the 7th circle of hell by 10 a.m. I was hot, sweaty, and stuck to everything I came in contact with. It was a miserable experience. Keeping the office intact, I took my handy dandy lablet first to the living room, and ultimately to my room. No it’s not a typo. I said lablet. It’s a Surface Pro; a little more than a tablet, but not quite a laptop. Lablet. Deal with it.

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I’m not a young woman anymore. I’m not old, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen my 20’s. Sitting on my bed trying to use my lablet became an exercise in constant hip and knee joint pain, not to mention the joyful feeling it gave my lower back. And since I am now doing the writing gig full time, I spend a lot of hours in front of a keyboard. Like on the order of 8-10 hours a day, depending on what I am working on. I sat on my bed because it was what there was to sit on, and it put me in close proximity of the portable AC. My entire bedroom is currently arranged around the beast, a trade off I made to avoid heat stroke on any given deep-south summer day. Not to mention the fact that it’s a lablet. It’s got a cute little purple keyboard, and a cute little kickstand, neither of which are designed to sit on the bed for hours on end to write article after article.

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At any rate, it was starting to affect my productivity. I was waiting until late at night to work, and rising before the sun to work, so that I could whine about my back, hips, and knees throughout the heat of the day. When you write for a news aggregation service, you can’t always do that. So this morning, I bit the bullet and decided to move the desk into my room. Holy God, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I had forgotten how awkward and heavy that damn desk is. I swear I think it is actually made out of cleverly disguised cast iron. It is definitely a solid piece of office furniture, unlike my current desk chair, which is, yes, a lawn IMG_20170723_134411chair with a cushion and a throw I crocheted while darling daughter was in the hospital. Hey, don’t judge. It works. Being the perky little go-getter than I am (stop LAUGHING!) I rearranged my bedroom and pushed, pulled, shoved, and drug the damn desk in here. It’s where I now sit, writing this post. The jury is out on if it’s cooler and more comfortable, though. With all the moving, I think I pulled something. Something vital. My whatchamacallit. That thing. Plus I’m hot and sweaty from the rearranging. So, for today, I won’t judge. If I can actually move tomorrow, we’ll see how it works.

AC – The final chapter

I have done loads of work, it seems to me, on this AC unit with the ultimate goal of having cool air flowing over my fevered brow as I write. Whether it is here, or writing copy borderline clickbait, my little office has a huge window that makes it uncomfortably warm. Added to which I have accepted a research assignment that keeps me for long hours in front of a computer screen. Ok, it just gets frigging HOT up in here. So I did all this work, a bit at a time, as I could afford it, to get the AC running. And now I know a fair bit about AC maintenance. All that remained was to put a vacuum on it, and then hopefully load that sucker up with freon.

So my buddy-who-actually-owns-a-vacuum-pump-and-gauges comes over at the beginning of the week. He HAD to come, because when I called to see about renting the vacuum pump and gauges, the guy scared the doggy doo out of me, and had me convinced that if the AC worked, I could make it not work beyond all repair. Which serves me right for listening to a parts jockey at Auto Zone. Oh, and they no longer rent gauges. So, see? He had to come. And he did, with all his AC accoutrements and the big moment is HERE!!!!! I could already feel that cold air circulating through my sweltering house, turning my tiny office into an tiny icebox office…   …   …   …   …   …

Only, not. Have you figured it out, yet? No? Ok, well the anticlimactic ending to the AC repair saga was that it wouldn’t hold a vacuum. If it won’t hold a vacuum, it won’t hold freon. And just like that, my dreams of writing and chill, Netflix and chill, bathing and chill, ANYTHING and chill evaporated into an overheated puff of steam. So maybe by this time next year I will have saved enough money to replace the AC. But for this year, Graceless under fire is melting gracelessly under the heat.

This Air Conditioner is Killing Me

Ok, so if you’ve been following along, you are familiar with the saga of the AC repair. This freaking AC is gonna kill me, or I’m going to kill it. One or the other. Where did I leave off? Oh yeah. The contactor. The verdict was that I needed a contactor. Like everything else on this damned unit, it wasn’t the easiest thing to find. I went to Mayer Electrical Supply. Very nice folks, truly, but they didn’t have what I needed. The told me to check over at Grainger, so that’s what I did. Again, very nice helpful people. And again, they didn’t have what I needed. Well SHIT. Another customer told me to go over and try Wittichen Supply. He assured me they would have what I needed. Well, why not? I’m already driving all over Birmingham, so I may as well, right? Wonders never cease, they had it! I was so excited I might have had an orgasm. Maybe. That’s sort of what it felt like, if memory serves. I go tearing home, ready to slap this baby in and finally have central AC. Cold freaking air throughout my house.  By the way, whoever installed this unit needs a foot up their butt. Seriously. The access panel is on the back corner, with about 1 foot of clearance between it, the fence and the house. Who the hell does that?? Asshole.

So contortionist act in full swing, I get the cover off, the old contactor out, and the new one in.  I turn on the disconnect, run inside and turn on the AC. It. Blew. That. Fucking. 3 Amp. Fuse. AGAIN! I fully admit that being a girl, I sat in the floor of the hallway and had a brief but intense girly moment. Every woman out there will understand, I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t defeated. I was PISSED. I mean seriously, knife throwing, gun toting PISSED OFF. There was no way this thing was going to beat my ass. Wasn’t happening. So I thought about it, and circled back around to the thermostat wire. So, it made perfect sense to just cut it and see what happened.  It worked. There was a click and suddenly air was rushing out the vents, and the fuse wasn’t blowing. Well hell YEAH! It wasn’t cold air, but it was air. To my way of thinking, if the thermostat wasn’t actually hooked up, the AC didn’t know I wanted cold air. I ran down to the neighborhood hardware store, Richardson’s (they don’t have a website or I would link it) and bought 50 feet of 18/2 thermostat wire.  My plan was simple. I’d tie it to the wire I cut inside, then go out to the unit and pull it through and hook it up. Well, of course it didn’t happen that way. I can’t be sure, but I think they must’ve stapled it to the floor joists, or gorilla glued it or something, because it wasn’t pulling. At all. Now I will do a lot in the name of home improvement, but I won’t crawl underneath a house for love or money. Just NOPE. But that’s ok. I had a Plan B.

Back inside I go, to grab that roll of wire. I ran that crap around the corner, behind the sofa, and right out the living room window. I redneckified the hell out of it, but I got both ends of the wire where they needed to be. I’ll worry about looks later. I wired up the thermostat,  turned everything back on, and BAM! It was RUNNING!! Sort of. Guess what?

The compressor is just kind of laying there buzzing like a cheap vibrator. I swear to God. I can’t make this up. I have a sneaking suspicion this unit wasn’t serviced regularly. Ever. So, once the Noah’s Ark type rain clears out later this week, I’ll replace the capacitor. And get my buddy to check the Freon. And go from there. Jeez.

Ok, It Wasn’t The Transformer

After a few bad moments replacing the furnace transformer, which turned out to be a complete bust, I did establish that the transformer was fine. I should have reached that conclusion a lot sooner than I did, but I blame it on the hot, dark conditions I was forced to work in. At a certain point after I put the old transformer back on the circuit board, while in a deeply sulky state, it occurred to me that I could see the little red indicator light blazing steadily red if I held the reset button in. It only went off if I let go of that button. Well, EUREKA! My learning-to-fix-the-heat-and-air mind finally caught on. The reset switch was clearly bad, right? Right? RIGHT? Sheesh. I should’ve googled how to test a reset switch sooner. It led me to about a million videos on how to test…a transformer. I kid you not. So I tested it. I knew buying that multimeter was a good idea. 120 volts in, 24 volts out. The transformer was just fine and dandy. And cleaner.  In fact the whole circuit board was cleaner. Old paintbrushes come in handy to combat dust and crud on a furnace circuit board.

So I had myself a celebratory shot of vodka and thought about that reset switch some more. I just couldn’t face turning all the breakers in the house off again. It had gotten so hot in there I couldn’t breathe for one thing, and it was now dark outside for another. That meant my only light source was my tiny little flashlight.  I had another shot and mulled over the advisability of just using the switch by the furnace and not killing power to every fan in the house. Comfort won out over common sense. I blame the vodka.

I flipped the little light switch off, used my handy little multimeter to poke at wires and terminals to make sure I wasn’t going to shock the living snot out of myself, and got back to work. Don’t forget I am a very hot (and not in a sexy way) woman on a mission. After studying things for a few minutes I figured the best way to test my theory was to just bypass the reset entirely. So I took it out, and just straight wired the connections. in order to do that with the existing wires in there, I had to pull the circuit board off because it was too short to reach otherwise. So it’s all wired up and ready to go. I did mention I’d had a few drinks by now, right? My dumb ass flipped that light switch back on while I was holding the circuit board. JIMINY CRICKET! For those of you reading this, yeah, don’t do that. I established 2 things in that nanosecond it took me to flip the switch back off. The first thing was my theory was right so far. The indicator light came on the minute I flipped the switch. The second thing was that I needed longer wires so I could actually remount the circuit board because, well, yeah. See above.

All I had  was a length of romex cable. For those of you that don’t know, that stuff is pretty stiff, as it isn’t the bundle of fine copper threads, but a solid copper wire. But it was what I had, so that’s what I went with. After more pokes with the multimeter to make sure I wasn’t going to relive my shocking experience, I replaced the shorter wires with longer ones out of the romex, and remounted the circuit board. Making sure hands and feet were well away from anything that might remotely carry a charge, I flipped the switch back on. Holy Mother of the Furnace Gods, IT WORKED. Sort of.

The indicator light blazed forth, a glorious tiny red beacon, taunting me to turn on the AC and revel in cool victory. So I did. And blew the damn buss fuse. Again. Just bang head here   -X-. The only other thing I remotely know anything about when it comes to air conditioning was the capacitor. Well it was full dark outside so I sure as hell wasn’t going to monkey around in a box that had double the voltage coming in.  So I did what all women in my position do. I posted a whiny rant on facebook, unfriended an idiot (which is a whole other blog post) and sulked some more. While I was pouting, discussion broke out on my post, introducing me to a part called the contactor. So now, when I build up the courage to go play with 240 volts of electricity, I have 2 things to check outside. Maybe today is the day. Maybe not. Probably not, But you never know. I swear to leave the vodka alone until I am done working on it though. You can take THAT to the bank.

 

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.

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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.

Yeah.

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.

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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.