Monday, June 28, 2010

Rot in hell AGAIN HVAC techs.

You know how people are superstitious about celebrities dying in threes? Well, my crap always dies in threes.

Yesterday - it was suppose to get to the high 90's, so we figured we would hang out at the house and do some e-cleaning. Put all the electronics that didn't work in a pile and take them somewhere. It's mostly old drives. I chew through them.

We did that for about half a day when we realised our air conditioning wasn't working properly. By accident really. The house was still getting cold, but the inside unit was making this hissing sound that you often get when the washing machine is filling up, or you are watering your lawn.

We thought it was something with the inside unit, but went outside anyway only to find that the blades on the air conditioner were not spinning. Which was fantastic (said sarcastically) because our area actually got over a 100 degrees.

For us - this isn't a big deal. But, for the bunnies - it is a super big deal. They can't pant, and don't handle those kinds of temps well. So, we have to figure out if we are going to bug out. I.e. Take them to a hotel. If Willow would have still been alive, we would have had no choice. With his advanced age, he just wouldn't have been able to handle it. With the other bunnies it was borderline, and we decided to hobble them through with frozen water bottles. It also helps they are in the coldest room in the house.

Then we set to calling our heating air conditioning guy. Even though this is the only guy we trust not to rape us, we knew that we would not get a call back. Not a single heating or air conditioning tech will work nights or weekends in this town. Ever!

So, we figure we can try to fix this thing. Mr S. knows about electricity. I can take things apart and put them back together. Still, its a huge unit.

After I find the dummy screws. You know - the screws that say, if you can't find these, you shouldn't be working on this unit, dummy. We were able to get side access and find out there are only like 4 parts in this thing. The compressor, the fan motor, a capacitor and a board.

I'm feeling like I have almost a 25% chance of randomly picking the right part. The house is still getting cold, so we're pretty sure it isn't the condenser. We narrow it down to the fan motor and the capacitor. The Internet says there is a good chance it's the capacitor, but it usually swells when it goes bad. Ours isn't. We decide to buy both parts today when the part store opened.

Mr S. goes to a meeting. I go to the parts store. I have the capacitor on me. When I get there - the guys aren't sure which motor they should give me and tell me I should bring the motor in. I buy the capacitor.

Oddly, a customer walks in right after me. Laughs. Then comments that I'm buying the same part he was. Laughingly, I say - It's that time of year. When he sticks his capacitor down on the counter I say - oh look, you can see yours is swollen. He looks at me. See - mine is nice and flat. They don't use all the toxic chemicals anymore, so they go bad more often. He sort of laughs and gives me this look like - how do you know that? I notice it, and tell him that I listen to my husband. He's fine with this.

This interaction makes me more convinced than ever that it is the fan motor since my capacitor is not swollen. Still, once you buy a motor - you can't bring it back. I agree to bring the broken one in.

When Mr S. gets back from his meeting, I tell him we should just take the motor out and go get it. He wants to try the capacitor. And convinces me to try it - by taking the ohm meter to it to see if it acts different than the old one acts. It is sort of a pain to take the unit apart and put it back together twice. But, it makes enough of a difference that I decide to put the whole thing back together with the new capacitor and the old fan motor. I'm still 50% sure this isn't going to work.

He puts the fuse breaker back in, and goes inside the house for the circuit breaker. I'm at the unit outside. With a hose in case something catches fire. We are talking to each other on the cell phone so I can tell him to cut the breaker if something pops. What did we ever do before cell phones?

He tells me he's going to turn on the AC. The blades start spinning up! To great excitement for both of us. First, because the capacitor was only 50 bucks. Second, because there is no greater joy than fixing heating and air conditioning yourself. You can't get that much help from the Internet, and pretty much everything in there will kill you. I'm not even joking.

And third, the economy must not be that bad. I would have paid Sunday rates. I can get parts on Monday. If our guy would have fixed it that day - we would have been happy to pay him. He could have told us it was the motor and we wouldn't have known. If I was qualified to fix these thing and there was a recession going on - I would work nights and weekends. For a mark-up of course.

Hell - If that motor was at the store this morning - I would have bought one anyway. And still have felt like I was getting a deal at 150 bucks for both parts.

You just have to make sure you label all the wires with tape so you put them back in the right order. Make sure all the power is off at the breaker and the fuse box. And, verify it with an Ohm meter. Again - this stuff will kill you. Did I mention it will kill you?

Anyway... every time those blades spin up - it brings a smile to our faces.

This is the capacitor as it sits in the unit.

The only telltale sign it might have been the problem is a small burn mark. It's the one on the left.


  1. WTG! Congratulations on a job well done!!! (I'm totally impressed. :D)

    We hit 102 today -- how 'bout you?

  2. Thanks! I feel kinda proud. Those HVAC guys at least charge 100% markup. Sometimes 1000%. It is a recession Yo! Everybody is talking about the cliff.

    Weekend warrior to the rescue.

    Mother nature knew we won - so only 96. Now it will cool down. If my AC would have stayed broken, it would have reached 105.