Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Our little red house was cold as a tomb when we got home last night, which was not really so unusual given that the temperature outside the house was fourteen degrees and we’ve got a thermostat that I set so that the temperature inside will slide to sixty-five degrees when we’re at work. It’s supposed to start jacking the temp back up to sixty-nine at five o’clock, normally about a half-hour before we get home, so the place is toasty warm again when we walk in the door.

We ate dinner in town last night, so we didn’t get home until seven, and that should have been my first red flag. I changed into sweat pants and a long-sleeve thermal shirt, and My Darling B put on her flannel jammies and curled up on the sofa with a quilt gathered up around her. Bundled up like that, and with the furnace running more or less constantly for over a half-hour, both of us managed to get blue moons under our fingernails.

Finally, I got up to check the temp on the thermostat. Sixty-seven! What the hell! Even if we lived at the North Pole, the furnace should be able to roast us alive if it runs for an hour and a half!

I went downstairs to look at it, because that’s what guys like me do. We pull the panels off things like furnaces and frown very seriously at the gadgets inside, as if this will suddenly give us the ability to understand what’s going on in there. I saw lots of pipes and wires and dust. I puffed the dust away with my mouth, then frowned at it some more. The fan was running but other than that, not much else was going on.

Then suddenly, flames. That should be a good sign, right? Four bright blue jets of flame went blasting into a row of four steel pipes. I could feel the heat on my face even from a distance and, believe me, I was standing back at what I thought was a respectable distance, even while my brain was dredging up newspaper photographs of houses blasted to splinters by natural gas explosions.

But if there were flames, then why was the house still cold? Ah! The flames went out! They’d been on for maybe a minute, then poof! Done. That could be part of the problem right there. While I waited to see if they would come back, I pulled a few more panels off the furnace, one of which was the cover to the fan. That one was pretty difficult to get off while the fan was turning because it created one hell of a suction. I had to give it a pretty solid couple of yanks before it opened far enough to let in plenty of air, and that was my second red flag.

When I got the door to the fan open, the furnace voraciously sucked in so much air that it mussed my hair. Almost immediately after that, the flame jets roared to life again. I stepped back again – they make one hell of a noise, you can’t not step back – and waited to see if they would stop the way they did before, but they kept on roaring. That made me lean against the wall and ponder: If the furnace wasn’t getting enough air, it would overheat, and there’s probably a safety gadget that shuts the flames off when it overheats. That could have been why the fan was running constantly even though the flames weren’t burning constantly. When I opened the door to the fan, the furnace started getting all the air it needed, the igniters kicked in, the flames started burning, and the HEAT! The heat was impressive now! I went upstairs and it was already starting to feel warmer up there, too. Fifteen minutes later, the thermostat said the temp was up to sixty-nine.

Back downstairs again, I yanked the filter out of the fan compartment and damn me if it wasn’t filled with so much dust that quite a lot came sifting down out of it all over the floor. It’s elementary, my dear Watson: A clogged filter doesn’t let enough air pass through, the furnace overheats, the flames go out and the fan keeps turning, trying to cool off the furnace while giving the impression that the furnace is constantly running, even while the house feels frigid.

Setting the filter aside, I put all the panels back on the furnace before heading upstairs where it was a toasty seventy degrees and My Darling B was slowly beginning to thaw. Happiness reigned once again in our little red house.

clogged | 10:12 am CST
Category: Our Humble O'Bode
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