An Unfortunate, Unhappy Incident

Last week was pure bliss. There was just so much happy going on in every facet of my life. Things changed a bit come Monday morning.

Sunday night: After a relaxing evening of Netflix, crocheting and reading I went to bed around 9 PM. Temperature in my house= 62F. 62F is actually four degrees above my normal temperature, but I had gotten an email recently from my plumber warning us about pipes freezing in these subzero temperatures. I didn’t want to have any of that, so I treated myself (and my house) to a slightly warmer temperature. When it’s 62F in the house, my upstairs is like a sauna. Heat rises, of course, but the insulation that I installed prior to my first winter is proving to be very effective. In fact, the only way I’m able to sleep is when I wear shorts, a t-shirt, and if I stick one leg out and at least one arm out above the covers. I was exhausted from the day’s activities, so I fell asleep instantly.

Monday morning, 4 AM: I woke up before my alarm clock, and I was bundled under the covers. And my face was sooooo cold. This never happens.

I was debating on whether or not to look at the time on my phone because I always get so angry when I wake up just before my alarm clock, which was due to go off at 5:09. I had a busy day planned at work, so I wanted to get an early start. It’s always risky to sneak a peek, but I did anyways. When I removed my arm from under the covers, I knew something was very wrong. Brrrrrr! I jumped out of bed and walked downstairs, and the temperature was even colder. I used my flashlight function on my phone to see the thermostat and it was a lowly 41F. OMG. MY PIPES WERE GOING TO FREEZE.

I put on loads of layers then my winter jacket, hat and mittens and then went downstairs to investigate. My furnace actually failed a couple of years ago (my first winter in the house), but miraculously I kept staring at it, doing absolutely nothing, and it started up again. I was trying to use this tactic because I most certainly wasn’t going to mess with anything. Unfortunately, this didn’t work.

I googled 24/7 heating companies and just started making calls. First of all, if you are going to call yourself a 24/7 company, you better be open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, just sayin’. Everyone out there lies. I can’t tell you how many frantic messages I left, or how many companies had someone answering the phone but telling me that their technicians didn’t start until after 7 AM or later. I spoke to someone and explained that my house was at 41F and the furnace was dead. She then proceeded to ask me if this was an emergency. I almost burst out laughing/crying/yelling. After I left about a dozen messages, I decided to head back upstairs to try and get a little more sleep and make the time go by faster. No such luck for me even with extra blankets and my winter jacket, but Fredy settled right in and dozed off for a while.

Curled into a ball. He ain’t going to let the cold ruin his beauty sleep.

With no luck sleeping and growing antsy waiting for someone to call me back, I headed back downstairs to have coffee and sit on the couch with a heating pad on my lap. And Fredy nearby.

7:37 AM: Bonfe calls me and tells me that a technician could come out to my house around 10:30 AM. I wasn’t super happy with the time, but decided to take it and cancel in the event someone could come sooner.
8:14 AM: Bonfe called me back to let me know a technician finished up early and was on his way to my house. Yay!
8:30 AM: With the anxious dog upstairs in my bedroom in anticipation of the technician arriving, I started pacing around the main level of my house. Every couple laps I would look out the front door to see if anyone was outside. Finally, I saw him drive up and I ushered him into the house quickly. He removed the front panel of my furnace and quickly diagnosed the issue. The conversation went something like this:
Technician: “You’ve got a cracked heat exchanger.”
Me: “What does that mean?”
Technician: “It means you’re going to need a new furnace, this one is toast.”
Me: (begin bawling) “When can you come install a new one?”
Technician: “I think the soonest we could install would be Wednesday.”
Me: (even more sobbing)”But I won’t last that long. My house won’t either. My house is going to freeze!”
One of many cracks in the heat exchanger.
Evidence of corrosion.
After further inspection of my furnace, he noticed corrosion on the flume from gases condensing. He even found a sizeable hole, meaning GAS HAD BEEN ESCAPING (for who knows how long). He asked me if I had had any headaches recently. Apparently, at low undetected levels of carbon monoxide you can still suffer some ill effects, like headaches and exhaustion. I did in fact have a slight headache the previous evening, and I never get headaches. If the dead furnace wasn’t enough, this definitely put me over the top emotionally. I could have died…
Hole in the flume.

Let me tell you, I think the sobbing helped in one way. He probably thought I was a frail lady who would never make it until Wednesday, so he offered me a Tuesday 8 AM install. Since nobody else was calling me back, and this had to be fixed, I agreed. At that point he gave me estimates, and I ended up going with an 80% efficiency furnace which is loads better than what I had but certainly not top of the line. After talking with others, I’m really hoping that he didn’t take advantage of my stupidity and price gouge me. Everyone else that I’ve talked to has replaced their furnace at a fraction of the price I paid… In the meantime, he requested that a courier deliver 5 space heaters. He was supposedly on his way.

The technician then removed my old furnace in preparation for the new one. Apparently, with no real force necessary, the corroded flume collapsed. So scary. Eventually, a new furnace was brought inside in preparation for the install Tuesday morning.
The flume broke free.

10:45 AM: The technician confirmed that the courier was on his way with the space heaters, and left me on my own. Temperature of the house= 38F, approaching freezing. At that time I canceled all my meetings for the day and rearranged all activities during the week.

11:00 AM: Space heaters still not here. Boiled a large pot of water, brewed some tea and just starting drinking liking nobody’s business. With mug in hand, I did laps around the house, periodically looking out the front window for the courier.
11:30 AM: Still no sign of the courier. Repeat 11 AM activities.
12:00 PM: Courier arrives with 5 beautiful space heaters. He provided no guidance or help setting up, so I was on my own.
I have never longed for anything more in my life.

12:02 PM: Started plugging space heaters in to the outlets, hoping to get four on the main floor and one upstairs. Upon plugging in my third space heater, all power went out. Nooooooooo. I went downstairs to look at the fuse box that I didn’t know how to use/how it worked. Since everything was labeled horribly (e.g. lights, lights, west wall), I just started flipping switches. I flipped almost all of them in the opposite direction and then back again. Little did I know at the time, that’s not how you’re supposed to do it (another reason why I shouldn’t be a homeowner). At one point, I heard a very high pitched beep when I was flipping the switch, but thought nothing of it. Since this obviously did not solve my problems, I called my mom to vent. While I was talking to her, I heard the most obnoxious high pitched beeping sound, which I soon discovered was my carbon monoxide detector. With the earlier revelation that I was likely already exposed to carbon monoxide, my mom started panicking and telling me that there was no way that I was going to sleep in my house that night. I had other plans though. I felt like the captain of the Titanic who went down with his sinking ship. If by golly my house was going to freeze, I was going to freeze with it! After talking with my mom, I decided to call my aunt and uncle who lived nearby. It turned out that since it was Martin Luther King Day, my uncle was off of work and was able to come help figure things out and get the space heaters working. My aunt was also planning on coming over to pick up Fredy and rescue him from the cold.

1:00 PM: Aunt and uncle arrive in my 38F house. Little did I know what fun would ensue. It turns out my uncle and I created a map of my house, and proceeded to identify which circuits were assigned to each outlet. We identified about 80% of them. It was nice to have one duct going from the basement all the way to the 2nd floor because we had fun yelling back and forth. I would drag a lamp around with me, and he would start flipping switches down in the fuse box, and I would wait for the lamp to turn off. The goal was to identify 3 outlets with different circuits on the main floor and 1 upstairs. We quickly accomplished this, but were having so much fun that we continued mapping things out. By the time he left, my house was a whopping 46F.
2:15 PM: I could no longer stand it. I had been walking around in my freezing house for 10 hours, so I decided to head in to work to thaw out for a bit and take care of a few things because I knew I’d be working from home all day Tuesday. The technician said that it was okay to leave the house with the space heaters that they provided me; it was supposedly safe. I left even though I was somewhat skeptical.
5:45 PM: Rounded the corner of my alley. I approached my house with caution looking for smoke coming from above my house signaling a fire. Not present. Whew. I looked in the back window. OMG, it looks red! Are those flames?? Wait, that’s a reflection… All was well when I returned, and the temperature was up to 51F.
Anyways, it ended up being a very long install on Tuesday. The installer kept telling me that he was getting close when in fact he was still hours out, so that was a bit frustrating. In anticipation, I started unplugging my space heaters AKA electricity hogs, and then I ended up turning some of them back on when the temperature dipped down. He finally finished at 5:30 PM.
The unexpected cost associated with buying a new furnace sealed the deal that I would no longer go to Switzerland for the summer. I tried to think of ways to make up the cost ( I think my math is right :)). If I ate ramen for three meals a day, how long would it take to recuperate the cost? Assuming each ramen packet is $0.25, it turns out it would take 18 years to get my money back. 18 years!! Imagine all the nutritional deficiencies I would suffer. I wouldn’t even last 18 years. I’m sick just thinking about it. Oh, what about if I biked to work every day?! Assuming gas stays constant at $1.75 (haha we all know how steady gas prices are), work is 24 miles round trip, my car gets ~32 miles/gallon and I have about 5 weeks vacation (with holidays included), it would take me almost 16 years to recover the cost. Yeah, also not going to happen.
The moral of the story, expect the unexpected. Plan ahead. Watch for crazy signs that your furnace is on the fritz. Buy carbon monoxide detectors and test them often. Know how to manage your fuse box. Stay warm by wearing layers, drinking hot liquids and moving around in the event this happens. Also, let water slowly drip through all faucets and leave the cabinet doors open to prevent pipes from freezing. Don’t let bad things like this ruin your happy (only temporarily).

2 thoughts on “An Unfortunate, Unhappy Incident

  1. Heating problems always seem to happen on the coldest day of the year. I remember we had a bad ice storm and could not go to school and the heater broke. That turned that fun day of staying home into a fight to stay alive. Thankfully we had electricity so we just ate lots of warm things and bundled up.

    Derick Tyson @ Dorrian Heating


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