Wait, It's October?

It was my plan all along. Just when you were thinking, "is Tom even doing this stuff anymore? Where is he? I miss him..." I come storming back, a triumphant return to this blogmotron with my first post in over two months.


Straying from my typical long-winded, inanely detailed, chronicles of overexertion and inflated expectations, this is just a quick update on our continuing quest (NOTE: this is not true, this post is stupidly long andI won't be offended if you don't read it, really). Last Friday, I flew up to Michigan to meet Jessie to go to our awesome friends' wedding (it was awesomely awesome). Before I left, it was exactly 81 degrees inside our house (yay for no exterior wall insulation!). Skipping ahead to Monday night at 10pm, we arrived home to a house that was 63 degrees at the thermostat. Again, yay for 1923 building standards. How did summer disappear over a weekend?

At any rate, we switched the thermostat to heat, turned the temperature setting up to a balmy 66 degrees, and voila! Nothing, naturally. No noise, no fan, nothing. All we want is to not be frigid all night (mainly my lovely wife wants that), so into the dungeon we go, heading straight for the furnace.

We have a Trane XE60 gas furnace installed in the late '80s. It's not particularly complex (or clean), but it works...or so we think. No problem, should just need to spark up the pilot light. 5 minutes, tops.

Yeah. After 16 hours of driving (plus another 5 or so sleeping in the car) our mental capacity was quite diminished. Fail. Let's grab some blankets and hunker down for the night.

The next night I come home from work and set a task list to get done, starting with (1) fix the furnace. I walk down the stairs, ducking under the way-too-low floor joist, taking a few steps on the uneven concrete floor while noticing some small bits of pink insulation on the ground. Strange, but those are probably just from the HVAC flex pipe that got torn up by something of unknown origin, no big deal. Side note: this is not an efficient way to add a vent in your unconditioned basement.

Another step, then CRACK. My feet freeze. My head slowly angles down, my foot twists out of the way to uncover a half-eaten pecan. Funny, I thought the pecans fell off the trees outside, not onto the basement floor. Then...a squeak.

I sharply dart my eyes to the left, around the furnace to see my worst nightmare: a cute little squirrel. Only this time, he's pissed. "Oh, that's who tore up the insulation, awesome," I think to myself. Squirrelly McGee there was squeaking and hissing up a storm, so I grabbed the remains of the pecan and threw it at him. Brilliant! Now he's hiding behind the septic drain in line in the corner.

Apparently, I was blocking his exit, which I later found to be just above the pile of empty cardboard moving boxes near the ceiling in the hallway. Steve (that's the squirrel's name) came out and ran to safety when I went upstairs to get a some wooden skewers to help light the pilot. At some point I would have to stop that noise, so I wedged one of the aforementioned boxes over the hole leading to the underside of our porch. "There," I said, "Problem fixed forever." (Problem vs. Ingenious Solution shown below)

Finally, I can light the pilot. The front panel just slides down and off the furnace, revealing a bunch of wires, some pipes, and a big bulky valve with a knob on top. In order to light the pilot in this particular furnace, you need to have it powered on, turn the knob to where the "Pilot ->" part lines up with the marking on the front, press and hold down the knob, while sticking open flame into the opening below the valve. There will be a little poof from the gas built up in there igniting, then it should calm down.

If you're like me, you will have completed this step, then let the knob up, and the flame will go out. Do it again, only this time, HOLD THE KNOB DOWN. The flame will go out every time until the temperature sensor heats up. This sensor is what tells the valve it's ok to let out more gas, because if it's not hot, then there's no pilot, which means gas would just start filling up the entire furnace, then the whole room, then the house goes kerplooey. So I do it again, letting up when I think it's fine, and it goes out again. Third time's a charm, as this time I hold it open for a good 30 seconds. Behold: fire.
At this point you can rotate the knob back to the "ON ->" position, which will let gas out to the burners if the system is on, and you'll have heat. After heating up for a little bit, the fan kicks on and starts blowing hot air to the all the vents (and to the "new vent" in the basement). All fixed, right?

Wrong. Anyone else sick of this crap? Ugh. Well after about 15 seconds, the fan stops. 15 seconds later, the fan kicks back on. Off, then on, then off... Man this is annoying. Check the thermostat: mode = heat, temperature setting = 66, current temperature = 63, fan = auto. No problem there. Go back to the furnace and poke around some more. That's when I see this fancy little gizmo.
Note the warning that says "Don't turn the dial, you have to hold the dial while moving the tiny pins, idiot." Having never actually messed with this in a furnace before, I was trying to make sure I knew how it worked before I kerplooey-ed the house, so I watched it. The burners turn on and start heating up, so the dial starts turning clockwise until the middle pin is at the mark in the bottom middle, which triggers the fan to turn on. Then, the fan blowing cold air past the heating element cools it down, so the dial turns back counter-clockwise until the left pin meets the mark, where the fan clicks off. Rinse, repeat.

The point of this temperature control is just that, so that if the burners aren't getting enough gas or getting hot enough, the fans won't keep pushing air out that's not actually warm. However, this dial was set so the air temperature had to be at least 100 degrees, which is too high, so I move the lower limit pin down to about 80-ish degrees and see what happens. The furnace reaches a stable temperature in the 80 to 100 degree range, so now the fan stays on until the thermostat the house has reached the desired temperature.

Hey wait a second, it's working. Nice. That only took 10 times as long as it should have (that's half as long as the usual 20 times). Oh, also this happened...

..but I'll save that story for another time.

- Tom
Currently listening to Fantasy Focus Football on ESPN Radio Podcenter ('tis the season)

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