Friday, March 6, 2015

The Joys of Homeownership

I woke up this morning, and it was cold in the house -- much colder than it should  be.  I knew it had been cold outside (about -2 I learned later), but it still shouldn't have felt that chilly in the house.  I was not amused, to say the least.

There are 3 main things I should never be asked to deal with in the morning before I have my coffee:

1) Pondering any issue that is going to require deep, weighty thought
2) Emotional issues
3) Critical problem solving

I'm not saying that I can't, haven't, or outright refuse to handle those matters before having coffee -- I'm just saying that I am not going to be happy about it  most likely going to be cranky, or less pleasant than usual.  Waking up to the possibility that my furnace was not working pretty much tapped into all of those areas.

I should probably give you a little background on my furnace.

I love you furnace!  You're not old, you are aging like a fine wine.

 It normally does a superb job of keeping the house nice and toasty in the winter.  It is an older model, and I'm always afraid that it is going to give up on me or break and cost a small fortune to repair.  When I say "older model", I mean it is older than I am.  I'm not sure they even make them any more.  To put it another way, the top two Google search results are from newspaper archives:

1963.  I think that qualifies as not being the latest technology.

The first winter that I owned my house the heat stopped working.  I called a local company to come fix it, clean it, etc.  They had to make one little repair, and taught me how to re-light the pilot.  I had never had natural gas heat before and had no idea what to do.  The technician was awesome, and he told me to just keep this furnace and run it until the day it is no longer able to be fixed.  He said the older models are great because there are fewer parts that can break.  I took his advice to heart.

That does not make me worry any less when, on occasions like this morning, the heat stops functioning.  I'm always worried that I will have to re-light the pilot and manage to blow up myself and the house in the process.  This is a particularly daunting task to face first thing without coffee.

The first thing I decided to do, hoping to avoid the drama with the pilot lighting, was to check the thermostat.  It was completely blank.  I have never seen it do that before.  The thermostat has its quirks -- about a year ago it randomly decided to switch from registering the temperature in Fahrenheit and decided to display it in Celsius instead.  I have no idea how to switch it back.  I have learned to just go with it.  

A blank display was an entirely new quirk.  My pre-coffee brain decided that the best way to investigate this problem was to give the thermostat a good tap with my hand and see if anything happened.  I'm going to call this the Cave Woman Method of problem solving.  Me Hit!  Me Fix! Coffee Now!

Turns out the Cave Woman Method actually works!  The display came up flashing "lo bat" and registering that the house was a balmy 12 degrees Celsius.  For those of you unfamiliar with metric conversions, that's about 53 degrees Fahrenheit.  (I had to Google that on my phone this morning.  Math is not my strong suit at the best and most coffee-filled of moments.)

Thank heavens the thermostat does not take some spectacularly weird type of battery!  2 AAs would solve my problem.  I'm not a "prepper" by any means, but I do keep a supply of AA batteries in the house.  Okay, so I have those particular batteries because I need them for very important things like the television remotes, and the mouse for the laptop.  But hey -- looks like they come in handy for the thermostat too, so bonus points to me for being accidentally prepared for this little emergency!

I might have started praying to any and all deities that would listen that new batteries were going to fix my problem.  I cannot stress enough how much I did not want to have to go try to restart the furnace.  On top of the whole "I-Might-Blow-Myself-Up" worry, it also would require a trip to the cellar.  The cellar is also known as The Realm of the Spiders.  I do not go down there unless it is an absolute necessity, and it requires Spider Protective Clothing (a hoodie).  I f*^king hate spiders.  They creep me the hell out.  I want as little contact with them as possible, and I absolutely do not want to them or their webs touching me.  

I put the new batteries in, turned up the heat, and literally held my breath while listening to see it the furnace was going to kick on.  It took a few very stress-inducing moments, but then the rumble kicked in and a swoosh of warm air followed shortly thereafter.


I'm happy to report that this evening my house is nice and toasty at its normal temperature.

Now, the thermostat had been normal when I turned it down before going to bed last night.  My best guess is that the batteries started to register as "low" at some point shortly after I went to bed.  Once they were too low the thermostat stopped running, therefore never triggering the furnace to kick on again.  I could be wrong -- all I know is that new batteries seem to have solved the problem.

Maybe this will be of use to fellow homeowners out there.  I'd like to think someone could benefit from my pre-coffee stress.  

1) Don't jump to the conclusion that the furnace is broken. 
2) Check the thermostat.  
3) Use the Cave Woman Method of problem solving.  
4) Avoid the Realm of the Spiders if at all possible
5) Always have extra batteries 

** Friends:  did you enjoy reading about my small victory in this great adventure that is being a homeowner?  Are you just dying to know what other fantastic obstacles I have overcome with such highly technical feats of reasoning?  Please allow me to refer you to the time I thought my mouthwash was eating my sink, and my midnight explorations in the field of toilet plumbing.

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