Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Cost of Neglect.

Today at the crack of dawn, I got a call from a customer in Laingsburg with a no heat. The house was chilly and the diagnosis from the customer was that the blower motor was tripping the circuit breaker. I got showered, dressed and headed out the door and in the meantime, got yet another call. This was for another customer diagnosis; a broken gas control. This is the setting for my morning and to remind that some of us do more in a morning than some do all day.

The first call was the "blower" and the customer indicated that the screws holding the blower door were stuck and he was going to have to break them out. He told me all of this over the phone and was very personable about it. "I'll have to screw it back in with a couple of sheet metal screws," I told him. The furnace was an Amana and if the screws holding the door are exposed to any moisture, they will seize up. The captive nuts inside the frame are also prone to breaking off and leaving the screws spinning. The only cure for this is to break, drill or cut them off and use a sheet metal screw to hold the door on. Ideally, this furnace would be maintained every year and some oil added to the works to prevent this hassle, but I digress.

I went in to a mechanical nightmare. The vent pipe and inducer motor leaked condensate (water) into the cabinet and all over the wiring, control board and who knows what else. This furnace was twelve years old and according to the customer, had never been maintained since it was installed 12 years ago. Instead of a $400 repair, we were looking at a $1500 repair to a cabinet that was nearly rotted out. This is extremely dangerous to the people living in the home, because the metal barrier between the burner compartment and the blower is compromised. This will allow combustion products to be sucked into the living space and even cause a fire. The wiring was shot and I would have had to charge him over $222 just to find all the components that were destroyed, not to mention the wire itself. When wire gets exposed to water over a length of time, changes occur to the structure that you can't see. The outside may look fine, but the conductor inside becomes a brittle, green mess that might work a few times before it fails and could cause a fire. This furnace was history on so many levels and it was only 12 years old. Maybe next time this customer will take maintenance schedules a little more seriously. Maranatha!

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