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And Now For Something Completely Different

No, that's not the house. It's my cabin, which does not have A/C. Until today, neither did the house. Well, half the house.

We have two systems: an oil furnace and A/C unit that are 35 years old for the bedrooms; and a heat pump for the dining room, offices, kitchen, etc., part of the house. An addition was put on 25 years ago and that's when they added a heat pump. I like this arrangement. We get real heat in our bedrooms in the winter, not some "cool air" heat pump heat. Or the very expensive electric coil backup system. In the summer, I can run the ancient A/C unit at night for sleeping. (It has a tendency to trip the circuit breaker if it's run during the day.) And the heat pump cools the rest of the house pretty well.

The heat pump made weird noises last fall and then stopped. Repair person (generalist) came out and talked to the manufacturer by phone and made some recommendations, like cleaning the coils. After checking the reasonableness of this advice, we paid a lot of money to clean the coils. The repair person had thought we should just invest in a new heat pump, that we were throwing our money away on repairs. But it seemed reasonable to clean the coils and see where we stood after that. The coils were filthy, but the freon reading came out just fine after they were cleaned. And the compressor behaved. For all of three weeks. Then it died again.

Now, remember, the generalist had said a new compressor was a few thousand dollars and that the compressor had an undiagnosed, but deadly, disease.

Not having the few thousand to spare, we shrugged our shoulders and made do with one radiant portable heater and two woodstoves. It worked. Some mornings we were making fires at 5am, but it worked. I can more easily get through a winter than a summer. And in the meantime, money was saved. And it was warm in the bedrooms. I used a bit more oil, but a lot less electricity last winter.

And now, with the weather turning, my chickens were coming home to roost (farm metaphor). I needed a solution before the 90 degree temps hit, the high humidity. I have been very grateful for our "cool" spring, but I bought six electric fans last weekend and placed them strategically around the house.

The Dude and I sat down and did some brainstorming on what we needed to do to make any decision at all. Call a specialist was one of our items, but there was a lot of discussion about decision trees and researching new systems, including geothermal, which currently qualifies for a tax credit of 30% of the FULL cost, including installation, NO LIMIT. A good heat pump's credit is limited to $1,500 and there are more restrictions.

But seriously. Finally call an expert was numero uno. And I hate phoning strangers. The Dude printed out a list of local people. And there it sat. G Dude has been here doing the fence and a cool new stone area for my fire pit down by my cabin. Wednesday, he looked at me with a disgusted 'older brother' look and asked to see the list. (He's not my brother, he's my friend, writer, handyman.) And he called and made an appointment for a guy to come out here today. And the guy showed up and was here for over an hour.

And he got it to work. He says it's not the compressor, but the doohickey that sort of starts the compressor, the capacitor. I had to ask him to show me that and explain its function. Because while I can draw a Flux Capacitor from memory and explain its function in your average nuclear Delorean, I can't explain a capacitor without a basic lesson. And I'd have to explain it to The Dude. Who does know what one is and how it works, I'm quite sure, since he's an engineer, among other things.

End result? About $300 instead of thousands. And maybe the compressor will keep working. He put a temporary one in because they don't have the right one in stock. But by Wednesday, I should have the correct part. And the A/C worked. The issue is starting and stopping. Right now it's way too cold and it's finally stopped. I was getting used to the normal air temp and using fans. A/C almost feels like cheating now. Almost.

I'll find out if it will start itself again, soon. Real soon.

And if it doesn't? Well, I have lots of electric fans now. And we'll move on to the next part of the decision tree.

But I have to admit, I'd still be researching potential systems if G Dude hadn't interfered. So thanks, G Dude.

Frog Out



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 29th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
Just in time! It's getting muggy out there. Humidity can make 80 degrees feel unpleasant.


p.s. I tried to DM you on Twitter but you're not following me anymore so I just @replied to a message.
Jun. 1st, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
yes indeed it can. and just in time for pleasant weather again, too! however, I Am Not Fooled. I know what's coming. It's June 1 and any day now, it will be miserable without A/C.
May. 29th, 2009 06:03 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank goodness! I hope this solution lasts you a good long time.
May. 30th, 2009 10:40 am (UTC)
oh boy, so do I! It's much less expensive than a new compressor or replacing both units, geothermal or not. I'm already planning to put the previously earmarked money into long-term savings.

May. 30th, 2009 09:45 am (UTC)
Oz -- I'm working on a story that has a few farm details in it. Would you be willing to take a look?
May. 30th, 2009 10:45 am (UTC)
I sent an email to your gmail.
May. 30th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
k, thats a cool cabin!
Jun. 1st, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
until such point as the chickens come home to roost, where are they?

and what are they doing?

and (and this is the toughy) what exactly is involved in "roosting?" I suspect it's quite different than what chickens do when they're "roasting," because vowels are so very important.
Jun. 1st, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
Where are they? Out in the run, of course, or free-ranging. They are eating anything they can find, including worms, bugs, and the occasional frog.

Roosting? The act of getting as high off the ground as possible. They have a leaning frame in the coop with 4 small cross pieces. They hop up from one to the next until they are as high as their pecking order (another chicken metaphor) allows. In the winter, we've seen as many as 11 all crowded together on the top rung. It's more casual in summer.

When light fails, like most birds, they have this seriously built in evolutionary desire to go up. And we leave a light on in the coop. So basically, they see that it's lighter indoors, they go in, they go up, and we come along and close their hatch once everyone is inside.

They do get rather confused on nights we forget and end up going down to close the hatch at, say, 3AM. You might say "why bother?" Well, predators tend to hunt in those pre-dawn hours, so it's worth shutting them in, even for a short time.

As for roasting, these would be most disappointing. No meat. They're bred to put everything into making lots of eggs. Definitely not your Purdue chicken.
Jun. 1st, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
In some parts of the world, air conditioning isn't optional. Well, I mean it is, but no one really wants to live without. Today, here, it was ninety degrees Fahrenheit by 9:30AM. If it weren't for A/C I'd have roasted like one of those chickens that comes home to roost. Perhaps I'd be tasty with a nice lemon or orange glaze and a side of rice, but I don't want to find out.

I'm glad you're going to be more comfortable.
Jun. 1st, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
I'm sure there's some part of the winter when you could make do without your A/C. It gets cold there sometimes. And I have a woodstove or two. But your decision point would come much earlier in the year than mine, that's for sure.

I can manage with the house up to about 85. Then I start dying. My set point used to be at least 10 degrees lower than that.

But yes, here's to capacitors! Amazing things. Based on the size I described to The Dude, he said that's one honking huge capacitor, storing quite a charge.
Jun. 1st, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
There are the cold days too; days where I think I could just set beer on the porch to chill, and my margarita comes frozen straight from the bottle. But those days are rare. I keep the house at about 78, and I can do just fine up to about 85, but beyond that I can't cope as well as I once did.

And if the capacitor was a great big honking silver jumbo number, it's good to get it replaced. You don't want to see the spark such things throw when they fail catastrophically. I thought my eyebrows would never grow back.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )