Plays Well With Others...

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Location: Dallas, Texas, United States
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Dec 9, 2006

A Filter For All Seasons
Once upon a time there was a lovely little house. It was a simple two bedroom, two bath, with high ceilings, a cozy loft overlooking the living room, and 1590 square feet in which to call home.

It also had ridiculous electric bills. $400 was the going rate in the summer, and nearly that much could be seen in the winter. What was a home owner to do? Why, call the home warranty company, of course! Certainly, there must be a problem. Some ill within the home that was causing such a state. Yet, with each technician, the outlook was becoming more and more bleak.

Finally, the air conditioner called it a day. It was replaced with a snazzy new unit that promised lower bills! So what, you ask, was the reduced amount for the next bill? $400, I answer. Yes, not one cent of change. In defense of the new unit, it should be noted that it was slightly hotter the month following the replacement, but it wasn't there supposed to be a marked difference in bill?

So the electric company was called out to do a meter check. Everything was fine there. Exasperated, I was near the point of giving up.

Then, on a cold winter night (for Dallas, anyway) the programmable Honeywell thermostat went on the fritz. It was shutting off, leaving its digital screen blank for varying amounts of time.

Again, the home warranty company was summoned. I told the technician the problem was two fold. First, I needed a working thermostat, but since he was already in the attic, I asked him to look at my duct work. This was my second request for such a check but I hadn't felt the previous technician had done much to determine the duct work's stability. He told me it looked fine. Frustrated, I began arguing. I explained again how there MUST be something wrong. I keep my thermostat high in the summer and low in the winter. Yet, my bills reflected no such thing. FIX it! He finally agreed to look around. About ten minutes later, he called me back into the attic to look at what he had found.

First, he said, the duct work was fine. It was old, but fine. Damn it. But...(he was getting my hopes up...) he had found THIS! To which he held up a filter thick with black dust and dirt. The dirtiest filter I have ever seen. I immediately got suspicious because I knew I had just replaced the filter. And I told him as much. "No, no" he said, "I didn't find it in the slot for the filter, I found it pressed against the motor inside the intake duct." Huh?? I would never have done that. Then I took a second look at the filter. It was a cheap brown cardboard filter. Unlike any I had ever bought for my home in the two years I have lived here. Then I realized what had happened.

"The previous owners left that in there!" I was furious! They had somehow left a filter in the unit and then put a new filter in, never thinking about the old filter again. And thus, leaving the filter sucked up against the motor for more than two years. And FOUR, count them, one, two, three, four air conditioning technicians,one representative of the electric company, and my home inspector had failed to find this.

I was livid.

And then he gave me the bad news. When he had removed the filter, it released a leak. A carbon monoxide leak. I had to immediately shut down my furnace or, well, die. I chose the former. And THEN he told me I had a crack in my heater exchange. FABulous. Luckily, that meant a new furnace. Not just a repair. The thermostat had been shutting off because the unit was overheating and apparently, there is an automatic shutoff for such situations.

So I now knew the cause of my crazy electric bills. The filter had reduced the airflow, and was making the unit work harder. No wonder I was having problems!

Relieved, but cold, I set a course to a new furnace. I placed the call about thermostat on Monday. Tuesday, the technician came out. Wednesday, I learned that my Evaporator Coil was in the way of the furnace and would have to be moved to get the new, larger furnace in place. This would cost me $480. Ouch.

I also learned, that there were several things that would not be covered by my home warranty, and I would have another out of pocket expense of $450. The total out of pocket reached a choking $930. Thank God I had the warranty! It at least covered the $2700 furnace and labor.

Still, though, I had no heat. It was getting cold in my house. My cats were meowing constantly because they couldn't get warm either.

Knowing there was a cold front moving through on Thursday, and that I had my Christmas party (oh yes, the Naughty Santa is back tonight!) on Saturday, there was no question the unit had to be replaced by Friday. I could possibly handle one night of frigid temperatures, but beyond that, I would start to explode. So I began my usual persistance, calling the repair company and then the home warranty, back and forth, making them give me information and set plans that they were loathe to give. Things were moving at a turtle's pace, and finally, I said I wanted to know where the unit the home warranty company had ordered was. They couldn't tell me. They didn't have that sort of information. Oh, really?? The LOVEly woman told me I could call Carrier directly if I wanted. I am sure, when she wouldn't give me a number to call, that she figured, I wouldn't do waste the time. What she didn't know was that while I was talking to her, I had already found the number on Carrier's website. She also didn't know how much a little challenge like pissing off the phone lady can get me going.

So I called Carrier. I spoke to an extremely friendly and sympathetic woman who told me to call back the home warranty and get the model and serial number of the unit they had ordered, and then she could track the shipment all day long for me. (I think she liked the challenge of pissing off the phone lady too...)

So I called back, and strangely, got the same woman. I asked her for the information and she said she could only give me the model number. I could tell she was suprised I had called them. I argued with her a little about not being able to give me the serial number, and also asked if my repair company had even been informed that the part was ordered because I had not heard from them about setting an appointment yet. She said no they hadn't.

That's when this gem came to mind. I told her to call the repair company while I was on the phone with her. I said I wanted her to put me on hold, call them, and then come back and tell me they had been called. Irritated, she did so. When she came back, I said, "ok, good. Now I will call them in 15 minutes to make sure they know."

The woman was clearly tired of me, and she told me she would look into the shipment and get back to me. I think she new very well that I was not going away until I had a new unit installed before my party.

An hour later, she said the unit was being delivered that afternoon, and she had spoken to the repair company and they would be out the following day.

They arrived at 9:30 in the morning and didn't leave until 6:00 pm but I finally have heat. The job was supposed to be done at the latest, by 1:00. Apparently, it was a bit deficil...

In a almost completely unrelated story, around 5:00, some friends of mine came over for me to to do Christmas portraits for them. I will post them a little later in a second post. They are adorable!

So the moral of this story, is two fold:

First, go upstairs to your attic right now! stick your head in your intake duct and take a look around. Make sure no idiots left anything in there!

Second, persistance always wins. Don't let the man beat you down!


posted by Ty @ 12/09/2006 | 2 comments