Mr. Fixit Strikes Again

Rheem Criterion control panel

The wires snake out of the cabinet and coil around the mounting bracket obscuring the control board and spiraling around each other; masking their connection to the circuits. There is no way to see where each wire terminates without moving them and disconnecting some of them. Of course, once one of them is disconnected, there is no way to be certain from which terminal it was disconnected. The flashlight flickers again, dimming and going out, plunging the furnace and the attic into darkness. I shake it violently, bringing flashes of light as it tried to come on. Stupid short. Stupid cheap flashlight. Stupid furnace. It doesn’t help that the furnace is positioned on its side right next to the pull-down ladder, making it difficult to work on comfortably. There is a real fear of falling out of the attic if one moves the wrong way. Fortunately, it is winter, so the attic is not hot, but if I don’t get this furnace working, it will stay real cold in the house.

I have always been a hands-on guy, preferring to fix things on my own rather than rely on repairmen and the requisite expense that comes with them. I have always been good at troubleshooting things, which serves me well in my job as a technical instructor. When I was a child visiting my grandmother, she gave me a broken alarm clock to divert my attention from the fact that there were no toys to play with, and no friends around her house. The clock was a Big Ben nightstand clock and after I took it apart, examined the pieces and how they worked together, and put it back together, it started working. She and my parents were impressed. Then she gave me an old radio. I don’t remember if I fixed it too, but I think I did.

As a teen, I learned how to do maintenance on a car and, with the help of a buddy, I rebuilt a 1972 Ford Pinto that had a broken timing belt. In the Army, I was required to perform preventative maintenance, checks and services (PMCS) on my vehicles. I also made use of the rec center garage to keep my personal car running. As an adult, I learned how to build and upgrade personal computers, build and maintain networks, and setup home electronics. This led to my current job as a technical instructor. I call myself a “Jack-of-All-Trades” kind of guy. I always tried to do it myself before even thinking about hiring someone to do it. Until recently, that is.

One morning last month, I was changing the oil on my motorcycle and it occurred to me that I had performed about half of the scheduled oil changes on the maintenance log. I had paid for the others at either the dealership or garage. As I wrestled with the oil filter wrench, I remembered why I took it to the garage. I HATE doing maintenance. As I get older, the thought of working on my bike no longer holds any fascination for me. This isn’t limited to my bike either.

I have two palm trees with dead fronds hanging low refusing to fall off. I also had a tree from the neighbor’s yard overhanging my house and a pine tree that had four dead branches. I have procrastinated getting the ladder and saws to rectify the problem. One morning, a tree service was out and about and I haggled him into doing it for me. It wasn’t cheap, but at least I didn’t have to clean up the mess after risking life and limb cutting and sawing.

15 uF Capacitor

Now, in contemplating the repair of the furnace, I remembered when we had the compressor replaced five years ago, the repairman told me a new control panel would be $600. I bit the bullet and ordered a new control panel. Fortunately I found one for less than a hundred dollars on Amazon which seemed a steal. While I waited for it to arrive, I watched several YouTube videos about changing the panel and, of course, the professionals made it look easy, but I did get more comfortable with the idea. I snapped several pictures of the panel and wires and studied them extensively until I felt (maybe mistakenly) confident that I could swap the board. When I got it home, I immediately put it in. The wires were not as difficult as I first imagined and it went in with no problems. I set the mode on the thermostat, flipped the switch and engaged the safety. I heard a click and a hum and then…nothing. The fan refused to spin up. *#^@%

It must be the motor. The motor is about $200 bucks and requires completely dismantling the blower assembly. Perhaps it was time to admit defeat and pay someone to do it. I discussed the matter with my brother-in-law who told me that it sounded like the capacitor may be bad. Fortunately those are relatively cheap at around $15 and easy to access and replace. The original one looked good to me when I inspected it, but sometimes a capacitor can fail with no external indication. I bought one at Grainger and put it in. Again, I set the mode on the thermostat, flipped the switch and engaged the safety and this time I heard…nothing. For a second longer than I expected to anyway. Then I heard a click and a hum and then….the motor spun up! The fan was blowing air again! Yippee! I fixed the fool thing for only $115 bucks! Now we can head into spring without worrying about boiling in the house.

Ok, Maybe I don’t need to hire all the fixit jobs out after all. Unless I just don’t want to mess with doing it myself. Like oil changes and tree trimming. Anyone want to come weed my gardens?

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2 Comments

Filed under Personal, Technology

2 responses to “Mr. Fixit Strikes Again

  1. Pingback: Driving the Dream | Dave's Quills & Pixels

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