when the inside of your house is colder than the inside of your refrigerator… [day 230]

Here in North Texas, we’re a little spoiled by the not-too-cold winter temperatures.  We get our once a year snowfall, but generally our low’s are still above freezing.  This was not so 2 days ago, when the low, including the wind chill factor, was to dip into the single digits.

I’m always cold, but it seemed unusually cold in my house.  I thought, “Great.  The heater is acting up again.”  This usually means a trip out to the garage, flip the breaker, mess with the thermostat, then up to the attic, all in efforts to find the right combination of flipping switches on and off to achieve heat.  This has been a ritual since I moved in the house 4 years ago.

This time, the ritual was to no avail.  The heat was out and it was not going to work.  I don’t know much about gas furnaces, but I do know a little bit about electric ones.  Mine’s gas.  And, of course, these things only happen during extreme temperatures.  I called my friend **Keith, as he and his twin brother own a heating and A/C repair company.  I knew it would be the next day before he came out and we decided to stay the night and bundle up warm.  It seemed like a good idea at the time…

My oldest decided to sleep in his room upstairs, the youngest in my bed.  A little after midnight, the fire smoke detector starts going off.  *I had turned off the heater before going to sleep, knowing something was seriously wrong with it.  The smoke detector turned off before I had a chance to get up and deal with it.  Again, a quirky thing in my house, this alarm has been malfunctioning for a couple of years now.  It’s in my son’s room, the one that’s sleeping upstairs.  If you think these smoke alarms will wake your kids, think again.  It’s right over his bed and did not wake him.  After it went off for the 7th or 8th time, and finally wouldn’t turn off, I figured I better go deal with it.  I moved my son to my room, got the ladder out and took it down, trying to shield my ears from the piercing sound.   And yes, I checked to see if it was also a carbon monoxide alarm, and it’s not.

Keith called me back in the morning, and just to be sure, I changed the batteries in the thermostat, cleaned the contacts and tried again.  Nothing.  Keith came out, and the culprit was the main circuit board.  You can see the spot where it blew out on the green side.  On the flip side, there was another bad spot which had started to burn under the resistors to the right.  So, which news would you like first, the good or the bad?

Bad news: The circuit board is fried and needs replacing.  This is not only the board for the furnace, but for the A/C as well.

Good news: My house didn’t catch on fire.  

More bad news: Consolidated Industries, the manufacturer of my furnace, went out of business years ago.

More good news: My house didn’t catch on fire?

Bad news: You can’t get parts for the CI furnaces anymore and universal parts don’t work on these units.

Good news: It’s 17 years old and met is sad life expectancy.

It’s decision time.  Keith said he might be able to find a circuit board that would work, but that might take a while.  (remember the single digit temperature outside)  It’s now down to this.

Do I spend a lot of time and money for a refurbished circuit board to add to a unit that’s not only past it’s life expectancy, and has other issues, or do I get a new furnace?

There’s not a used market for residential furnaces.  It’s not like people say, “Oh!  We got a nice tax return.  Let’s upgrade our heater!”  I’ve known Keith for many years and I know he wouldn’t lead me wrong.  It’s great to have a trustworthy person to work on your HVAC equipment.

So yes, I bought a new furnace.  I guess you could consider it a retail purchase, but it’s not like I walked in the store and bought it.  It’s like the tires, this was not only a necessary thing, but a safety thing as well.  A lot of thought went into this decision.  Here’s the details on my “major” purchase.

  • Short term fix. I could have had him try and find another circuit board.  Even short term, this would not have been good, as it would have taken several days to find one, if one was even available.  I would have needed to stay somewhere else with my kids.  This would have also been considered money patching the situation.  It’s inevitable that future repairs will be necessary.
  • Long term fix. Since the manufacturer is out of business and parts are hard, if not impossible to find, it just makes no sense to replace this part.  Long term, it makes much more sense to replace the entire furnace.  I didn’t do a spreadsheet, but it’s really not necessary, as this is easy to see.  I could spend $500 now or $1500 now.  If other parts went out, I would still be spending the $1500 in the near future.  It’s like gambling with the short term repair.
  • Safety concerns. CI has multiple lawsuits and class action lawsuits.  Turns out their furnaces run a high risk of catching on fire. Great.  With my luck, it’s just better to know that I don’t need to worry about this.  I can sleep better at night knowing my kids are safe.  If that means buying something new, that’s what it has to be.
  • Manufacturers. The new unit is Ruud, which has been around for many years and the new unit has a 20 year warranty on the heater and 5 years on everything else.  They likelihood of them going out of business is slim, it could happen, but probably won’t.  Sometimes buying from the major manufacturers is a good thing, especially on something that might need part replacements over it’s lifespan.
  • Energy efficiency. It has to be better with latest technology, and I know the blower must have been next on the list to go out, as this one is actually blowing the heat into the house and is, by my guesstimation, running less.

I don’t spend $1 or $1000 without putting some thought into it.  If you have to make a major purchase, take a few minutes to do a little research.  It’s well worth your time, money and as in this case, your safety and well being.  :)

*On a side note, if you’re having issues with your furnace, turn it off on your thermostat and on your breaker box.  There are many fail safe devices on these units, but a malfunction will still keep trying if left on, and could potentially cause a fire.  Be  on the safe side and turn it off.

**If you’re in the Dallas area and need repairs, Call Keith or Kelly Graham at Graham Heating and Air Conditioning, 214-341-4840 or 214-502-4481.


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