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And For Our Thursday Night’s Entertainment…Furnaces 101,201,301…

Furnaces 101 – When you turn up the temperature on the thermostat and the temperature doesn’t rise or the furnace doesn’t stay running further investigation is required.

Tuesday morning we woke up to a home that wasn’t quite warm enough.  It felt colder than usual.  We have a set back thermostat on our furnace to save energy.  We turned up the temperature but the furnace did not stay running.  It would start, then stop and we would start it again but it would not stay running.

In Minnesota in the fall, winter and spring a furnace is a necessity.  We fortunately have a small back up propane stove in our four season porch off our livingroom that will give enough heat to keep our pipes from freezing.  We turned the furnace on and realized it would not be  reliable until we figured out the problem. 

Furnaces 201-When you know you have a problem and you think you know what it is, it helps to get a second opinion to know you are on the right track.

My husband did some investigating and diagnosed what he thought was the problem.  Then he called the heating and cooling guy that installed our furnace and air conditioner 1993.  Our furnace was  nearly eighteen years old.  Somewhere in my husband’s brain he had filed the information that our high-efficiency furnace would only last 15 years and we were past that.  My husband and the heating and cooling guy talked but it didn’t look good for our furnace or pocketbook. 

They talked for a little while longer and decided that my husband should clean the thermo coupler and the repairman would stop by and have a look at the furnace while my husband was home.  My husband cleaned the part with some sandpaper and that seemed to take care of one of the problems, the starting and not staying running part.  They both had concerns about the heat exchanger in the furnace.  If it had a hole in it as they thought it could leak carbon monoxide into our home.  He told us not to use the furnace until the heat exchanger could be looked at for holes.  They ordered a new heat exchanger for the furnace not before we spent the entire day weighing our options for our furnace.

Furnaces 301 – Time to get out the checkbook and settle in for a long evening’s work.

We needed to decide just how much money we wanted to spend.  We could replace the old furnace with a new furnace to the tune of about $2200.00 plus labor to install it.  We could switch to a new type of furnace that would have an air to air heat pump.  The cost of that unit could be in the range of $7500 minus some tax credits we would receive.  The last option was to replace the bad heat exchanger.  It would be a few hours work and it was a $1200 part plus labor. 

Our furnace guy told us he thought we could get the heat exchanger replaced under warranty.  That part should last 20 years.  We opted for replacing the heat exchanger.  We paid the $1200.oo to order the part and when we return the old heat exchanger to the company we will get our money returned.  Our repair costs will just be the labor to install it or it will be free if we  do it ourselves.

Furnace with all the wires labeled with blue masking tape.

Our new heat exchanger arrived on Thursday afternoon. We took it home from our shop and started to tackle the project around 7:30pm.  As we disconnected each wire we labeled them.  We tried to keep track of the order of removal from the furnace so we could put things back together correctly.  I told my husband afterward that we should have taken some digital pictures as we taking things apart so we would remember how they went back together.  Basically all that was left in of our furnace was its shell with the air conditioning stuff on top of the case.

Three hours later my husband was bolting the cover back on the furnace and starting it up.  It works great and our house has the new house smell as the furnace runs.  Now for returning the heat exchanger.  At first we weren’t sure that there was anything wrong with it, we couldn’t find any holes until we turned it over and examined the other side.  We found three holes in the exchanger, one large hole and two smaller holes.  The exchanger was definitely bad.

Hole in the Heat Exchanger

It wasn’t the most romantic evening in the world but we spent it together in the close quarters of our furnace room doing the thing we like to do best, save money.

Back in Business...Yeah!

 

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Money in My Pocket and Time on My Hands

My husband and I are avid DIYers.  We will tackle just about any home improvement project once and then decide if it will ever be done by us again.  This past spring when we were purchasing ceiling tile for our family room were we finishing we ran across some  material to keep the leaves out of your gutter called Clean Sweep Leaf Protection gutter guard.  It looked like it would do the job for us and best of all it was on sale for about 40% off so we purchased it.  This is something we are very good at, the purchasing part.  The follow through on the other hand, not so much.

Yesterday afternoon after work I decided that I should get something done around home since it is fall and winter is not far behind.  I happened to look up and see this:

I’m pretty sure after looking at the gutters and finding a plant growing in it that I didn’t get my spring job done of cleaning out the gutters.  I usually do it in the spring and then late fall so we don’t have issues with clogged gutters in the spring. 

I decided that I had better take the time to clean out the gutters as long as I had the time and it was a beautiful day to be outside.  Then I remembered the Clean Sweep Leaf Protection gutter guards we purchased and decided to check out how to install them.  First thing on the instructions is clean the gutters, so I did since it needed to be done whether or not I got the guards installed.  It took me about an hour. 

I used a car brush on the end of my garden hose, a 3M Scotch Brite pad, and my kitchen spatula to clean out the gutter.  I’m shameless about promoting 3M products since my Dad was an engineer there until he retired.  Besides I like their products.  You need to watch out for sharp screws and edges inside the gutters when you are cleaning them out.  I found a few sharp edges the hard way.

Next I got the sections of  Clean Sweep Leaf Protection gutter guard and started installing them from one end of the gutter to the other.  They have a rubber gasket on the back edge and a flange on the front end that locks onto your existing gutter.  They are very easy to install.  They friction fit into place.  Very nice!

You need to overlap the ends by a half inch and there are tabs for this.  When you come to a corner you overlap as well but you must make a miter cut for fitting them into and around the corners.  You will need to use a tin snips for cutting the aluminum. 

Once you have all the pieces in place you pre-drill the joining ends in two locations, one in front and one near the back of the tabs and then using sheet metal screws you join the ends together.

I found the best way to do this was by pre-drilling the two holes with my cordless drill and using a screwdriver to hold up the bottom piece in place until I had the holes drilled.  I had trouble with the bottom piece moving without using the screwdriver for some tension.  Then I switched out the drill bit for a nut driver the size of my sheet metal screws and still using the screwdriver to hold up the bottom piece I installed the screws.

 I worked from one end of the gutter to the other end working around the corners and installing two screws on the mitered joints of the corners as well.

I love the finished project.  What I love even more is that from this point in time and forward I no longer have gutters to clean out spring and fall.  That  means an extra two hours a year to do something else.  The entire project from start to finish took me 3 1/2 hours. 

If I consider the life expectancy of a non-smoking white female to be 80.8 years (I got this figure off the internet, of course)  that means I have gained 60 hours to do with whatever I choose provided I live for the next 30 years.  If you calculate the money part of the equation at my current rate of pay of $14.50/hour that is $870.00 I saved by completing this project.  

Whether I did the job myself each year or had to pay someone else to do it,  I am both time and money ahead having completed this project.

More time and money = more flying  🙂

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2010 in Home Improvement Projects

 

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