Home The Book Dr Articles Products Message Boards Journal Articles Search Our Surveys Surgery ESWT Dr Messages Find Good Drs video

Woke up to a broken furnace this morning....

Posted by Kathy G on 1/24/05 at 10:43 (167811)

and it was only 2 degrees outside! Luckily, the house had only gotten down to 57 degrees. We keep it at 64 at night, so it must have been working through part of the night because it was very windy last night and only around 1 when we went to bed, with wind chill factors 15-20 below. I was expecting the worst but when the plumber came at 9:30, he said something about a tube that was too long, condensation.....none of it meant anything to me. I was just delighted we didn't have to replace the whole thing and it took him only ten minutes to fix it.

It's seven years old and I wonder why this particular problem never happened before but then I realized that because of the flu, I hadn't been out of the house for six days straight so that means the furnace was running all that time. And last week was exceptionally cold. Usually, I go out at least once a day and we have a setback thermostat, so the furnace goes off while I'm out. This is probably the first time in seven years that it's run continuously for six days. Hope that's all it was because I had visions of our summer vacation disappearing if we had to fork out the money for a new furnace.

Let's see. It was the hot water heater the week before last, the snow blower yesterday and the furnace today. That's three things. If it's true that things happen in threes, we should be OK for a while!

We lucked out and got only fifteen inches of snow from the storm. Down in MA and especially on the Cape, they got up to thirty inches of snow! Can't even imagine what they're going to do with it all!

Now, if the arthritis in my shoulder would stop aching from getting cold and my hands and feet come back to normal, I should have a warm, pleasant day. It could have been a lot worse, that's for sure!

Re: Woke up to a broken furnace this morning....

Linda V on 1/24/05 at 11:34 (167814)

Glad it was an easy fix. You were lucky to get a service person so quickly. I understand the plumbers are straight out with all the folks with frozen pipes. That happened to us last year at the lake. EVERY PVC pipe is our well house on the mountain (6 wells) that pumped to our townhouse compex SHATTERED. Only access was by snowmobile and tools towed on sled behind it with my husband holding them. I guess THAT is one reason why he wants to move south. Lol...

Re: Woke up to a broken furnace this morning....

John H on 1/24/05 at 12:42 (167820)

Replaced my furnace last year before it broke. Sort of like we do with airplane parts. Repair or replace before they break. My last hot water heater came with a 10 year warranty. It expired on the last day of the 10th year of the warranty. Sears brought me a new one.

Re: Woke up to a broken furnace this morning....

John H on 1/24/05 at 12:53 (167821)

Kathy: Do you have a yearly check up of your heater and A/C? It is worth the money in the long run. I manage a lot of shopping centers and buildings and we do them all on a regular basis. Also do not forget to change those filters on a regular basis. They can lead to an early death of your heating and air if not changed. A cracked burner in your furnace can lead to carbon monoxide in your home (you cannot smell it) and you can die from it. The only way to know is to have your furnace checked at the start of each season. In my area of the country a check up is around $40 which includes some cleaning. Do you have a carbon monoxide tester in your home? Could be as important as a smoke detector. Highly recommended. Many many people die every year from carbon monoxide especially when they run oil fired space heaters or generators. A safe home is a happy home.

Re: John

Kathy G on 1/24/05 at 16:52 (167839)


Interesting because the installer said there was no reason to have the furnace checked yearly. I think I may do that from now on, though. I still ache from getting so cold this morning even if we did have an electric heater set up in one room for me.

And we had our air conditioner checked this summer when it broke down right before we left for vacation. That's old but he said it looked great, no leaks or anything. He said to let it run until it dies so I guess that's what we'll do.

As for the carbon monoxide detector, I totally agree and was just telling someone how important it was to get one. Ours went off once when my husband forgot he was charging an electric motor in the cellar. You should have heard how loud it was. I didn't know that charging a motor would give off CO2 but I guess it does.

My daugher's boyfriend smelled smoke in his apartment in MA last week. He went downstairs and discovered the cellar was full of smoke because of a malfunction in the furnace. They had smoke detectors but they had never checked them and the firemen discovered they had no batteries in them. The owner was fined $500. My daughter stays there sometimes so I keep asking if they have batteries in them now. I haven't gotten an answer but her boyfriend and his roommates aren't stupid so they must have gotten batteries. Imagine if it had happened at night!

Re: Linda

Kathy G on 1/24/05 at 16:53 (167840)

After that experience, I'd move south, too! :) Yes, we were very lucky.

Re: John

john h on 1/24/05 at 17:52 (167845)

You check your A/C each each year to clean the coils which if not cleaned will cause the unit to be inefficient. You can do this by using your garden hose a few times each summer. You can buy some spray to use on the coils before using the hose. You also check the freon level at the start of the season as it would not be unusual to have it leak down some. Low freon can cause early failure of the compressor the most expensive part of your unit. The condenser unit should also be cleaned. Have this done after temperature gets above 70 degrees as you cannot properly charge if the temperatue is to cold. With an old AC I agree let it run until he repairs get to be to much. Usually best not to replace a compressor on an older unit as it will cost half of what a newer more efficient unit will cost.

Re: Kathy

Carole C in NOLA on 1/24/05 at 17:53 (167847)

Kathy, I was colder than you this morning! Yes, my heater isn't working. Or even worse, it has intermittent problems. I could only get it up to 65 last night, and when I woke up it was 55 in my house (34 outside here in New Orleans).

On Saturday Frank tried replacing the thermostat, which seemed like it could be a quick, cheap repair. That didn't do anything. So now, I have to call the plumber too. I'm dragging my feet, because I'm afraid it could be thousands of dollars. I'd rather do this in the fall when I have more money saved up. I suppose I do need to call, though.

Right now it is 60 inside. Definitely brisk! I have the heater on and it's blowing cold air right in my face. :(

Carole C

Re: John

Dorothy on 1/24/05 at 21:47 (167869)

CO = carbon monoxide
CO2 = carbon dioxide
Important difference.

What a scarey situation for your daughter's boyfriend! We all think these bad things 'can't happen to me...' don't we until they do! Thank goodness for their good fortune.

I really feel for you getting so cold. Have you noticed that furnaces always decide to quit when it's COLD!!

About 3-4 years ago it was in the dead of winter, VERY cold, and I was very sick. I had a fever, upper resp. infection, the whole nine yards. The furnace quit. The furnace repair guy kept doing this and trying that but it is an older model and finally it was determined that it needed 'a part' and when something needs 'a part', it always follows 'I'll have to order a part....' So in the meantime, somehow we discovered that if we banged on a duct area in a certain way each time the furnace stopped, we could eventually get it to kick in. As stated, it was cold - I was on the second story; the furnace is in the basement, way in the back. (This is a big old house). So every few minutes, I had to haul my sick self out from under the quilts and covers (cough, gasp, wheeze, epithets!!), down the stairs, through the house, down the basement stairs, back to the furnace room, stand up on a crate with hammer or shoe or some other implement in hand, Bang-bang-bang.....wait....bang-bang-bang (repeat as necessary); furnace would go on! Yeah! Off the crate, up the stairs, through the house, up the stairs, back into bed (now cold), shiver, shiver, shiver....drowsy, drowsy, (oh, the lovely sound of the furnace running)...drowsy....Furnace stops. Wait until the temp. drops some. Quilts off, robe on....down the stairs....Over and over again, day and night. MADNESS!! Finally, 'the part' arrived and it got fixed. There is not a winter day that goes by that I do not give a little prayer of thanks for the furnace each time it goes on. It is such a marvelous blessing. When I was a kid we had a gigantic monster of a coal furnace which my parents had to keep stoked. We kids were scared of that thing, but we had to learn to shovel coal. So I guess that makes me a stevadore of sorts. It's not environmentally good, but I still love the smell of coal-fired furnaces on a winter day. Coal makes a very warm fire.

Re: John

Kathy G on 1/25/05 at 08:15 (167892)

Yes, I made a definite error there, I know that CO2 is carbon dioxide. Anyone who reads about global warming knows that. Must have been the cold affecting my brain! :)

Dorothy, you tell a funny story! Just think of how bad it would have been if you hadn't figured out where to bang on that duct!

During the energy crisis - do you remember in the early seventies when we were going to end up paying $5 a gallon for gas and everyone became a conservationist? - the people down the street got a coal burning furnace. They said it was very warm and very dirty. They didn't use it for long.

This morning, I awakened to a nice warm house, thankfully so I guess the plumber knew what he was doing.

Carole, I hope you get warm real soon. I think it just makes you feel awful all over to be cold, especially if you have arthritis like you do.

Re: Kathy and Carole...

Suzanne D. on 1/25/05 at 19:37 (167924)

Kathy, I'm sure glad your house is warm today, and, Carole, I hope yours is!

It must be difficult to regulate the heating/cooling in our new school building. Every morning it is either stifling hot or really cool in the room. If our hall is hot, another hall is freezing, and vice versa. At least I am in one of the outside rooms which has windows. When it's oppressively hot, I open some windows until we have a reasonable temperature. The heating/cooling is all computer-controlled. We have thermostats, but they don't seem to regulate much.

Kathy and Carole, are you both feeling all well again? I think I'm almost back to normal - still just a little stuffy, but nothing to really complain about.

Take care,
Suzanne :)

Re: emergency backup

Ed Davis, DPM on 1/25/05 at 20:37 (167930)

Hopefully you have some 'space' heaters for emergency backup. I once had a kerosene heater -- whew, it was stinky. The new electric ceramic heaters seem to do a good job. They are getting fairly fancy -- I got one at Lowe's for $49 that has a remote control (one more to misplace), high and low settings, oscillates so that it can move hot air around the room. They don't have the romance of a fireplace but get the job done. Wood stoves seem to put out a lot more heat than fireplaces since they retain heat in their cast iron structures but one has to keep kids away from them. Glad to see you got help quickly. Often service men get bombarded with calls during and after storms.

Re: Kathy and Carole...

Carole C in NOLA on 1/25/05 at 21:16 (167937)

Suzanne, thanks! My intermittent heater problem is not being a problem tonight. The house has been a toasty 75 all evening.

Glad you at least have windows at your school! I work in a high rise, and I sit by a window but can't open it. At least I get the sunshine, so I'm lucky in that respect.

I'm feeling much, much better. My energy and good cheer are back! My voice still sounds a little hoarse, and I'm still taking it easy (a little bit, anyway). Otherwise I think I'm through the worst of it by now. I'm so glad. That was an awful bug! Thanks for asking and I'm glad you are feeling almost back to normal, too.

Carole C

Re: emergency backup

John H on 1/26/05 at 14:18 (167989)

Careful on space heaters that burn fuel as they generate carbon monoxide (deadly). Some of the newer heaters have closed coils filled with anti-freeze that is heated by electricity. There are no electric coils you can see or that can be touched to cause a fire. Home Depot carries them and a good one cost around $60-$70. All space heaters draw a lot of current unless they are oil burners so make sure you are on a circuit that is not overloaded with other devices that draw a lot of current. Otherwise you will be popping circuit breakers or worse. If you ever use an extension cord with a space heater use a big one like a 13 or 14 gauge as they can safely carry the load and will not overheat. Often in some of my office building I get reports of popping circuit breakers. More often than not some of the girls (yes it is 99% girls) have space heaters under their desk and overload the circuits and usually they have a computer on the desk and suffer the consequences of lost data. Has anyone ever seen a man with a space heater under his desk??????

Re: John

John H on 1/26/05 at 14:28 (167993)

When I was young we had a coal burning furnace with heaters in each room heated by hot water from the burning coal. The coal truck was a weekly delivery to our basement where the large furnace was located. In Cheyenne on the old calavary base (1900) our rooms had hot water heaters heated by a furnace. These hot water heaters in the dinning room had built in bun warmers. They also made some really terrible noises I assume came from the metal expansion and contraction from heat/cold and the hissing of steam as the valves would sometimes let off pressure. The old house also had a dumb waiter from the kitchen to all three floors and a device in the kitchen that would show when someone in another room pressed a button. My daughter had three rooms all of which were very large and all had doors to the outside wrap around poarch. All hardwood floors. Lots of dusting going on around that old house. General Pershing of WW I fame lived in the house next to mine when he was stationed there. Promoted from Captain to General when he married the Governor of Wyomings daughter.

Re: emergency backup

Ed Davis, DPM on 1/26/05 at 15:07 (167996)


Have you seen the portable oil filled radiators on wheels (made by DeLonghi). I think they are the safest in terms of no worries of catching paper on fire.

They all draw a lot of current. I am gradually, as they wear out, replacing plugs in my house with the newer plugs with built in ground fault interruptors.

Re: emergency backup

Kathy G on 1/26/05 at 18:26 (168007)

I'm signing on late in the day for me but yes, Ed, we do have a brand new small electric heater. I am glad that we didn't have to run it for long but it worked to keep the bathroom warm to take a shower and then to keep one of the smaller bedrooms warm while I awaited the plumber.

We have never had a wood burning stove as everyone in our family is allergic to it. We've talked about getting a kerosene heater since they've now become so safe and clean but luckily, we don't lose our heat or electricty very often.

I thought about the carbon monoxide, John, while I was waiting and was going to crack the window if the plumber didn't show up quickly. I sent out his check as quickly as I could. I waited only two hours, on a very cold day with wind chill factors well below zero, on the furnace and a half hour on the hot water heater. Having always heard horror stories about plumbers, I am very grateful that ours is so fast!

Re: Heater

Carole C in NOLA on 1/26/05 at 18:42 (168009)

OK, I have called the heater repair company and they are sending someone out on Friday (my regular day off). I am cringing in anticipation of the size of the bill. It could be huge, I suppose.

When the temperature in the house gets colder than the thermostat is set for, the fan switches on and blows air out the vents. Sometimes, that air is cold and the house doesn't warm up even one degree. Other times, all is well and it blows nice warm air.

(sigh) I hope they can figure out what the problem is. It's working right now (of course). I also hope it's less than $1000 or so.

Carole C

Re: emergency backup

John H on 1/27/05 at 09:47 (168029)

Ed I have looked at them at Home Depot. I bought this type of heater for safety reasons. I cannot remember if I bought the DeLonghi or the other one they carried. Both operated in similar fashion. Since my outdoor cats sleep in the garage at night this heater keeps the entire garage heated even when we were down around zero. The plug on the heater even has a safety switch so that if the cord gets hot it will pop. This appears to be the safest type of heater I have looked at.