Furnace Woes

Saturday 6:30 AM. Lauren walks into the bedroom, turns on the light, and actually quite calmly tells me there is water dripping from the living room ceiling. Sure enough, a stretch of 8 feet of ceiling drywall is dripping wet and the bowl light fixture in the center of the room is filled up like a fishbowl. I grab an empty drink pitcher from the kitchen and put it under the light fixture, which is dripping pretty good by now. Lauren wads up some paper towels into it so the dripping noise doesn’t drive us crazy. I head upstairs into our unfinished attic storage and find that the drip tray under the furnace, which as a rule is supposed to be dry, is full to the brim and overflowing with water. I grab a mop bucket, a red solo cup, and manually scoop out about 10 gallons of water, 5 ounces at a time, out of the drip tray.

Saturday 8:00 AM. I call TA Kaiser and get directed to a messaging service. The heat is technically still running, so my request is triaged to the bottom of the list. I don’t get a call back until 4pm, when I’m not at home. I call our home builder to put in a service request and get directed to a voicemail box. While walking the dogs, I check the condensate line on the side of the house and it is, predictably, frozen like a popsicle.

Saturday 9:00 PM. I remove another 5 gallons of water from the furnace drip tray.

Sunday 8:00 AM. I remove another 3 gallons of water from the furnace drip tray. This time there is a nice layer of ice on top.

Monday 2:00 PM. TA Kaiser HVAC repair tech James shows up and within 2 minutes recognizes the problem. The furnace trap in the collector box has broken off it’s mount, which means the furnace isn’t draining. It’s having to use the drip tray and use the auxiliary drain in the tray. He patches up the collector box, but it will need to be replaced. He replaces the water sensor kill switch, which appears broken, as evidenced by the fact that water ran into the living room ceiling. He shopvacs out about 4 gallons of water from the drip tray using the absolute coolest shopvac I’ve ever seen and I make a note to add it to my Amazon Wish List. He even replaces the spout on the condensate line outside with a “Tee” so it will still drain when frozen up. When he leaves, the heat is running and the furnace should be draining.

Tuesday 8:00 AM. The furnace is not draining. The water sensor kill switch has shut off the furnace. The drip tray is frozen solid. I throw some table salt on the ice and run out and buy that shopvac at Lowes and remove about 5 gallons of icy water.

Tuesday 5:00 PM. James, the TA Kaiser HVAC repair tech, who I find out is actually a Field Supervisor who is working calls because of the extreme weather, has walked me through over the phone getting the furnace to turn back on.

Tuesday 10:00 PM. Lauren and I get back home from the Predators game, which we won, to find the temp in the house is 59 degrees. The furnace is running, but it’s blowing cold air. We pack a bag and stay at her parent’s house for the night. Before we leave I throw a second blanket in the kennel for the dogs.

Wednesday 8:30 AM. Air temp in the house is 49 degrees. TA Kaiser meets me at the house to replace the broken collector box and troubleshoot the furnace. The drain has frozen solid and found its way up to freeze up the furnace trap, which has thrown off the pressure valves, and killed the flame in the furnace and the thermostat ran the fan all night. I boil a pot of salt water on the stove and James, the awesome HVAC tech, defrosts the furnace trap in it, then pours the boiling hot water down the drain the melt the ice in it. Within an hour, the air temp in the house is up to 55 degrees. By noon it’s back to 70 degrees. I think it’s really fixed for real this time.