As this embarrassing story explains, if you ever have a problem with the heat in your home, don't spend $200 for a furnace maintenance guy to come to your home. First buy a replacement furnace filter. This recent winter weather has been one of extremes. First we had the crazy Christmas 2009 winter storm that shut down Happy's city. Some of Happy's partners were snowed in and couldn't get to the hospital without the crazy volunteers in their four wheel drive trucks. Mrs Happy and I played host to multiple family members over the Christmas holidays. Some of them came from Phoenix. Some came from Atlanta. Some even came from the cold state of South Dakota.
I learned recently that the home of Mrs Happy's late great grandmother flooded when a pipe burst in the home. After an 80,000 gallon water bill was delivered by mail, a quick survey of the empty home discovered several feet of water filling the basement from a broken pipe. How terrible to have to deal with that. While I didn't have any broken pipes, Marty and Cooper and family suffered in silence while cold gripped our home inside. Happy's home is currently in a massive cold wave, gripped with freezing temperatures outside, and for Happy, cold temperatures inside. After several years of dealing with uncontrollable house drafts, we had our problems fixed last fall with the help of some professional energy experts.
Our house was tightly sealed last September and a fresh air exchange system was installed to keep dirty air from lingering inside. Anytime you seal a home tightly, new air must be introduced to keep occupants from falling ill. We hoped our problems would be solved. But they weren't. As cold whether gripped my part of the country, my home got colder and colder and colder. At one point last week my kitchen was 57 degrees Fahrenheit despite a thermostat setting of 70.
For days upon days, weeks upon weeks, Happy's home struggled to maintain a comfortable temperature. Despite spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on energy efficiency upgrades, Happy's home was now draft free, but still freezing. As part of our energy efficiency plan, we had a wireless thermostat installed to allow us to move our thermostat around the home to the room of choice and temperature of choice. After evaluating the temperature in different parts of our home I noticed temperatures of 57, 62, 64 and even 68 degrees while our thermostat was set at 70. We could not understand why we were having such problems.
So what does Happy do? He calls the experts to come reevaluate the situation. After a brief analysis of our situation, we discovered that Happy's furnace was cycling continuously on and off despite having thermostat temperatures far below the desired goal. The thermostat would shut itself off before the desired temperature was reached. And our outside fresh air vent would pull new air in that would fail to warm up with a furnace that was cycling down.
We were, in essence, pulling cold air into our home and allowing it to circulate without the benefit of a furnace to heat up the frigid air. The question was why. Why was Happy's furnace shutting itself down. Why was it cycling down every 5 minutes despite frigid indoor temperatures?
My first home is my current home. After six years, I decided to get the furnace serviced. This fall, the furnace was cleaned and verified in great working condition by a reputable service provider. After a brief iatrogenic complication during the servicing, the furnace circuitry was put back together and a replacement furnace filter was installed with plans to change it in three months.
I buy hepa replacement furnace filters that only require replacement every three months. They may cost a little extra, but I like the idea of filtering out dust and pollens and dander and other air born irritants.
When our energy experts arrived to investigate the problem, they had their reputation on the line. These folks have provided me some of the best service I could have asked for so far. After some experimentation with our fresh air exchange system, they realized the problem lay with our furnace. Our furnace was cycling on and off without achieving the desired temperature. After calling the furnace company and talking with a representative, we got a phone call recommending that before we do anything else, we should put in a replacement furnace filter and see how our furnace responds.
To the surprise of even the energy experts, newer furnaces apparently have a built in safety mechanism where in a clogged replacement furnace filter will shut the furnace down to protect it from excessive wear and tear. So Mrs Happy went down to the local Walmart and picked up a new hepa replacement furnace filter. She put the replacement furnace filter into the right spot and she waited patiently for results while Happy slaved away at nine patient discharges and a bounce back.
And there it was. In all of God's glorious furnace heat. First 62 degrees. Then 65 degrees. Then 68 degrees. Then 70 degrees. Amazing. Our furnace never shut down once. I got home from work to discover a home basking in the glory of warmth. Wow. I can't believe the problem was as simple as putting in a replacement furnace filter, a furnace filter that was just barely at the end of its three month life cycle. Sometimes the correct answer is the simplest answer. This strikes me as similar to the state of our current health care system where more care is often not the best care.
I am happy to report that Marty and Cooper are no longer banished to the upstairs bedrooms, where they have lived for weeks, fearing the cold winter chill that consumed our first floor. Mrs Happy won't have to put on her winter coat to watch Lost next month. The problem has been solved. In this case simply putting in a replacement furnace filter was all it took.
If you find yourself wearing three sweaters and two pairs of sweat pants just to stay warm. in your own home and you can't figure out why your furnace is struggling in this cold winter weather, I implore you go to your local hardware store and buy a new replacement furnace filter. It may just be that simple.
I'm embarrassed to say, but that wasn't even in my differential diagnosis. Its' a good thing I called in a specialist. The great part about it was that his fee was bundled and it didn't cost me a thing. But we gave him one of our many Snuggies as a thank you for a job well done.