The Heat is On...or Not - Emergency Furnace Repair

From the Suburban Survival blog

Every now and then, you'll see a car broken down on the side of the road or hear of someone suffering through some type of disaster. Usually, if you're like me, you think, "Phew! I'm glad that's not me." But, of course, in the back of your mind, you remember the times it was you, or realize that it is only a matter of time until you are in the same mess.

This week was my turn - once again. The day started nice. In fact, I went for a jog that morning in a t-shirt and shorts. By the evening the temperature had dropped - to the single digits and it was snowing.

I got home from picking up my son after basketball practice and turned the heat up. Nothing. Nada. No heat. Not good. I headed down to the basement (even colder down there) and began to dig through boxes of stuff trying to find my furnace owner's manual. Once I found it, I checked the diagnostic codes and found that it seemed the ignitor might be the problem. If you are like me, you are probably asking yourself, what is an ignitor? I get the concept - something that ignites the flow of gas, creating heat. But where was it in the twisted mass of wires, gizmos and gadgets?

Looking at the furnace, I reset the power and tried starting it again. I could see an orange glow inside, something I had never noticed before. Then flames as the gas tried to ignite. After a few seconds the flames went out. Then a couple of repeats and back to nothing. The installation flow chart mentioned a flame sensor as the final point of failure for all the good that did me then.

To make a long story short, I did a lot of frantic searching the Internet for some help, any help. I was filled with dread at the very prospect of calling out a heating company for an emergency repair. The price tag dancing in my head was enormous and so overwhelming, I had to fight the urge to collapse in tears in the corner of my basement and slip slowly into a hypothermia-induced hallucination.

So, by this time, I realized that I needed a flame sensor. Nothing more than a piece of metal hooked up to one wire. Off to the hardware store, with my wife, since that was better than sitting in a cold house with the temperature dropping. A heating guy overheard me talking to an employee and confirmed that it was the flame sensor, but then told me I couldn't get one that time of night and had to be a licensed contractor anyway. He did give some tips on how to clean and repair the existing one. Thanks unknown guy from Martin Heating and Cooling (at least that was the name on the jacket).

Back home, with some renewed confidence, I took the furnace apart and got the flame sensor out and very gently cleaned off the accumulated ash. I got it back together and with crossed fingers, restarted it. And it stayed on! Heat never felt so good!

In the heat of the moment, taking photos or a video didn't cross my mind. However, I'll save you some time and grief - here's the best link that I found for this problem:

So the suburban survival tip of the day - buy a house with a fireplace as an emergency back-up!

Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate

No comments:

Post a Comment