Not cool.

The furnace and air conditioner in our house are now twenty years old. This is equivalent to ninety-seven in human years. They’re old and—like many a ninety-seven–year old—some of the internal plumbing doesn’t work right anymore. When the heat turned hot last week, we quickly discovered that the air conditioner simply wasn’t working. Laura called “the guy” who has done some work on our furnace and he made an appointment for Friday.

Unfortunately, the Friday appointment was canceled due to thunderstorms, so “the guy” came by Monday afternoon. When I got home from work, the front door was closed. A good sign.

Sure enough, I was met with a wave of cool, refreshing air when I walked into the house. Excellent. “The guy” had refilled the coolant, but he advised Laura that the compressor wasn’t going to be able to cope with 90-degree days. Additionally, he said, the filters we use are too thick and don’t allow the fan to effectively move the cool (or hot, I suppose) air. We should use cheaper filters. Cost to fix the A/C on Monday: about $120.

Not bad.

“The guy” also suggested that the entire heating and cooling system be replaced (which we expected he would) and provided a rough estimate of the cost of doing so. I was expecting the number of zeroes on the end, but the non-zero number at the beginning was a bit higher than I anticipated.

Time to rob a liquor store.

Yesterday, Laura noticed that the A/C was leaking water (at least, we hope it was water) all over the floor in the laundry room. ((Edit: I’m told that the coolant is most likely gaseous and the A/C probably doesn’t use water in the system. It’s probably just condensation. If it is condensation (and I certainly wouldn’t discount that possibility), there’s an awful lot of it and it’s dripping from above the furnace, which doesn’t seem like it’d be a good thing.

More Edit: I’ve been schooled on the manner in which air conditioning works. The compressor outside compresses air and pumps it inside through a small pipe. Inside, the air is expanded in a coil, causing the cooling effect. Warm, moist air is passed over the coil and condensation forms on the metal. This moisture drips into a collection pan of some sort and drains through a pipe. The current theory is that the drain pipe is clogged, causing the drain pan to overflow. This may actually be something I can fix myself, and now I want to go home and do so.)) This seemed awfully familiar, because … hey, wasn’t that the reason we stopped using the A/C last summer? Yeah, it was. The source of the leak, which is right above the furnace, doesn’t looks like it’s going to be particularly easy to get at. In fact, it looks like it’s going to be kind of expensive to get at.

I’ll get the ski mask and the shotgun.

For the time being, the A/C is off. I can’t fault “the guy” for the leak. How was he to know? He fixed what appeared to be the immediate problem, which is exactly what we asked him to do. Whether we have “the guy” back in to fix the leak or suffer through the heat until we can pony up the dough to replace the whole kit and kaboodle is going to depend on just how uncomfortable we get, I would imagine.

Might as well grab a bottle of Jim Beam while I’m there.

4 thoughts on “Not cool.”

  1. “Might as well grab a bottle of Jim Beam while I’m there… moisture drips into a collection pan of some sort and drains through a pipe. The current theory is that the drain pipe is clogged, causing the drain pan to overflow.”

    Disconnect the condensation drain pipe from the collection pan, and dump that Jim Beam down the pipe. What comes out the other end will look very similar to what would exit your cake hole the morning after drinking that bottle of Jim Beam.

    Seriously – you might have to ‘snake’ the drain line. Then dump some bleach down the line to kill whatever’s growing in there. Get in the habit of flushing the drain line with bleach at least once a year.

  2. The drain pipe was attached in just about as half-assed a manner as I’ve seen. The end of the PVC pipe isn’t even cut flush, and was just fastened there with some sort of sticky foam.

    There’s a copper pipe sticking out of the collection pan and it had a good deal of gunk in it, so I cleared it. Still water dripping onto the furnace, but the A/C isn’t on, so I figure it must be left over from when the drain pan overflowed.

    Good advice about the bleach, though. I’ll do that when I get home tonight.

    Is it common for there to be a gooseneck in the drain pipe? The PVC pipe that goes to the drain has a gooseneck in it about 15″ down from the drain pan.

  3. By ‘gooseneck’ do you mean ‘p-trap’? The drain pipe should have the shortest, quickest path from the pan to the exit point. Nothin’ fancy in between.

    When the freon in the system gets low, the coil in your furnace can ‘freeze up’ (yup – the coil becomes encased in a big chunk of ice!). When that ice melts, the water sometimes runs to exit points that it wouldn’t normally drain to – depends on your coil installation. (Ask me how I know this…) This may be the source of your extra water dripping.
    Only way to know for sure is to remove the access panel for the coil.

    You can tell if your coil is froze over by feeling the air coming out one of the vents with the system running; the air will be cold, but the flow will be very low.

    Good luck. Save some Jim Beam for after the job.

  4. It’s a trap, but I’d call it an s-trap. The drain pipe exits the coil chamber, takes a left, then drops straight down approximately 15″. At that point it does two very quick U-turns and then drops down to the drain in the floor.

    (Like this.)

    I guess the weight of 15″ of water in the top portion of the pipe is enough to push water through the trap. Not sure why the trap is there, though. I always thought traps like that were to prevent odor.

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