Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Out of Gas

The first sign of a problem appeared in the form of an electric bill. OMG! The thing was at least a hundred bucks higher than I’d ever seen before, this with a relatively mild month. Clearly, something was amiss. Did the electric company raise their rates? Sounds right, sort of like the oil companies do in the summer with more cars on the road. But no, a look at the kilowatt hours revealed a much higher than normal usage. How could that be?

Let us a pause a moment while I explain my heat and air system.  I do not have natural gas or propane. The humble abode is all electric. My hot and cold comes from a single device called a heat pump. This little engineering marvel performs both functions…to a point. Below 30 degrees, or thereabouts, it reverts to a more common method of heat, namely a fan blowing across a heated coil. Sort of like a giant toaster, but much more expensive. In this mode, referred to as “auxiliary heat”, the little silver wheel on the electric meter spins like the tassels on a well endowed stripper (not that I would know about such things mind you).  

I went into my professional diagnostic analytical troubleshooting mode and came to the brilliant conclusion that the “heat pump” portion, the compressor part of the system, had up and died, leaving the heating duty to the kilowatt sucking toaster coil.
Not to worry, I think, the unit is less than three years old with a parts and labor warranty.  I call the company that installed the contraption. No answer. Well, those boys are all out on the job. I wait till the end of the day and try again. No answer. Not even a recording. I try again the following day. Same results. Damn, damn, damn.

As a member of Angie’s list, I check Angie’s site for a reputable service in the heat/air department. The woman who answers seems to have a bit of an attitude, but she does promise to send help… tomorrow. Next morning, the guy, apparently of Mexican descent, shows up and pokes around with a flashlight. The problem, he proclaims, is that two copper lines are lying against each other and due to the vibration of the compressor, have rubbed a hole allowing the refrigerant (what I call the gas)  to leak out. He shakes his head.  I wait for the rest of it. “The refrigerant is not covered by the warranty.” Figures.
“Okay, big whoop. Fix it and fill it up. What choice do I have?”

An hour or so later, he hands me the bill. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! It looks like the bar tab for Randy Travis. Almost 600 bucks! I rant. I rave. I curse Angie and the horse she rode in on. I call the Mexican’s company and complain. I find a heat&air forum on the Internet and rant on that. I get no compassion, no refund, no consolation, no  “Oh boy did you get screwed” sympathy cards , nary a tear. The new gas, the R-410 it’s called, can cost up to $45 a pound I’m told. Who makes this stuff, BP?
“The R-410 is better for the environment,” the Mexican explains.

Well la-te- freakin’-dah. I now understand the term going green. It means the folding green in your wallet is going bye-bye.


  1. sockittome....sockittome...sockittome... sock it to ME! Geez! Can we ever get a break??

  2. ok, you must fight fire with fire. first, find out what is under warranty beginning with the high dollar parts. second, make sure that part (s) fails. You gotta know those parts will fail shortly after the warranty expires anyway.


  3. Love the Randy Travis comment. (amb)


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