email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Electrical Troubles

Grr! On July 28 this year, my heat pump failed. It was SO hot in the house! I called a couple of repair places, but they said "two days". I was dismayed. I found a listing that said "24 hour service, no additional charge". Great. I called and they were there in an hour! Their conclusion was that the unit had been hit by an electrical charge, the compressor was fried, and there was probably damage to other circuits that they couldn't test without a working compressor (which would cost about 1/2 the cost of replacing the whole unit. They could do the replacement the next morning.

Well, there HAD been a tremendous lightening crash directly overhead the night before. I jumped 3 feet, and all the cats were puffed up like big tribbles! So there was some logic to their conclusion. The replacement cost was about what I guessed, and I know the Ruud brand. I accepted.

Sure enough, they arrived in mid-morning and completed the replacement in 2 hours. Everything worked immediately, and they even converted the battery-powered thermostat to AC "as a favor". That may or not have been a mistake, but it seemed like such a minor thing at the time.

Some odd things followed. My oven clock suddenly started gaining 15 minutes per hour, and my M/V turntable turned at a different speed (I know because I heat my morning green tea water 1:30 minutes every time and for years it stopped in exactly the same position). Suddenly it didn't, and randomly positioned. Trivial, but weird.

Fast-forward to Oct 1st last week. I turned on the heat cycle for the first time, and it worked fine. 4 times in the next 5 days, the main house circuit breaker tripped. The 1st time, I assumed it was the whole neighborhood. But going outside, I realized it was only my house! I found the main breaker tripped and reset it. The next 3 times it was really annoying. I had my power company out Saturday morning to check their incoming line. They found no problems and suggested the main breaker on my end had to be replaced.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I noticed that my heat pump (on "heat") was running continuously. And then I discovered that sometimes it was putting out warm air and sometimes cool air. Without ever seeming to turn off in between. Weird (and possibly expensive).

But when the main breaker (whole circuit box) tripped while I was taking a shower and covered with lather, I was compelled to act. Well, you shower in the dark if you want. ;) I called an electrician this morning (and he arrived in an hour!). After 30 minutes of diagnostics on the circuit box, he couldn't find any problem with it. I mentioned the heat pump problem. He wouldn't try to repair it himself, but he said it appeared to be locked on A/C but also intermittently producing emergency resistance heat. He left saying he would try to find a main breaker replacement part (it's old) and call with a price. But he said I needed to call the heat pump company because it wasn't working properly.

So I did, and they arrived after 3 hours (these fast response times are amazing). The service guy checked the inside unit, outside unit, and found some wiring oddities which he fixed. When he reset the thermostat, he was surprised that the problem remained. He spent more diagnosing the system to no avail, then went and checked the thermostat. He used some different instruments and said it wasn't working right. He went and rewired the heat pump as it was originally, then tested the thermostat again. Same problem. I agreed to have the thermostat replaced. He said converting it to AC was a mistake and changed it back to battery power.

Without him changing any wiring or parts afterwords, the new thermostat made everything work perfectly. However, he pointed out that nothing in the entire heat pump system should have been able to trip the main house breaker switch! In other words, the maximum surge draw of the heat pump even with problems is only 26 amps and I had 60 to spare (plus I had not been drawing half the capacity at any time). So basically, he said the heat pump was fixed but he couldn't think of any connection between that problem and the main breaker tripping.

So I still wait for the main power breaker to trip again at any time... If the first electrician calls with a reasonable cost of replacing the main breaker, I will just have it done. Getting caught in pitch black with soap in your eyes is not much fun, after all...

Why don't I ever have any "normal" problems? Everything that I can't fix myself is admittedly "weird" to the professionals who come. Maybe I just fix the routine problems. Or maybe it's just "mean ETs". LOL!

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