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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Repairman Blues

ARGGGHHHH!  Repairmen drive me crazy sometimes.  It always seems there is some part of the repair that they just can't do properly.  And I don't mean some part of the job that is just hard to do.  I mean some part that they don't UNDERSTAND how to do. 

I shouldn't be too surprised.  I seem to have the misfortune of having "the troublesome repairs".  No one ever comes here and finds just "a loose wire" to re-attach...

Yesterday it was the heat pump outside unit.  It failed a week ago.  But there is a backup heating unit inside mine that provides heat (an electrical induction coil like in a space heater).  That works well enough, standard electric furnaces work that way routinely though not quite as efficiently.  So I waited until the snow melted.

This time, the initial diagnostic test suggested 2 possible problem, and of course it wasn't the simple one.  Surprise, surprise!  The "thermal expansion valve" had gone bad and they had to order one, being a part that "rarely fails".  Surprise, surprise!

So they came back Monday morning at 8:30 am to replace it.  I had a vet appointment at 2:15 pm, but I wasn't worried about it.  An hour to replace a part, I assumed. 

Little did I suspect that he had to disassemble most of the outside unit to get AT the part.  I was annoyed by late morning and worried by Noon.  He had the outside unit running by Noon, but was still having a problem.

I have a "normal" setting were the actual heat pump provides the heat.  There is a "stage 2 heat" where the inside induction coil comes on to provide additional heat if required.  That's for extreme demand (like when the power has been off and the house has gotten very cold, or when the outside unit fails).  There is "emergency heat" (which I assume means both are on when it gets too cold outside for the heat pump alone to keep up).

The repairman couldn't get the thermostat off the stage 2 heating mode.  I didn't know that.  He just kept fiddling with the thermostat and then going back outside to wait for the outside unit to come on again (there is a time delay when changing settings. 

I generally keep the house at 70F.  When I started getting worried about the time to the vet appointment, I started watching what he was doing.  He would set the target temperature up to 80F wait until the outside unit came on (after the 5 minute delay) then go back inside and see the stage 2 icon on.

I finally asked him what he was trying to do.  He said he was trying to get the system operating on normal heat, not stage 2.  Well, OK, I certainly want that.  After the 3rd cycle of that I started asking questions.  I'm analytical; I figure out logical problems.  So I asked why he thought the thermostat setting would change.

I immediately got that "God save me from curious customers" look. Undaunted, I said it wouldn't change until the house temperature reached the target setting.  I got a child's explanation of how the thermostat worked.

Bad move on his part.  I've been operating thermostats for 30 years, I know how they work.  And I said so.  THAT got me the "God save me from customers who think they know better than the repairman" look.

Worse move on his part!  So I asked him what he expected to happen.  He explained carefully that the "normal" icon should show up when the outside unit is operating.  I told him, it doesn't work that way; the stage 2 heat will stay on until the house temperature reaches the target setting.  He looked pained and launched into a much longer and very detailed explanation of how heat pump thermostats work.  I guess that was on the idea that if he couldn't dismiss my concerns he would drown me in details.

Worst move on his part!  Now that I knew what he was thinking, I knew where he was WRONG!  He thought the thermostat operated in 5 degree intervals.  As in, you set the target temperature to 70, the heat stays on until 75, then kicks on again when the house gets down to 65. 

WHAT?!?  No, it works in 1 degree increments I said.  If set to 70, its heats to 71 and shuts off.  Then kicks back on at 69.  He didn't believe me.  I told him it had always operated that way.

Then it got loonier!  He asked what base temperature the installers had programmed the thermostat to initially.  (Huh?)   He said if I kept the house at 70, they would have set the system to 70 at installation.  Well, that made no sense.  He even examined the insides of the thermostat looking for "something".  He demanded to see the manual.  I provided it.  He could barely read it (English was not his native [Italian] language, which added to our difficulties on explanations).

Now, the fan itself has 3 settings; "auto" meaning the fan is on when the system is on, "on" which means the fan is constantly operating, and "circulate" meaning the fan cycles on and off constantly every 10 minutes (for no purpose I can think of).

The repairman kept pointing to the "auto" icon, thinking it referred to the "normal" heat setting (also described as "auto" on the thermostat.  I had to lead him step-by-step through the manual before he realized the difference.

Which got us back to his idea that the system had been "programmed" to a specific temperature setting.  I never could convince him that there was no such thing (admittedly "that I knew of").  He insisted on getting the house cooled back down to 70, and opened the deck and front doors to let in cold air.  I went along since he was utterly convinced the system wasn't working properly and apparently I wasn't getting rid of him until he was happy.

I tried another leap of logic...  The house was at 80 (he had bumped the target temperature up several times is his testing).  So I asked what was the difference between seeing what happened going from 80 to 81 instead of cooling the house to 70 and seeing what happened bumping the setting to 71?  I should work just as well for testing purposes.

I got "that look" again...

But he "allowed" it, so we did.  After waiting the 5 minute delay (which is actually only 30 seconds normally - his equipment outside probably had a time delay built in - but I wasn't going to quibble over minor matters).

Hot Damn!  The thermostat icon went to "normal" heating immediately.  Surprise, surprise!  He was shocked (and I think a bit disappointed).  His misunderstanding of thermostats (Ok, OK, maybe they work differently in Italy) wasted almost 2 hours of my time and forced me to reschedule the vet appointment.

Epilog:  You'll get a kick out of this...  I had accepted a 2 delay repair delay because the office manager said he wanted to send one of his experts instead of one of the "regular" guys.  Makes me worry about the "regular" guys!  Imagine how bad THAT might have been...

Fortunately, the repair was a fixed price, not by-the-hour.  So I didn't actually have to pay for the wasted time.  But at bill-paying time, the repair ticket had a rating section for the repairman's work.  I had to fill it out right there in front of him.  That's a cheap trick companies use.  I could tell that if I had given less than a perfect 10, he would have whined and pleaded.  So I gave him 10s to get him out of the house.  I'll write a detailed letter to the company advising them of his thermostat-confusion later today.  He DID know the mechanics of the part-replacement! 

And as he left, he suggested that there was still a problem with the thermostat.  I could see he was thinking that I would be calling them back soon).  The whole system seems to be working perfectly and as intended...

And the cats' annual vet exam was rescheduled for an hour later and they are all fine!

1 comment:

Megan said...

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. And imagine if you'd been female - you would have been treated like you were even more stupid!

Sydney, Australia

PS. Perhaps next time you are asked to complete the survey in front of the tradesperson, you could ask them to leave it with you as you are in a hurry and want to think about what you're going to say?