Sunday, December 26, 2010

A network of warmth

Today was shaping up to be an anxious one.  Late in the afternoon on Christmas Day, I noticed that the furnace wasn't working and the temperature in the house had slipped a few degrees below the thermostat setting.  (This is a week after we had a similar problem which seemed to have been fixed.  And this is a heat pump that is only about 10 months old.)

The repair guy was nice enough to stop by that same night and had a suspciously easy fix -- a drainage hose was sagging, causing the pressure switch to read it as clogged since water wasn't moving through.  He clipped the hose to shorten it and reattached it.  All seemed well.  (Actually, the furnace had kicked in and started blowing again just before he arrived after several hours of fruitless cycling.  Ain't it always the way.)

This morning, though, trouble again.  Heat had been pumping as late as 6 am this morning (when we have the thermostat set to push the temps up to daytime levels), but when Noel got up at 7 the three flashing red trouble lights were back.  Repair guy came back around midday.  The hose he had shortened had come unfastened, and he reclamped it.  Heat was back on ... but only briefly.  Before the furnace managed to get the temperature back up to the themostat setting, it died again.  When we called repair guy, he was apologetic but said that he had run out of options.  A new pressure switch was all that could be done, and that wouldn't be available until tomorrow afternoon.

Faced with the prospect of a night without central heating and outside temps of 20 degrees, we decided to get proactive.  I lit the gas fireplace in the living room, which did a remarkable job of lifting both the comfort level and our spirits.  Thinking that we could make it through the night without me losing my mind with worry if we had some kind of heater where the kids sleep, I asked on Twitter and Facebook if any local friends had space heaters they could loan us.  A colleague answered immediately; even though she was out of town, she had a housesitter and knew where her electric heaters were.  Noel headed off to pick them up, sharing with me a plan to get the kids excited about sleeping over together in the same room in sleeping bags.  Within a couple of hours, three more friends responded through social networking offering heaters; we took up the offer from one who lives in our neighborhood, scoring two large radiator-style units.

Throw in one small ceramic heater that Noel picked up at Wal-Mart, reasoning that since this has happened two winters in a row we really ought to have something of our own, and all our sleeping quarters plus the living room were being re-toasted by late afternoon.  By dinnertime, the temperature in the kitchen was back to normal, and the hall thermostat was registered an uptick of several degrees from its low point.  A virtue of a small house.

So we are snug for the night, with barely any inconvenience registering from our lack of central heat (other than some temporarily elevated gas and electric usage).  Here's hoping the part comes in and fixes our problem tomorrow ... but if it doesn't, we'll be fine.  Thanks to friends and Facebook, thanks to an attitude adjustment from worry to positivity, the anxiety that accompanies a breakdown like this -- especially for parents charged with keeping kids and guests out of the bitter cold -- has melted away.

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