Thursday, July 30, 2009

HVAC repair

We have had four service calls on our home air conditioning this summer.

The first was when we returned from vacation at the end of June. The “old” part of the house would not cool below 80 degrees. I called out a company, but they charged us $200 for two pounds of Freon.

Two weeks later and the “new” part of the home, the compressor was not running when I returned home from work. New is relative, as the system is 10 years old. Just the day before the compressor quit, I was at a friend’s house and three of us were talking about HVAC repairs. The other guy had his home built 13 years back and the AC had never really worked well. He had contracted a local Trane dealer to “do over” and was very impressed with the professionalism, the work and the energy savings. So when I got home and that unit was not running, I gave them a call. I explained the issue and they said it would be $200 for them to come out now, since it was after 5 PM already, or $175 the next day. I picked the next day. We could set up some fans and turn down the “old” part to try and cool some of the “new” area. About 6 PM, the phone rang and it was the service technician. He asked for the symptom, and then said that if he drew a line between where he was, and his house, we were on the way and would it be OK if he came now? If not, then it would have to be after 1 PM the next day. I told him I didn’t want to pay for off-hours, but he said NO PROBLEM, this was his choice. So, 20 minutes later he and his helper show up, and in 15 minutes the unit was back among the living AC units again. I was impressed. Then he handed me the bill. $157. CHEAPER than they had said. I paid them and told them I’d want a bid on replacing the older system, but later in the fall. They said to just ring them when we needed.

Two days later and I get home and again the old part of the house is not cooling. I called them again. They came by and sure enough, the unit was again two pounds low on Freon. It was leaking it at the rate of two pounds in three weeks. It was just the middle of July, in Texas. The technician climbed up into the attic and looked over the system. Bad news, which was expected. The coil up in the attic was leaking. It was 14 years old. The outside compressor was 19 years old and the furnace was original, 25 years old. The fan in the attic was also squeaking badly, even after he oiled it. I told him about my friend and how please he was with their Trane system, and he went to work on a bid. He asked some questions about the home size and such and then came up that we needed a 3.5 ton unit, not the 3 ton we had. Except in the new energy efficient unit, they only had 3 and then 4 ton units. I opted for the 4 ton, which is a really neat compressor. It is really two, two ton units. The “intelligent” systems in it, can work alternating compressors on mild days, and both at full capacity on really hot days. I also opted to go from a 16 SEER to a 20 SEER unit, with a 10 year warrantee. Since we have two asthmatics in the home, I also added a clean-air filtration system. Built into the unit, it was $400. Adding it later would be $600 plus installation. So we signed up for a full system change scheduled for July 23. It was July 15, so we all crossed our fingers that the system would limp along eight days.

Two days later, the system AGAIN refused to work. Since we were under contract for the new system, the HVAC company came right out, no charge, to trouble shoot us. He found some relay had overheated and shorted out, due to the fan bearings being so bad. He had a used relay on the truck and wired that in to attempt to get us into the next week.

So that was FOUR service calls, by two companies, in three weeks time!

On the appointed day for the system change out, three service trucks rolled up. Along with a pickup truck loaded with all the new equipment. There were five service technicians and the owner of the company. They then proceeded to unload the gear and crawl up into the attic and over the outside compressor to remove all the old gear. About 9:30, I went out and they had all the old gear sitting on the garage floor. I offered them some Gatorade. Then there were two discoveries that had the technician’s eyes wide! One technician decided to dump the rust out of the furnace. He got a small bucket and asked one of the other guys to help him pick it up and dump it. It HALF FILLED the bucket with rust. One of them made another comment about that being about the worst he’d ever seen. The owner cracked me up with his reply. “That unit has been in that attic since before YOU were born!” But then the owner noticed something and asked for a screw gun. He went about removing the natural gas control valve from the furnace. Even his eyes got wide as they started singing “Burning down the house!” The inside part of the control value, had evidence of a fire! He said if it had burned a hole in the gas line, you’d see our house on the evening news with the attic blown off.

They finished their Gatorade and went back to work putting in the new gear.

The next wide-eyed moment was an hour later. Since the new compressor was larger than the old unit, it required a new breaker in our fuse panel. The owner was attempting to get the old fuse out and I was watching. It didn’t pop right out. When he got it out and examined it, it also showed signs of being over heated! There was some light corrosion on the fuse and also some plastic fatigue from heat! Another round of “burning down the house”.

Around 12:30, they were almost all done. We were down to just one truck, two technicians and the owner. He started the new unit up. With it’s built in electronics, it would actually sense things and tell them to add or remove Freon. It was 84 degrees in the house at 12:30. At 1 PM, we heard the one compressor shut down. The temperature was already dropped to 78 degrees, heading to the thermostat setting of 77. A few minutes later, and we were at 77 degrees and the unit shut down. It had pulled it down so fast, they actually had to lower the temperature a few more degrees to take some more readings and tune the system.

We are beyond impressed. I can’t wait to see what our electric bill will drop to. My friend said his dropped in half, but we still do have the “new” part of the house running with an older AC system. If you are about the Flo-Mo-HV-Lake Dallas area, check these guys out, Allied American Service.

I plan to have them out again this fall to replace our worn out duct work.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Film versus Movie - an explanation

The TV station Encore has been showing Dances With Wolves a few times lately. It was playing this Sunday and I had it on. Our 14 year old daughter came walking by and asked me what show that was. I said "Dances with Wolves, a real nice western FILM". She tisked at me and said "". She then explained that only OLD people used the term "film".

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Let's use two gallons of water to get one cup of water

I'm always amazed to watch the antics people go through to get a cup of water. I've already documented the "hot water over ice" technique.
So today I'm in the break room micro-zapping my lunch. A lady comes in. She heads to the sink, right where I'm microwaving, and LEANS on the hot water tap to insure it is turned well off. She then turns ON the cold water, full blast. I mean I have to step back to keep from getting splashed on. She heads over and picks up a styrofoam coffee cup. She fills it about half full of hot water out of the coffee maker. All the while the cold water is on full blast, with water splashing onto the floor. She then turns the cold water down, sticks her finger in it (it's Texas, Summer time in Texas...there isn't any COLD tap water). She then sticks her half full cup of HOT water under the COLD water tap. The one she just ran for two minutes to get COLD water flowing. So she has half HOT water, half COLD tap water (and about two gallons went down the drain) in her cup. She drinks some of the water, dumps the rest and tosses the cup in the trash. She then makes SURE the sink taps are off. I mean she leans on those. I pitty the next person who tries to turn them on.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Customer Service

I have been using flash drives for about five years. The first one I purchased is 512 MB and still works. It is a Lexar. My second flash is a Kingston Data Traveler, 2 GB. I’ve had it about three years. About a month back, it was about 80 percent used and decided it was “write protected”, so I can read off it, but could not write to it. Some time spent with Google searching for solutions yielded a tool to use to attempt to reformate it, but that didn’t work either. I was able to copy most everything off of it onto the computers hard drive. I then went and purchased a PNY 4 GB flash. It didn’t cost much, but the dumb thing quit working in three weeks! And I can’t read anything off it. Thank goodness, the old Kingston is still readable. I lost a few updated files off the “pony”.

So yesterday I decided to call up both PNY and Kingston to see what, if anything could be done.

PNY. Did I always properly eject it? Yes. OK, If you have the store receipt call us back and you will need to send the receipt and the flash back to us. I attempt to find the receipt, but can’t find it. I know about when I purchased it and went up to Wal*Mart, but they can’t pull up a duplicate receipt. I am out of luck on this unit.

I call up Kingston. Can you read the serial number off the side? Yes. OK, that unit is 4 years old, so it is still under our warrantee. They then email me instructions and a return number. I buy a 62 Cent padded envelop and have the post office stamp it. I’m out about $2 and Kingston will mail me a replacement drive. No questions asked. It should not have failed. Oh, and they most likely will replace the 2GB with a 4GB unit.

Kingston and Lexar, you have my business.

PNY, see ya!!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Entertainment Tonight

We usually watch the local ABC News affiliate, WFAA. We often watch at the 6 PM news time and following that, the ABC program Entertainment Tonight (ET) comes on. It is the most annoying four minutes and thirty seconds of information that can be crammed into a thirty minute program. They start with loud flashy music and images and excitedly tell you about what they are going to cover in these thirty minutes. They then take a commercial break. When they come back, they take four minutes to dispense one minute of celebrity news. They, they tell you what else they will tell you about in the remaining part of the program. Off to another commercial break. When they come back, it is another minute buried in five minutes of noise, and then they pose some “whose celebrity something or other is TODAY…..we will tell you after THIS commercial break”. On and on and on and on. Some psychologist needs to study if suicides in America go UP as the show drones on.
They spend the last few minutes of the program telling you about what they MIGHT cover in “tomorrows program of ET!!!!!”.

So last week, Michael Jackson died of a cardiac “event”. I’ve been betting the wife that MJ would open and close the show, every day this week. I’ve won that bet. I should have bet that the entire program would be about MJ, but on Thursday, they actually had some other celebrity news, for one minute and thirteen seconds, and then returned to MJ news.

Entertainment Tonight has not been this focused on a dead celebrity, since Anna Nicole Smith passed.

Come to think of it, ANS and MJ had a lot in common. Most of it was plastic. Male viewers appreciated ET’s “coverage” of ANS……