Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Joys of Home Ownership

Part 1 – Garage Door Opener

Finally finished up the garage door opener project.   My buddy Cha graciously gave up a good chuck of his last Saturday morning rewriting the garage to add a new outlet to the ceiling.  This Saturday, the garage door guy showed up.  He quickly surveyed the situation and said everything was a go, but I’d need the extra $60 add on for some bracing for the flimsy aluminum door.

About an hour later, I checked up on them and they were just wrapping up and doing final adjustments.  Unsurprisingly, he said that the door was a pretty much on its last legs;  its bent in a few places and brackets for the rollers lack some key adjustments that would make the door work better o the tracks.  He went on to say, its probably got another year or so in it.  The tracks are also a train wreck; on the left, the tracks are too close to front wall of the garage; on the right, there’s no bracket within 3 feet of the floor.

After a year of putting the door up and down manually, I’m all about just hitting a button.  Sandy’s also ecstatic and about not having to clear off her car constantly as the snow begins to fly.

I thought this gonna be an inexpensive project, ha!  Here’s the breakout and grand total:

Opener: $149
Installation: $129
Extra Part Needed for Installation: $60
Electrical Stuff: $120
Lunch of Electrical Helper: $20
Total: $478

I’m not wasting money, I’m increasing equity.  Yeah, that’s it.

Part 2 – Brrr, doh.

So, Sandy and I were watching a nice movie on the mac in bed.  It was about 9:15 and we were both kinda spent and starting to get ready for bed.  Sandy said, “hmm, that’s strange, the heat light is on on the thermostat, but the furnace isn’t running.”  Well, that is curious.

I left it at that for a little while.  I thought I remembered previous occasions where the thermostat and the furnace lose sync with each other;  I’ve never had to do anything the past, they just eventually pick up where they left off.

15 minutes later, no dice.  Hmm, I remember the furnace guy telling me that if I ever have a problem with the furnace to check both the breaker at the circuit box and that there’s another inline circuit breaker or fuse right next to the furnace.  I figured if it was a fuse and it was shot, I’d have a chance to be able to score a replacement fuse at Home Depot and not be without heat all night.  Upon closer inspection, its not a fuse or a circuit breaker, its just a switch.

I crawled around to the business side of the furnace.  No flames shooting out or sparks, that’s a good sign.    Interesting, the controller has a status light and its blinking out a code.  Oh, how handy right next to the light is a legend for the code.  Hmm, its error #31.  Something about a bad inducer or inducer switch.

Not knowing where to go next, I called up my heating contractor.  Left a message on the service and they called me back in about 10 minutes.  Pretty impressive.  I told him the situation and he asked if I could read him the status code text.  He said that might just be some dirt fowling up a sensor.  He wanted me to start poking around in the there and jingling wires and the like.  I leveled with him and said that I was already far beyond my furnace servicing skill set.

He suggested rebooting the controller by toggling the power to the furnace.  Gave that a shot and no dice; status light reported all clear, than went back to the same error when the thermostat called for heat.  Sorry dude, I need you need you to send some one out.  Are you sure, its gonna be overtime rates?  I told him, I need the heat so it’ll be what it’ll be.  $130 for the first half hour, then $130/hour after that.  Well, crap, I’m in the wrong business, I guess.

About 45 minutes later, the guy showed up.  He was surprisingly courteous and friendly for the time of day (now after 11pm on a Saturday night.)  I showed him to the crawlspace, and got the equivalent of “oh goodie, another freaking crawlspace.”  He said something like, “at least this one has a light.”  He got right to work with DMM probing around.  I asked if he’d like me to call for heat from the thermometer, so I crawled out and dinked the temperature up a few degrees.

I was just crawling back into the crawlspace, when I heard an emphatic, “whoa, well that’s a problem, sparks!”  Hmm, unexpected sparks in vicinity of natural gas, that’s probably not good.  The tech said he took his flash light off the panel to write something on his clipboard and as the furnace kicked it was sparks galore.

Turns out it was a broken crimp connector on the wire to inducer.  He quickly cut off the failed connector and crimped on a new one.  He speculated that was the whole problem.  The inducer sits on the mechanical equivalent of a daughterboard that’s held to furnace chassis with some rubber bushings.  The bushings are getting old and kinda spongy, so the whole inducer mount moves about 1/8.”   This movement happens every time the furnace starts up, so I’m guessing the failed connector was everyday wire fatigue.  The tech checked a bunch of other specs and said everything else looks good.  Total elapsed time from him getting out of his truck to now?  6 minutes.

He said while he’s there, he’ll clean the flame sensor, as its another sensor that when fowled can cause similar no-fire problems.  I said sure, I’m paying for the whole first half hour, so fix anything you like in there.  He giggled politely.

Another 10 minutes later, he was done and everything was buttoned up again.  He wrote up the bill for $146.35.  He was sorry that it wasn’t really any real parts that were broken, and that I didn’t happen to stumble on that wire on my own (suspecting that I probably could have fixed myself.)

All in all, even though it was a bunch of money, I was very satisfied with the service.  Their timeliness and professionalism are much appreciated.  Hats off to Hills Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning.


So, if you’re not a homeowner already, why not run out and get yourself a house so can enjoy all the fun!

Flying Cats?

Well, nearly.  Friday morning, I thought I heard a crash around 3:45 am.  Its a pretty common occurrence with our 2 kitties.  At 4:40 the alarm went off as usual and after shaking out some cobwebs, I heard the distinctive sound of cat having way too much with a toy.  I figured they’d snuck one of their toys out of the lower level and were gleefully smacking it around on the hardwood floor in the living room.

I race out of the bedroom and flipped on the hall light to try to catch the perpetrator in the act.  Sure enough, there’s Dexter putting distance between him and a little black tube.  What is that?  No wait, it can’t be.  Oh @#$% it is.  Its the top to a nail polish bottle.  Stay cool don’t lose it yet.

I made it into the kitchen and flipped the light on.  Ok, then I lost it.

Smashed across our nice ceramic tile floor was the remains of one nearly full fire engine red nail polish bottle.  Much cursing was then had.  I wheeled around the living room and began to look for a blood like trail.

Surprisingly, there was none to be found.  Damn, good thing too.  If there was, I probably would have thrown Dexter straight out the front door, slamming the door behind him soon after.

Surmising that is probably nearly impossible to effectively clean nail polish while its still wet, we flipped some rubber made containers on top of the puddles and duct taped them down to keep the cats from tracking it all over the house.  I knew the polish would come off the tiles themselves without too much hassle.  But, was guessing that the grout would just drink it up.  Prayed a bit that when everything was dry, we could just peel it up in one big sheet.

A day a later, razor blade in hand, I tried to lift a corner of one of the puddles.  At first, it seems plausible.  But, then I realized that the ceramic tile is just porous enough that razor blade skims across the surface and leaves a lot of polish stuck in all the pores.  Yuck, the grout will be even worse.  So, I scraped all I could and cleaned up the remnants with nail polish remover.

After getting most of the polish off the grout with the razor, I followed up with a wire brush.  I helped a little bit, but you can still see the red pretty easy.  Crud.    Maybe some nice fresh dirt ground into the grout will cover it up eventually.  For now, I guess we’re stuck with the painful reminders for now.

At this point, I’m guessing we won’t be leaving anything out on any horizontal surfaces that are kitty accessible.

VW Eco Performance CC Concept

Interesting, VW is making pondering a new performance version of the CC (via).  The enhancement is via a new 3 stage turbo that lets you dial in your fuel economy versus performance; nifty idea.  On the low end, Eco Mode gives you 222Hp at 33/27 MPG.  On the high end, Full Power Mode, gets you 313Hp (they didn’t list MPG though; guessing its not so great.)

The interesting part is that the engine itself is still the venerable 2.0L 4 cylinder that I’m totally enjoying in my ’08 Passat.  For me, 200Hp is more than enough for daily driving; probably too much, actually (I’ve accidentally squawked the tires a few times!)  but, I’d love to see what Full Power Mode feels like.