0430, Friday: Suddenly, I'm awake and I don't know why. Warm under the electric blanket but the air seems even nippier than usual -- we keep the house at 68 to 65, natural gas being expensive. Something does not smell right and that's not a metaphor. I lay there, listening for...I don't know what
Comes a tapping on my door. It's Tam. "Are you awake? Something smells funny and I think it's coming from the heat vents."
Oh, goldfish. The blower motor already shut down once last summer after running for two days; the low-bid guys the home warranty company sent knew it was unhappy but it did run once it cooled down and they couldn't replace it unless it was actually belly-up. Could it have died for good? "Probably is. Let's have a look-see." I get up, find my sandals, put on a robe and we check the house. No visible flames. No hot spots in the walls. Attic and basement okay.
About then, the furnace starts up and the blower goes through a longer, louder run-up than usual, runs a few minutes, stops and I hear the burners and draft fan still running. Then the motor buzzes and bumbles and restarts, runs a few minutes longer and the furnace cycles off normally.
Not. Good. The hot-wires smell (actually hot phenolic and motor-winding varnish, but who's checking such details?) got stronger while the furnace ran, too. I set the thermostat to OFF, went back to the basement, felt around the furnace for excessive heat (nope) and popped the covers. Motor/blower assembly is at the bottom, on the intake side, and the blower is hot to the cautious touch.
Rang up my preferred HVAC firm -- they've never tried to BS me and only charge for what they do, unlike the lads the previous homeowner hired, from whom I have a receipt for "changing" a nasty permanent (so-called) filter noticed on the per-sale inspection and which I found they, in fact, did not touch -- and their service allowed as how they would call me at 0700. So I made breakfast and rigged the house to do without heat for a few hours -- tuned on most of the lights, simmered a large covered kettle of water on the range with the recirculating fan going, and set up a heating pad in a couple of layers of towels for Tam's cat. The computer room, home to the gears-and-vacuum-tube monstrosity that "The Adventures..." runs on as well as the slick, silent, modern mil-spec devices comprising VFTP Command Central, stayed plenty warm and my cats consider it to be their room, so that was okay.
I got ready for work and when 0730 (or was it 8?) had come and fled, called the HVAC fixers, to learn we'd not see them until well after the time I had to be at work -- so I left Tam with a blank check and strict instructions to not flee the country with the furnace man, no matter how good he made it sound. Oddly enough, they did not, and by not so very much later, I'd spent most of my budgeted Christmas money without trying (or even being there) and Roseholme Cottage was reported to be toasty warm. (My definition of "toasty" may differ from yours -- then again, I spent one Indianapolis winter in a house with no heat, it being a double with a shared furnace and a neighbor who couldn't pay her half of the gas bill and I could barely manage mine. 65 is warm).
It usually is always something but this one was, at least, resolved in jig time. Not freezing is worth quite a lot to me, really.
1. As in, "carp." Knowing how readily I type letters out of order, the rest is left as an exercise for the reader.
2. "Where they all are," you mutter, but you're wrong -- the double I sort of owned in Collegetown had huge, old round coal furnaces with scary gas conversions, burner rings almost a yard across with a pilot in the middle (Hisssssssssssssssssssssssssss... WHOMP! when they lit). My side had a 50's-vintage Sears add-on blower in the cold-air return but the other side had been "upgraded" in the late 1930s, with a huge horizontal squirrel-cage blower stuffed in the top of the furnace where all the hot-air ductwork exited and a "historical" electric motor hung in a fancy spring mount on the outside, driving the fan wheel with a set of pulleys (about 5" on the motor to 30" on the blower) and a fully-exposed belt. The whole thing flexed and wobbled every time it started and there was one -- 1 -- HVAC repairman in town who would so much as look at it when it acted up; even so, he tended to shake his head, say, "It's a wonder this thing hasn't..." and give low, wondering whistles quite a lot. That place was also my first exposure to tube-and-knob electrical wiring. And lead-and-oakum joints in the drains. And-- well, you get the picture. But it had the second-biggest bathtub of any place I've lived, which made up for quite a lot.