Tuesday, February 19, 2013


One of the things you learn once you buy a house is that entropy does indeed rule. And, to keep it at bay, you have to buy new things to replace the old things that die or do without. 

The roof will eventually leak, the fence'll rot and fall over, the storms will drop big pieces of tree into the yard, or on top of your house. The rugs go threadbare, the floors crack and buckle, everything needs to be repainted. And on and on. If you are a stay-at-home spouse, or retired, or out of work, your home can become your full-time job, twixt the yard work and upkeep on the structure(s) themselves. Not even to mention cleaning the place.

So it is that we have come to the replacing of our furnace.

Not that we live in an ice box, we have fairly mild winters, being in a valley and all, but the temperature does drop below freezing, and the basic winter day in this part of Oregon is forty degrees F. and raining, which is a tad chillier than we like it inside.

The furnace that was here when we moved in was twenty-odd years old and about 50% efficient. We got inside storm windows, which cut our heating costs–we use natural gas–but it was still spendy. Plus when the gas company guy came out to inspect it, he found a crack and allowed as how explosions, fire, and death might be in our immediate future.

Hmm. Maybe we don't want that.

So we bought a new furnace. That one was 80% efficient, which cut heating costs immediately, and though it took several years, it paid for itself in savings. (And the first time we cranked the sucker, twenty-odd years worth of dust and dead bug parts blew from the registers, several of which were bent enough so they howled like werewolves. We cleaned the ducts, replaced the grills, and went on our way, feeling much warmer.) 

Fast forward two and a half decades ...

A couple years back, the furnace's igniter went out. Back in the old days, forced-air gas furnaces had pilot lights, i.e., small flames that lit the main burners when the thermostat said they should. Kitchen stoves had those, too. Alas, those were deemed too dangerous, because now and then they blew out, but the gas kept flowing, and that could result in a build up of gas, and subsequent explosions, fire, and death, which nobody really wanted. So those were phased out and replaced with electronic igniters. On the one hand, they were safer. On the other, if they went out, you couldn't relight the furnace manually. 

You can relight the stove manually, which is good when the power goes out; at least you can cook, even if the furnace won't work, being the blower motors are electric. 

The furnace igniter, which looks kind of like a soldering iron's tip, doesn't like dust, and an itty bit on it will short the sucker dead. The blower motor runs constantly, but the air is cold. 

After the third igniter in a couple years, we started thinking the time was drawing nigh that we consider an upgrade. Like an old car, you can keep replacing parts, but it will nickel and dime you to distraction. Yeah, that part is under warranty, but when it's twenty-nine degrees F. out there and the furnace craps out, it sometimes takes a while for the repair guy to put you on the list. It's winter camping until the furnace guy gets there. 

Then our thermostat died. We got a spiffy new one, and it is great, but ... a couple weeks back, we waked up to a cold house. The circuit had kicked off. The thermostat was telling the furnace, "Furnace! Turn on!" and the furnace kept saying, "Fuck you! You can't make me!"

All it took was a switch toggle to get it working again, but it happened again a few days later, and we began to see the writing on the wall. 

We figured we'd wait until next season, winter being almost over, but we got one of those rebate offers that would save us seven hundred bucks or so on a new furnace, so...

So, a new furnace is in the offing. New one will be somewhere around 95% efficient, quieter, better motors, la, la, la, and, in theory, should outlast us. It should, it will cost us enough. And it will eventually earn back its cost in savings, too, after four or five years. In theory. 

The roof is getting long in the tooth, and that's the next project, because rain falling on our heads inside isn't okay; after that, the back fence, the floors, cabinets, the list is long, and then it starts over ...

Fortunately, we are about to pay the mortgage off and the money we were shelling out for that can then be put into home improvement, and maybe we'll even get some tax benefits, but I am here to tell you if you are considering buying a house, something will always need replacing, and if not at the moment, soon. Word. 

1 comment:

AnnieB said...

You forgot several other words which other would-be homeowners should know: property taxes and utility bills (water, sewer, garbage collection), plus lots of things you don't typically buy as a non-homeowner: snow blower (or shovel if you prefer), lawn mower and other gardening tools ad infinitum, plus bedding plants, seeds, fertilizers, weed killers. Ah, the joys of homeownership! You're not alone!