Pete's random thoughts

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The furnace...

OK, so I thought I'd make a habit of posting something here every day while I had a lunch break. Right. It was a good plan but the part I didn't consider is that I seldom get to stop for lunch.

I found the source of the mildew! It comes from a section of the back wall in the "gun room". Most of the room is underground and whoever installed the sheetrock along the top part of the back wall didn't leave a gap along the cement foundation. Thus when the foundation is colder than the inside air (it has been around 10 below at night here in NH) the foundation "sweats" a bit.

I figured out what the source of the mildew smell was when I moved the dehumidifier out into the shop (where I had thought the smell was coming from). Normally, the dehumidifer lives in the gun room, since it isn't easy to ventilate. The same lack of windows that makes it a good gun room also makes it a little tricky to keep dry.

Now that the gun room is a lot emptier than it had been I will simply trim the sheetrock about 1/2" along the foundation to leave an air space. This should allow the wall to "breathe" and eliminate the moisture in the wall. Maybe now is the time to paint in there as well. Problem solved!

This move has been a comedy of errors. The stuff Chevy Chase movies are made of. What hasn't gone wrong? Since the last post, it has been: a BIG roof leak, the exhaust broke on Wendy's Suburban, my computer monitor died, and the biggest problem yet: the oil-fired furnace is crapping out!

The house was built circa 1989-90 for a guy who was retiring and wanted this to be his retirement home. He operated the first floor as a rock and mineral shop. He must have been an engineer before retirement, because only an engineer would buy a funky contraption like this furnace. It has no chimney! Apparently it was an attempt to create a super efficient oil burning furnace that would reduce emissions. Instead of a chimney, it has a 2" PVC pipe with a motorized condensation sort of thing hanging off of the bottom of it to recirculate moisture from the exhaust back into the furnace's combustion chamber. The PVC pipe then T's off and vents through the roof in two places. At first glance, you would think it is the vent pipe for waste plumbing, but nope, it's for the furnace. All in all, it probably looked great on paper.

We noticed things getting very dirty lately. Caleigh was always grubby. One particularly cold night, black smoke began spewing out of the vents and the thing just stopped working. I called the oil company and the tech was here so fast I couldn't beleive it. According to him, this is the only furnace of this type still running (more or less) in this area. Great.

He managed to get it running again, but it is acting very odd. The PVC tube gets hot enough that is sagging and it occasionally blows off. I put a couple of sheetrock screws in the joint that kept popping and it seemed to stop the problem. A few times I have had to reinstall the flange that holds it to the firebox of the furnace. Because the pipe sags so much, the angle of attachment was no longer right for the combination of fittings leading to it, so I used my cutting torch to slot a hole in the side of the furnace so I could reposition the pipe. It looks ugly, but I just need it to hold together until we can get a new furnace installed. Estimated cost $3500 which includes adding a power ventilator because we have no chimney!

Hopefully by this time next year we will have a decent wood stove.

On Thursday, I met with a realtor back in Lowell who will be selling the old house for us. First I had to shovel the 3' of snow that was in the driveway and chop away the snowbank that the jerks across the street put in front of our walkway. Since the house is unoccupied, that means it is OK to put the snow from a 6-car driveway on the sidewalk in front of it, right?

I was also supposed to meet with the people from Haffner's Oil for them to remove 150 gallons of heating oil that was accidentally delivered to my house. Normally, $270 worth of free oil would be a good thing, but the Lowell house heats with gas. Fortunately, I never found the time to remove the old oil tank that was in the cellar when I bought it. If I had, the yo-yos who delivered the oil to the wrong house would have pumped it into the cellar, creating a hazmat cleanup situation to the tune of $30,000. Of course, the guys who were supposed to come pump out the tank didn't show up. They probably went to the house two street over where the oil was supposed to be delivered in the first place! The best part of it is that they actually sent Wendy a bill for the oil.