Whatʼs Up?

Did everyone enjoy yesterdayʼs first installment (of only two, I promise) about my exciting adventures trying to arrive in this world? I did, as you will discover in the conclusion next Sunday, send an e-mail off to Alanis, so weʼll have to see if she/her staff bothers to plow through nearly two thousand words. Or if I win a prize at all.

For today, we have quite another kettle of minor (and selfcentered) woe…

The new boiler (I think this picture appeared in an earlier post in late 2010). The screen I keep mentioning is just above the “Peerless PureFire” logo in the dark area toward the top of the box. (If the picture is too small to see that, just click on it.)

I am dreading that weʼll have spent some unexpected money soon. Our brand-new furnace has been acting up in a strange way. Thursday evening, Janet noticed that we were chilly downstairs, and she was right. It was only 63° in our family room (I hadnʼt really noticed because I had covered my legs with a blanket, as I usually do — yep, weʼre just little old folks at home), and the thermostat had been set to 68° for hours. Strange. But it was a little on the cold side outdoors…

Then The Lovely One noticed that our new boiler (we have hot-water heat, so we donʼt really have a furnace) wasnʼt behaving quite like normal. Usually, when not running, its little computer screen readout says “STANDBY” and indicates the water temperature and time (with the time an hour off thanks to installation shortly before we dropped daylight savings time for the winter). When itʼs heating, the little screen says “CALL FOR HEAT” with an indication of how hard the boiler is heating (“INPUT %”) and the temperature and time. What Janet saw on Thursday was different: “SUPPLY AT SETPOINT.” There were various second lines — “POST FAN PURGE” and “ATTEMPTING IGNITION.” Also the temperature was higher than we usually noticed, up around 175°. Furthermore, it never got around to the normal “CALL FOR HEAT,” even though the basement, at least, wasnʼt close to as warm as the thermostat was set.

I got adrenalinized and overly excited (which makes me loud and rude when dealing with household emergencies alone with Janet), but I did eventually, after a couple harsh exchanges with each other, locate the ownerʼs manual(s) for the Peerless PureFire that we have briefly owned (for about ten weeks, apparently). It didnʼt tell me anything, although I did finally locate a few pages of readouts, two of which showed the “SUPPLY AT SETPOINT.” Neither was any help, though.

My best guess, once we really had calmed (me with a shower, her by doing that eveningʼs dishes), was to lower the thermostat to below the actual temperature indoors, 63°, to give the boiler a break, and then about the time we were going to bed, set it at 60° (which is higher than we have the digital devices set for nighttime) and see what happened.

We slept warmly that night, the furnace working like a charm once it had to kick in (once the interior temperature fell below 60°). We had agreed that I would call the plumbing and heating company for advice on Friday morning, which I did, and their guy, the pleasant fellow in charge of installing the boiler back in October, showed up pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the furnace was working fine, so there was no way to tell what was/had been wrong, even though Rich remained there for well over an hour, watching the boiler and reading the manuals. When he left, he took the manuals with him to study (after all they donʼt do that many boilers, as most people have forced-air heating, and the manufacturers seem to change the models almost every other month or so). He told me to keep an eye on it and write down anything odd that happened, especially if the screen showed an “A” for an alarm or a “W” for a warning (I knew it hadnʼt in its misbehavior the previous night).

Not really relevant to the post today, but these PVC pipes are the intake of fresh air and the “chimney” for our new boiler. Somewhere outdoors the boiler has a sensor for exterior temperature that helps it determine just how high to make the “setpoint.”

Saturday morning, Janet awoke before me to head out for Zumba as I malingered abed until well after 9:00 (hey, I get up about 4:45 every weekday morning to run — or shovel snow). When I got downstairs about 9:15, the furnace was racing madly through the unfortunate cycle: “SUPPLY AT SETPOINT” to “POST FAN PURGE” to “CALL FOR HEAT — ATTEMPTING IGNITION” through rapidly sending the water temperature up to 175° at which point it went through the whole cycle again. And again and again and…

It only took about sixty or seventy seconds to run through a whole cycle (a fact I was very conscious about because I was trying to write down all the information on our pad of paper as rapidly as I could, over and over and over). So I called the company again, taking note as I left my message on their machine (it was Saturday, after all) of the emergency number to call. I lowered the temperature on the thermostats to below the current house temp, which was only 57° both upstairs and down (two separate subsystems, each with its own thermostat). It was the excessively cool temperature that made me call for emergency help, as I finally did a half hour later.

Of course, having rested, when I set the thermostats back to a decent place in the mid-sixties, the boiler worked fine. It still was when Rich arrived about an hour after my summons (I had even called him again to say it was working and maybe he didnʼt need to come, after all, but he was already on our case and had received a second repair job as well). He really checked things out this time (we had both figured out some possible problems with pumps, callers and other items that werenʼt the boiler itself), showing and explaining a lot of stuff to me, including a few things I could from then on be able to do for myself. But he couldnʼt determine what had been/was wrong, except to conclude some things that werenʼt malfunctioning. About an hour later, he packed up his equipment and testers, restored the boiler to its normal state (he had really opened stuff up to check), and told me to keep an eye on it. Again.

It worked fine all day Saturday, getting both levels of the house up to temps warmer than we usually keep. I am typing on Saturday evening about 5:30, and I will continue to keep the house warmer than normal, my one theory being that the furnace is having trouble when it has to raise the temperature fifteen or twenty degrees between a low setting for night and a warmer setting for when Janetʼs home. The heating guys still have our manuals, so weʼll be in touch.

Maybe the boilerʼs just moody.

Of course, as much as I appreciate Richʼs active investigative visits, thatʼs possibly how Iʼll feel (maybe more than merely moody) if these service calls on a ten-week-old boiler turn into big charges…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

3 thoughts on “Whatʼs Up?

  1. Sounds like a sensor or computer problem….UGH We put a Geo Thermal unit in this fall which seems to work OK (although I don’t understand how it works).
    The Geo was expensive, but the rebates were incredible….$3800 from Alient and $6000 worht of Obama pie!

    • Thanks, Ted. (I just got in from my second round of shoveling for this Monday.) The computer has sounded no alarms, which is what confuses Rich. However, the boiler itself (what the computer runs) seems to be doing fine, by its lights (meaning the computerʼs point of view). Thatʼs what makes me wonder about the peripherals (pumps, subsystem switches, sensors, as you noted).

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