Furnace, hot water heater and car battery

First I want to express sympathy to the Japanese people affected by the natural disaster/nuclear reactor problem. Being Chinese, I’m conscious of the long history (some good, some bad) between the two countries and two people. But on this biggest crisis for Japan since world war II, I felt sorry for the people, and doing my part to help.

In last few days, personally I have also had some minor problem at my house. Nothing as bad as things happened in Japan, but still inconvenient as (you can see) I am spoiled in the USA.

Minor scare
Last Thursday, at about 11:30 am, my wife called me at work saying there is unknown source of smoke in our condo. I told her turn off heat (electrical furnace), open the door, dress up the baby, and get out the house if needed. Meanwhile I drove home quickly. After got home, I could smell the burning but could not find the source either. I called 911.

Police came, he think it’s the “hibernating” old laptop causing the smoke. Fire fighters came, look around a little bit, asked where is the furnace. I told him, and he opened, that’s it: the connection piece of duct is made of plastic/cotton, and is burning!

Hot water heater
We called Kevin Schaffer of Cool Running AC and Heating, he came quickly and fixed the furnace. He put new sheet-metal to replace the old connection piece.

Thursday evening, after we gave the baby a bath and hair wash, we ran out of hot water. Called my friend who had similar problem recently, opened the control panel of the electrical hot water heater, reset, did not help. Flip the switch at electric panel, nothing. Tried to drain the water heater, no hot water came out. Called an authorized dealer of the hot water heater brand I have (Rheem, Ruudglas PE52-2), and the technician came in the afternoon. He said there is no power at the water heater, suggested replace the corresponding breaker at electric panel. Called electrician appointment the earliest I can get is Monday morning.


Saturday noon my wife decided to try someone else: Chinese people who working on home re-modelling, basically they do all kinds of things from electric to water plumbing. They came late afternoon and checked the breaker was ok, we do have electricity for the heater!

The saga goes on: I called the plumbing company boss right after that (Saturday evening, still with their working/support hour), explaining we do have electricity. He said he will check with service technician paid visit to our home. Monday morning, the same technician came, he checked the electricity again: turns out it does have power, but the voltage is not right, it’s not the 240v as required by the heater. Ouch!

Called the electrician again, he came early Tuesday morning and found out the problem was indeed caused by the breaker. After replacing the breaker, the heater does work. Finally I could take a shower before go to work.

car battery
This is a relatively easy problem compared to water heater. My old Nissan Altima could not start on Sunday morning. Tried my old trick: clean up the car battery connectors, it started. I brought it to dealer Monday morning, he suggested replacing the connector and cable of battery.

Postpartum
1) Check electronic furnace for fire hazard, for that matter check fire hazard in your house;

2) Don’t go cheap (and try to save a few pennies) on electrician, you will end up paying more and have the problem longer;

3) Don’t hesitate to call 911 if indeed in trouble, or see suspicious things/people, don’t try to DIY on those, leave it to experts 🙂

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