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Me and the Heat Pump

It must have been last Tuesday when the furnace quit working.  It was fine when I went to bed.  The next morning, I got up and noticed it was chilly.

65 degrees, to be exact, with the thermostat set at 69.  Only 4 degrees off, but clearly something was wrong.  Then i noticed a little icon under the temperature.  Like a flame.  Hmmmmm.

So i go downstairs to the furnace and discover that there are these metal cylinders shooting out fire, which seems to light the furnace, but when they go out, everything goes out.  Hmmmm.

Clearly not good.

So I fool around with it for a minute ~ the fan’s working ok ~ but apparently the pilot light is not working.  Ok.  That tells me nothing.  I turn the furnace off.

It’s chilly, so I crank on my gas fireplace.  No problems here, I’ll be fine.

 I call my heating and air people.  They’re the same ones who installed the furnace back in 2003, and they’re the only ones who’ve serviced it.  They’re reasonable and generally efficient.  I like them.
I explain the symptoms my furnace is having to the receptionist ~ I’ll call her Debbie.  She’s sympathetic.

It’s not an emergency, so we arrange for the technician to come out Thursday morning.  That fits into my  work schedule.  I go on with my day, happy that I have the fireplace, looking forward to getting the furnace fixed.

Thursday morning, there is a torrential rain.

About 8:15, I get a call from Debbie at the heating place.  She explains that they have to cancel the appointment because he ~ the technician ~ can’t work on the heat pump when it’s raining.

I’m annoyed.  What do you mean he can’t work on it when it’s raining?

Well, she explains, if you open the casing of the heat pump when it’s raining, it can damage it, possibly ruin it.

Of course I don’t want my heat pump ruined, right?  So we start this dance with the weather.

Friday would have been perfect, weather wise, but I was scheduled to be in a training all day, so we scheduled for Monday afternoon.

I leave work early to be here.  All is well right up until the minute he’s on the way ~~ blocks from my house ~~

~~ it starts to rain.

Tuesday morning?  Rain.  At this point, I’m worried.  Xmas weekend is on the way, no dry weather predicted til Friday ~ when they’re closed for Xmas.  We schedule an appointment for Wednesday morning, and one for Thursday morning, just hoping.

Wednesday morning???   Yes, more rain.

The repairman, Chet, is on my speed dial at this point.  He and I agree that if it clears up enough to be safe, he’ll call me at work and I’ll rush home to meet him.

At last, finally, yes, Wednesday afternoon, the sun comes out a little, it doesn’t start raining ~ I get the call.  I drop my Christmas shopping and head home ~ holding my breath as he drives to my house.

At last ~ yes!  Here he is, and it’s not raining!  And now I ask him the question that’s been burning in my mind.

“How did you all even know the heat pump was the problem?”  I ask.

“Well, what did you tell them when you called?” he asks.

I explain what I’d told Debbie, about the fire going off and on rapidly and the pilot light not staying on.

Chet gets this odd look on his face.  “Well, now, you’ve just told me a whole lot right there,” he says.  “A whole lot.”

There’s a pause, suspense just about as high as it can get, and then he says, “You don’t actually have a heat pump.”



Yes, that’s right.

I don’t have a heat pump.  I have a regular gas furnace.

So, yeah, all that weather stuff?  Totally unnecessary.  He could have fixed it in the pouring rain.  Nice and dry in my basement.

And ok, that’s one of those things I should have known, right?  But you know, they put the furnace in, for some reason, I just assumed they knew what they were talking about.

{I know, I know what you do when you assume…}

Apparently, Debbie’s desire to be helpful extends to doing some diagnostics, without the requisite training.  It made me think about this management workshop I was at Friday, where the presenter was talking about the need, in the current job market, to give your employer “added value” beyond what they pay you for.

I figure this is Debbie’s idea of added value.  Apparently, a lot of the homes they work on have heat pumps, so she just assumed ~~

And yeah, there we are at the “assumed” word again.


I had to laugh.  At myself, at her.  If I’d asked my burning question ~ how do you know it’s the heat pump ~ a week earlier, I could have saved myself all kinds of hassle.

If Debbie had checked on what kind of furnace I had before deciding she need to arrange the appointments around my non-existent heat pump, she would have saved me ~ and Chet ~ some hassle.

If… if “whatever” had happened instead, it would have been easier.

But I wouldn’t have this opportunity to reflect on the importance of seeing things as they are, not as we think they are… asking the right questions at the right time… not practicing outside one’s area of expertise.  Lots of things to reflect on.

So I’m passing the story on to you.   I can foresee years myself years from now, listening to some one tell a complicated story about some situation.

I’ll listen carefully, nod sagely, and say, “Yes, but have you checked to see if you even have a heat pump?”

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