House, year one. At length.

So here's the thing, a year ago tomorrow I got the keys to a house I bought. I should have probably started this blog then. given my intended direction with it, that would have made sense. But I'm starting it now, and catching you up for a year. So if you want the TL;DR version: Bought a house, did some stuff, planning to do more stuff. I don't know all the stuff. I like to figure the stuff out.


The process of buying alone was enough to make me suddenly understand why people rent things. But I'm a stubborn ol' soul and refuse to accept the idea of paying someone to use a house for years, then giving it back with nothing to show for it. So I had to buy a house, whether I liked it or not. by the end of it I definitely did not like it. I was ready to say "Cuss it, I'll live with my parents some more... at age 30..."

It's been going pretty good. I'm a handy guy, so the little foibles that come from buying a 1960's house, that has spent the last few years as a rental don't really bother me. I kinda punch through them and fix things as I go.

I can tell you this though. I grew up without air-conditioning. I'm told that's what windows and fans are for. I've spent time in places that actually get hot too.   There were days in Iraq and Afghanistan that pushed 140 degrees (Fahrenheit.) So that first month after I got the house, because it's got a forced air furnace, (I grew up with a wood stove for heat) with a built in central air system, I think I'm living the big life. Set the thermostat to 72 and scoff at the heat.

What you have to bare in mind is, this was a bit of an experiment. The way my loan worked, I had a buffer zone of two months before I had to make my first mortgage payment. So what better time to see how much an electric bill is, while using AC. So that's what I went for. Financially, not too bright. I tend to live a lot of my life "financially not too bright."

This gibberish leads me to my first repair at the house.

The AC.

I'm no Troy Barnes. I noticed that coming out of the furnace at the bottom was one of the lines for the refrigerant. That pipe seemed to get frozen over. Never having AC, I didn't know whether that was normal or not. I assumed not. One of my jobs while I was in Iraq was to preform maintenance on all out AC units there.  Mostly, all I did was take the covers off, and wash the dust out. I found there that the dirtier they were, the more prone to freezing over they were. I came to the conclusion that was because air wasn't moving fast enough over the coils due to friction from the dirt.

As I saw it, there is two solutions to that; Clean the coils, and or make the blower blow harder.

I opted for cleaning the coils. At the home depot they have some spray foam cleaner stuff that is for cleaning the coils on an AC unit. So I went and bought some of that. I took the cover off of the AC compartment at to bottom of my unit (mine blows down, into the crawlspace, if you have a basement yours is likely on top.) After opening that up I was amazed to see how disgusting it was in there. So I followed the directions on the can.   Basically you spray it on, and use the little scrub brush cap it gives you and  scrub the fins of the coil. You have to stick to scrubbing with the "grain" to protect the fins, and you probably want to stick to the plastic brush the can comes with. I would think a wire brush or something might be a little harsh.

The way mine is set up the two coils make kind of an A frame. You don't really have access to the back side of the coils so you kind of need to hope that you can get it all from the top side.

I hoped this myself.

So when it froze back up... I wasn't happy.

Round two.

The house is on a crawl space. A rather narrow one at that. So I low crawled over to the bottom of the furnace and start tapping on the bottom of the duct directly under the AC unit.   The plan is to take the bottom of the duct apart and clean from the underside. Years of watching MacGyver has served to ensure I've always got the tools I need. My every day carry Swiss Army knife. As I'm tapping on it, I can hear that distinct sound of water on the other side of the sheet metal duct wall. Like I'm tapping on the outer wall of a submarine.   So I shift my position from under it, to something far less comfortable for working. I've had my shower for the day already. Slowly I take a few of the screws out that are holding on the pan and let one corner drop about an inch.

Having created a low point I take my drill and a 1/8th drill bit, and make myself a drainage hole. After waiting on it for about 5 minutes, with no end in sight, I turned my attention to other things. From the pan under coils, is a drainage line.  usually about 1/2" PVC pipe, I follow this line out to where it exits my crawlspace.   I see that its not really pitched properly. I've heard about plumbing before that you want something like a 1 in 12 pitch on drainage. Last I checked gravity pulls down, where as, on my furnace this line goes up. Those seem to not mesh well.   so I decide this needs to be remedied. I happen to find some wire down in the crawl that I wrap around the line and the screw up to the joists pulling the middle saggy part of the line up till it looks like I have a nice pitch down from the furnace out of the wall.

I check the pan; still draining strong...  Gallons I tell you....  I think about drilling a bigger hole, but I don't have a bit that size down there with me, and its a pain to get in and out of the crawl. Regardless, I crawl out and go check my flow at the outside of that drain line. I see outside that there is some rubber hose attached to the end of that PVC. The rubber hose then runs along side the house on the concrete walk, slightly up hill. Nothing coming out of it. So I just pull the hose off completely at the PVC joint. I'm greeted with wet feet from the flow of the drainage line.

While, I don't know if that was THE problem causing all my ice damning, but I definitely know that it was wrong and that I have corrected it.  So that's certainly better than where we started. Upon inspection of the rubber hose I notice if I try, I can't blow air through it. So even running down hill it wouldn't have worked. Trashcan seemed like a good home for that thing.

I'm not terribly convinced that the drain line was causing my whole problem. I am sure however that it was directly responsible for the 8th sea currently draining from my duct system. So I head back into the abyss of the crawlspace. In doing so I contemplate the structural concerns of digging this crawl into a basement. As I crawl back over to the furnace, I see that its finally stopped draining. I pop off the rest of the screws and drop that bottom pan. Looking up in I can inspect the underside of the coils. The underside looked about the same as the topside when I started. So I cleaned that as best I could, all the crap raining down on my face as I scrubbed it free. Re-assemble, exit crawlspace.

It was probably a couple weeks later that I decided it still wasn't blowing as hard as I'd like so I tore the top half apart as far as I could without removing the gas lines; washed and cleaned everything. Oiled the fan motor. Re-assemble.











About this time is when I got my first electric bill and shut it off. I'm pretty sure the house will fall down before I use it again. That said, it didn't freeze up the last few days I used it. So something worked.

That was long winded... just think, if you've stuck with me this long, you've reached August... 2013...