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Off Topic A cautionary tale of boldly doing DIY furnace repair. Sad
avatar January 09, 2019 05:32PM
Before I tell it, this was a complete Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario. But here is how it unfolded.

I have owned my home since 1992 (or part of it, still have a couple of years of mortgage). Same old furnace the entire time, and it is likely as old as I am. It just keeps heating the house, but it has had an issue almost from the first year I owned it. The pilot light would go out. For years you could basically count on it to happen a couple of times each winter. I relight the pilot and carry on. An annoyance, save for the time early on that I neglected to turn off the thermostat first. The hair eventually grew back. Whistle

I knew from word of mouth that it may be the thermocouple causing the trouble. You know, early on there was no internet to research it myself. I tried sanding it. But I basically left the thing alone and just got good at relighting the pilot safely, then didn't think about it much. This past year, it feels like I have been relighting the pilot more like twice a month. I finally did some real research on the subject of replacing a thermocouple, and saw how easy it is supposed to be. And the part is only about $10 at the hardware store. I bought a new thermocouple, and spent nearly an hour wrestling out the old unit from the furnace on Monday night. Tight spaces, and I had to unmount the entire pilot light and flex it forward to reach everything properly. But it went back together mostly OK, besides dropping the pilot mounting screws multiple times.

So it worked from the get-go. But I noticed a small amount of natural gas aroma in the air upstairs. It wasn't strong, and I did not really smell it worse in the basement. I just hoped a small amount leaked while the pilot was off and it would clear up. I ran the bathroom exhaust fan to help. I went to work Tuesday (yesterday), and when I returned home that gas smell was very noticeable. Still not any worse by the furnace, but it was all over the home. I made an emergency call in for repair.

I sort of felt it had to be something I actually touched, which was the thermocouple, the pilot light burner, the gas shut-off valve, and indirectly the flexible metal tubing that supplies the gas to the pilot. Flexing that tubing was unavoidable to do the repair. The tech was not having luck finding the leak for a while, but finally unmounted the pilot also and then was detecting gas from the flex tubing. 50 year old furnace, that flex tubing had gone brittle and cracked instead of bending. Bad news, modern furnaces use smaller fittings and flex tube. He did not have the right tubing, the hardware store did not have it. It would have to be ordered from the supplier the next morning.

It went down into the single-digits (F) last night. All my heat provided by 2 small electric space heaters. At least no pipes froze.

So my $8 DIY repair became $408 when it was all said and done. Another $30 for the replacement 2 foot of flex tubing and the rest is labor at after-hours rate. But nothing burned. I wish I could say this would have been no-sweat if I had a professional do the thermocouple to begin with, but obviously he would have had the same problem with not having a replacement flex tube available to deal with an inevitable leak. I guess I just want to remind homeowners that if you find 20 youtube videos and various DIY websites that say what a piece of cake 15 minute job it is to replace a thermocouple in the furnace, they don't tell you about the potential of unforeseen danger.

BF Hammer - the new and improved screen name of Chris L
Subject Author Views Posted
Off Topic A cautionary tale of boldly doing DIY furnace repair. Sad BF Hammer 189 January 09, 2019 05:32PM
Do you remember a year ago, when our furnace stopped working after 21 years? Eek! James T. Kirk© 82 January 12, 2019 07:06AM
That sounds good, sort of ............ Robmks 73 January 12, 2019 07:58AM
Re: lso what would be the cost difference between gas/electric be for the Winter season be? James T. Kirk© 78 January 12, 2019 01:45PM
That is a heat pump. By far the most common way to heat electrically is with radiant baseboard units. BF Hammer 79 January 12, 2019 02:27PM
Re: Trace that electrical power back to the source, and you will mostly find coal being burned to create it. James T. Kirk© 76 January 13, 2019 04:42AM
Yeah but what watch was the repairman wearing? Laughing Seriously I'm glad it ended well. It's scary when the scent of gas is in the air. (n/t) Dave P 82 January 11, 2019 07:30PM
Based on the bill, it could not have been anything less than a Grand Seiko SpringDrive. Laughing (n/t) BF Hammer 81 January 11, 2019 07:42PM
Yikes, glad it worked out. Makes me feel better I have old fashioned oil/steam heat. Cheers! (n/t) Robmks 133 January 09, 2019 07:23PM
That's a very northeastern part of the country way of doing things. Natural gas and propane rules the middle of the country. Smile (n/t) BF Hammer 121 January 09, 2019 07:49PM
Glad nothing worse happened. And now you're nice and warm. And safe! Smile (n/t) Zeb 82 January 09, 2019 06:52PM
Warm, yes. Nice? Debateable. Poorer? Definitely! Laughing (n/t) BF Hammer 129 January 09, 2019 07:45PM
Glad you didn't have an explosion or frozen pipes. You're right, even if you had a pro do the thermocouple, you still... Mike D 131 January 09, 2019 06:32PM
I don't fear electricity either...if I have personally disconnected the power. Wink BF Hammer 126 January 09, 2019 07:43PM
Good point - if I had formal education, I'd probably be cool with it. (n/t) Mike D 127 January 09, 2019 08:44PM

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