Since the beginning of cold weather and the need for heat in the house, my heat pump has been working fine. And when I say working, I mean really working. Working hard as in never taking a break. Working like an oil town hooker on a Saturday night kind of working. No rest till the sun comes up. None.
I know this because I listen to it from my bed. Since there’s not a hell of a lot to do in the middle of the night when you’re awake and desperately hoping to go back to sleep and don’t want to turn the light on for fear of sending false messages to your body, I lie there and listen to the heat pump turn on and off. With the big red numerals of the bedside clock so handy, the urge to time the cycle is irresistible, and in my case…obsessive. .
For those not familiar with the heat pump monster, let me quickly explain. It’s an all-in-one gadget and you know how well those things work. It cools in the summer and then magically heats in the winter by some process known only to engineers and God. And if for some reason, a winter storm moves in where everything is coated by five inches of ice, a backup system is available. It’s labeled EMERGENCY HEAT on the thermostat and operates under the same principle as a giant toaster. Wires as thick as your thumb glow red hot while a fan pushes air across the wires and out the vents. From there the super-heated air goes directly across the room and out the open back door where the Missus is standing and yelling, “Kitty, kitty, kitty.” Needless to say, the electric company loves the EMERGENCY HEAT setting.
It’s around thirty degrees outside, dark-thirty, and I’m timing this thing. Without a by-the-second display it’s hard to be exact, but it was roughly two-minutes off and thirty-minutes on. I mean this thing doesn’t stop long enough to take a breath before it’s firing back up and taking money out of my wallet faster than a pickpocket on Bourbon Street. Unacceptable. In desperation, I switch to EMERGENCY HEAT, and time it again. With coils glowing and the house humming like a nuclear reactor, I get: five-minutes off; twenty-minutes on. Big whoop. Oh, it’s holding the temperature okay, right on the money, never a degree over or a degree under. But at what price? I can take it no longer. I need some sleep. I call the heat pump guy.
He listens to my sad story, scratches his head, and says, “That’s kind of a weird problem.”
Of course. What other kind of problem could I have?
He hooks up his gauges, takes readings, looks it over, more head scratches, moves inside and studies the thermostat. And calls customer service. CUSTOMER SERVICE for Pete’s sakes. Naturally, he has the same results with the help desk that the rest of us mortals have and he goes to plan B. He returns to his truck and digs out a manual. Now I ask you, what red-blooded American male ever reads a manual? Cleary, he is in desperation mode. This is getting serious.
Heat pump guy reads for several minutes and then begins punching buttons on the thermostat. “I took it off the Automatic Recovery Mode”:, he says, whatever the hell that is. “Try it for a few days.”
It is now day two. It hit 20 degrees last night. If the heat pump shut off at all, I didn’t hear it. Might have been the whiskey though.