How Not To Do Home Maintainence, #72771: The Heater

Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook saw a curious little post last night:

To understand what's going on here, I need to set the stage:

For your heater to blow hot air, two things have to happen: the air has to get hot (from the burner), and the air has to blow (from the blower). The blower has a motor. The motor has a fan, and in order for that fan to move, it sits on a spindle. All of this sits in a vented case.

A long time ago, whoever installed the air conditioning up in the attic was a genius and somehow set up a funnel made of the loose end of a zip tie where the condensation from the air conditioning would trickle right down it, through the venting, and onto the motor. After a few years of this, the whole thing began rusting up.

The HVAC guy said that, to save us a bit of money, he could just replace the fan and spindle for the blower, but every few years I'd want to get up there and throw a little WD-40 on the whole thing to keep it moving smoothly. I asked how I'd know when it was time, he said "When you turn on the heat and all you hear is humming or buzzing, it's time."

Well, that happened last night. So I went upstairs to check out the issue, and sure enough, the motor was "humming" (it had juice), but the fan wouldn't spin. It just sat there and buzzed, basically. So I took the cover off and moved the blades with my finger, and it chugged along with a good bit of resistance.

"QUICK!" I said to no one. "To the Garage!" I ran down, grabbed some WD-40, and headed back up to get the thing unfrozen. Thinking smartly, I also turned off the main blower motor via the switch near the assembly, lest the gas furnace blow up in my face.

Because I can't actually get at the blower motor spindle directly, I had to spray WD-40 through the vent slats and casing around the blower motor spindle and fan blades. This took a while (and a good bit of WD-40).

Having trouble imagining what this looks like? Just know this: A TON of WD-40 was being bandied about because I had no direct access to a fan spindle which was frozen up.

But one thing I didn't do: Turn off the pilot light. And when enough WD-40 collected on the blower spindle and fan to begin dripping down, it did so right on the open flame. And for bonus points, ignition took place just as I went to go spray the blower motor spindle again.

To give you an idea of what sort of treat I got to see when this happened, here's a dumbass wearing a stupid MMA shirt being a retard, set to the dumbest song I've heard in a while:

(Can't see the video? Click here)

There was a huge "dripping" fire blowing all around my furnace assembly, and furthermore, I was holding an improvised blowtorch.

Without even thinking, I turned the spray of the WD-40 away from the furnace, but didn't think to let go of the nozzle, so now I was basically napalming all of my old toys and useless CDs in the attic. But only for a split second -- enough to scare the shit out of me. I am a safety freak (you wouldn't think so by how stupidly I behave), so anywhere there's fire, there's a fire extinguisher -- and in my attic, it sits right on top of the heater case. I grabbed it and put the fire out quickly, so there wasn't any damage. It just stunk to high heavens and left me shaking to the point that I had to sit in the frigid attic for about 15 minutes before I could brave the stairs down to the house.

So yeah, that was my night last night.