A New Appreciation for Central Heating

We have heat!!!  After 5 days without a furnace, while temperatures plunged to -36 in Calgary, we have a renewed appreciation for central heating.  It’s amazing how sweet a sound a working furnace can be!

Last Monday (as in the 9th) we had the furnace guy in because our (still under warranty) furnace was – intermittently – failing to start.  Sears blamed it on the furnace not being serviced recently, charged us for a cleaning, proclaimed it fixed, and we commented how glad we were that it was taken care of before the cold weather hit . . . but alas, it was not to be.  The next guy installed a ground wire – that fix only lasted half an hour after he left – but the furnace was still working intermittently – we just had to reset it frequently.

And then, on Friday – before Sears had responded to our latest call – the resetting didn’t work anymore.  Friday, as the cold weather warnings for the weekend was the top news story.  Friday, as I was trying to get last minute things done for Talia’s birthday party.  Friday, as everything was closing up for the weekend. On Friday, we had no heat.

We called the Sears emergency number, and I’ll give them credit – they tried hard to get our furnace fixed that weekend.  But we learned that Sears doesn’t actually stock parts, and  Coleman doesn’t have a 24-hour emergency parts line.  They couldn’t do anything for us before Monday.

We very quickly became thankful for community.  Friends who provided firewood.  Friends who lent us space heaters.  Friends who took our kids for the night.  Friends who offered us a place to stay.  Our church even let us move Talia’s birthday party into their building at the last minute, so that I didn’t have to disappoint my daughter and her friends.

It was a bit of an adventure for a while. Kevin and I camped out on the living room floor and we discovered that our fireplace worked (we felt we had to stay at the house with that many space heaters running – and we couldn’t turn them off, otherwise the pipes would freeze).  The girls got a couple sleepovers with their friends.  Sunday – before we acquired some extra space-heaters – our house was the coldest; we couldn’t seem to keep even our living room above 14 degrees.  But the girls had plans that afternoon, so Kevin and I went out for a date.  Besides grabbing the stuff the girls would need for school the next day, we didn’t really spend much time in the house until after dinner.

We started Monday with high hopes.  The Friday tech called us at 8:15 to let us know he had the part in hand.  He was at our house by 9 a.m. to fix our furnace.  But he replaced the part and the furnace STILL didn’t work.  He went through his bag of tricks, and left with no clue as to why our furnace wasn’t working.  He told us his coworker would come take a look later that afternoon.

That’s when it started to get ugly.  The coworker came at 6 p.m.  He told us we needed two other parts.  Coleman closes at 4:30.  Another night with no heat.

The next day, a different tech came.  At 2 p.m.  Without the parts the previous tech had said were the problem.  He managed to get those parts, but by the time he got those installed and realized they weren’t the problem, Coleman was closed.  He needed another part that might make it work.  On a night that our church cancelled kids club due to the cold: another night with no heat, and no guarantees that we were any closer to solving the problem.

The next day the tech said he would be there by 11.  He arrived at 12:30. The part took a few hours to install.  We got a glimmer of hope in the afternoon . . . the furnace worked for 10 minutes before failing in what appeared to be essentially the same problem that we had started with before the furnace gave up completely.  Knowing that he wouldn’t make it to Coleman before closing time, the tech actually sent someone else to pick up a part and met her halfway.  If this didn’t work, we’d be spending ANOTHER night with no heat . . .

At just after 5 on Wednesday – 6 technicians after our first service call, and over 120 hours after our emergency call first went into Sears – we had our furnace back.  We unplugged our space heaters and left for our evening commitment half-afraid that we would come back to a quiet furnace and a cold house.  How sweet the sound of a working furnace!  Our furnace ran constantly for the next 5 hours, as the house slowly warmed up . . .  and it’s still running 🙂 🙂 🙂

Next, of course, is navigating through the process of compensation for things like electricity bills.  The lady at the Sears Call Centre that I spoke to this morning said she’d call me back by 5 p.m.  Care to guess if I’ve heard from her yet?

We’re considering filing a formal complaint on how the situation was handled – mostly because we don’t want anyone else to go through what we just went through.  Sears needs to – somehow – fix the process.  The Sears Call Centre person that I spoke to a few nights ago kept apologizing for the “inconvenience.”  I wasn’t sure that no heat at -36 C could be classified as an “inconvenience.”  We were okay – thanks to friends that supplied firewood, thanks to a husband who knows how to space out space heaters so that we don’t blow too many fuses, thanks to kids who are pretty good at going with the flow (and who have northern blood in their veins 😉 ), thanks to flexibility at work that allowed Kevin to be home each time a new tech came to get them up to speed on the situation.  I’m SO thankful that this didn’t happen while Kevin was on a project trip – I don’t even want to imagine!

But through it all, we still had places to go to stay warm – whether in front of a space heater or to a friend’s house for tea.  I have to admit, I prayed a bit harder for the homeless this past week.  Frustrating as the process was, I knew we’d – eventually – get our heat back.  Yeah – I’m sure the drop in centre is warm – but it’s not full-time or long term.  I’m thankful for a place to live.  And right now, I’m especially thankful for central heating.

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