Su Lum: Death by clogging
September 18, 2002
Last week in exercise class Fonda Paterson mentioned that KN Energy was having a “check your furnace for winter” special, which reminded me that I couldn’t remember the last time I had my furnace checked, but I’m pretty sure it was when Rocky Mountain Natural Gas was still in business, and god knows how many years ago that was.
Thus inspired, I called the KN company on their 800 number, signed up for their $79 special, and in due time a sweet young man named Trevor arrived at my furnace-room door, poked around, said humma humma, this was a bit more complex than he had anticipated, and he would be back the next day with a superior officer to assess the situation.
And so it was that the next day the superior officer delivered the bad news that the carbon monoxide levels coming out of my furnace exceeded anything they had ever seen on their meter readings, the implication being that if I had cranked up the heat, which I was within hours of doing because the weather has turned suddenly COLD, I would have been dead meat.
The upshot was that they disabled my furnace, and I had three choices: they could install a new boiler ($2,700), I could seek bids from other plumbing and heating people, or I could get the boiler cleaned ($200) and hope that would do the trick.
No one, including John at Colorado Chimney and Duct Works, the boiler cleaner, was optimistic about the latter option. To me, it seemed like just yesterday that I bought a brand-new furnace, at what I then thought was exorbitant cost; John pointed out that it was over 30 years ago and that my furnace was the equivalent of an ancient car with 500,000 miles on it. However, a cleaning might keep it going another year or two.
What the hell, I thought, give the cleaning a shot. My house is a tear-down, last year I had to put $6,000 into a new roof or drown in the drippings, and now this.
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The next day John came over with a truck in the alley and huge tubes in my back yard to suck the junk out of my furnace, but pulled out nothing. This was bad news: I need a new boiler.
John felt bad about charging me $200 for a terminal diagnosis of my furnace, and offered to clean my dryer pipes since he was already there in my back yard with all his blowing and sucking equipment, which he proceeded to apply to my dryer pipes, spraying a TON ? what he said was a Record Amount ? of lint across the lawn. This, he said ? news to me ? should be done every couple of years.
So I’m shopping for a boiler and FREEZING, and I bought a fire/carbon monoxide alarm which the boys at the Miner’s Building put together for me, and both in the store and when I set if off by accident at home, made a piercing, bracking noise while a woman’s voice (the same lady who tells you not to park in front of airports) called out, “FIRE! FIRE! Carbon MonOxide, Carbon MonOXide!” This is now sitting on my coffee table, around which I steer a wide berth.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who definitely needs a keeper. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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