I really wish it had been the earwig. It would have been a lot cheaper.
About six years ago I got this hybrid heating system which runs a heat pump (essentially the air conditioner, only running in reverse) until it gets down to near freezing and then kicks in the gas heat. I had to get something because the old system was beginning to make a noise like sneakers in a dryer and the heat exchanger was a month away from the death of its twenty year warranty. I thought it was the balls, especially the intelligent thermostat that you can program to turn up the heat before you get out of bed. It also sends you little billets-douces like “seasonal service recommended at this time” and “change the filter you feckless idiot,” which pop up on an iPhone-sized screen. When the serviceman calls to check the pressures and install new hamsters he can read the system’s entire memoirs off this thing.
If something goes amiss, a broad dark band appears on the screen telling you to call a technician. This can be a problem because while the system coughs up a numerical code for whatever has gone wrong, the information can be opaque even to a person with a handyman streak. This one informed me that my system was registering ERROR CODE 82. This is not really helpful in itself as it is unclear whether it means 82 YOUR CAT HAS UNPLUGGED THE ONBOARD HUMIDIFIER or 82 YOUR SYSTEM WILL BLOW UP IN TWELVE MINUTES TAKING YOUR HOUSE WITH IT. Eventually I pushed some controls and discerned that Code 82 meant “thermal lockout.”
By the time the guy arrived from my heating contractor I had learned from my friend the Internet that this meant the compressor was overheating. It appeared to be something that happens in the cooling season when it’s over a hundred or so degrees out. I left the repairman to it.
He communed with the system for three hours.
Early in the proceedings it looked as if we were onto something when he uncoupled the 230 volt contact to the outside unit and a dead earwig fell out. Earwigs are disgusting, chitinous, creepy things that belong in a Lovecraft story or an early episode of Star Trek when they were doing monsters on the cheap. So far as I can tell they have no function in Nature other than to crawl into things and die. Unfortunately the readings from the system continued to be haywire, registering low pressure, high pressure, and pretty much every other code in the program.
It looks like I am going to have to get a new compressor. The part is under warranty but the labor isn’t. I would be suspicious if the repair guy, whose company is not getting one penny for the diagnostic call because I have a contract, didn’t spend nearly two additional hours going over refit options. Agatha Voleslayer batted at his pen while he wrote a small novella on the call report, tore off my copy and left me to muse over slightly alarming labor rates.
He said he was sorry it wasn’t the earwig too. “Lotsa little critters crawl into compressors,” he said. “Snakes, that’s really bad. They start climbing back up the driveshaft and get to the blades just when the unit cuts on. It ain’t pretty. I seen some things.”
He left the power off to the outside compressor unit so the heat pump wouldn’t keep trying to cut on and I would have 24-hour gas heat till the new compressor comes in. Now my eyes feel like sandpaper, the cats are hugging the vents as the rich blasts of hot air billow out in every heating cycle, and I keep getting an error message — strangely, without a numerical code — that says “230V TO HEAT PUMP DISCONNECTED.” Nice to know.