The Bristol Reciprocating Compressor

That sounds positively steampunk, doesn’t it? Only it is the part that seems to have gone south on my HVAC. Instead of an installation team, which I was expecting this morning, I got two mooks at my door with a clipboard full of literature and an offer I could not refuse. Well, you have to have heating and cooling, and just about anything else I might have done to fix the limping system would have cost more. Apparently the manufacturer had just in the past month put all its dealers on alert that this model of compressor has been going tits-up all across this great land of ours, and probably to keep from getting sued they have been underwriting an upgrade to a compressor of a different design, something a warranty will not usually get you.

I seized a mobile phone and called the Cute Engineer, not because he is a man or anything, but because he is in the heat transfer line and actually works for a concern that manages large commercial energy retrofits. If he were trying to decide whether to let some knife happy doctor at a painful knee or shoulder I would want him to call me. “What’s the difference between a reciprocating compressor and a scroll compressor?” I asked. “Whaflybpdarp?” he said, or something like it. He ought to be used to calls from me beginning with questions like this but I probably caught him in the middle of an exciting spread sheet.

His bottom line was “go for it.” The difference, if you care, is that the compressor I have engages its parts in a back and forth motion to get the job done (forcing refrigerant through coils) and the scroll mechanism is unidirectional. You can see how there would be less wear.

The older guy, who was the same one that came out the first time when the thermostat started sending me rude messages, went out in just below freezing temperatures to log a lot of readings off the compressor mechanism. The younger one, who turned out to be his supervisor, stayed inside in the warm and began to array documents in front of me. After a while he went to get some kind of data off the thermostat, which was still obscured by its latest and greatest error message, which has been telling me for a week that the power was not connected to the no-longer-functioning outside unit. Duh.

random image of steampunk machinery stolen from the Interwebs

random image of steampunk machinery stolen from the Interwebs

Supervisor Guy threw up the window (I caught a small green glass pitcher off the sill barely in time) and called out “Hey Junior!”


“Uncouple the green frammis.”

Junior, who had previously told me by phone that I couldn’t get rid of the recurring error message without “a lot of fooling around on the outside unit,”  uncoupled the green frammis. I guess they do not trust the customer with much of anything, even green frammises. The thermostat went back to its normal role of telling me what the settings are and what time it is. Have you noticed that everything you own now tells you what time it is? It’s amazing that anyone is ever late.

I let them cut my credit card for a ridiculous amount (some parts and the labor aren’t covered in the warranty) and made a date for Monday to fix this thing for keeps. I have been running gas heat only since last Saturday and the inside of my head feels like crisp bacon. I can’t wait.


12 thoughts on “The Bristol Reciprocating Compressor

    • I first encountered the wonderful word “frammis” in one of Dr. Eric Berne’s many books about human social relations (he used it as a catchall term for an arcane part or gadget). Years later my late and ex came out with it. I don’t know where he got it, but the same place Berne did, I guess.

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