Murphy's Law And The Hot Air

Real Estate Agent with Compass

Melting Ice

I'm not entirely sure whether last Wednesday was the hottest day of the century in DC, but it sure seemed that way when the AC in my house stopped working in the early afternoon, just as the outside temperature reached the mid-90s.

By the time the realization set in that it was indeed just luke warm wind coming out of the vents and that reprogramming and restarting the system wouldn’t change that fact, it was, naturally, after hours. 

By nightfall, we had about a million degrees in the upstairs bedrooms. Opening the windows added insult to injury because the humidity must have been close to 100 percent. Our CAC is barely two years old, and  it shouldn’t have just failed on us.

By the time Diego, the AC tech, showed up on Thursday, the weather had already turned dry and cooler. It took about two seconds for Diego to figure out the problem: The “capacitator,” a 10-dollar part that kickstarts the compressor, had blown out. Who would have known. But it’s a very common thing to happen,  the technician assured me.  

And of course, it always happens when you need it the least, because that’s when those air conditioner parts tend to overheat.

As for me, I felt grateful that it wasn’t one of those third-world power outages this time. Miserable or not, we still had ice and fans to work with!

(- Cross-posted at



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© 2012, Catarina Bannier


Comments (43)

Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

I'm curious as to what the average electricity cost per month is for homes with AC's in your area? My average monthly cost is $95, however, I don't have AC and live in a 2600sf SFR one mile from the ocean. If I install AC, I'll probably install Solar, so do most homes in your area have Solar to reduce the costs of AC?

Jul 29, 2014 04:57 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Thanks for pointing this out, Richard! Personally, I would never dare touching anything like this on my own, but I'm sure all those youtube videos might give some people false confidence. (Who would have thought turning off the power might not be enough?)

Jul 29, 2014 04:57 AM
Pete Xavier
Investments to Luxury - Pacific Palisades, CA
Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide
Always grateful for AC especially when I lived in the SE, now very close to the ocean in CA we rarely use it. Good thing it was a inexpensive fix for you.
Jul 29, 2014 05:02 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Margaret - both at the same time is double misery! I have two damper-regulated zones but they each call for the same compressor, so this one piece makes all the difference. Enjoy the mild weather!

Thanks, Carla! Honest and capable service people aren't always easy to come by!

Jul 29, 2014 05:07 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Thanks, Paula! I guess you're not exactly living in a chilly area, either!

Ed, you made me laugh! So true, and good that there's always a positive spin possible!

Jul 29, 2014 05:13 AM
Christopher Lotte
Red 1 Realty - Lithopolis, OH
Central Ohio Real Estate Agent, 614-390-9243

Our AC went out a few times last year.. we finally got a Home Warranty to help cover the costs to fixing it, and that was a great investment.. It finally stopped breaking down, but they never did find what the problem was (or at least never fixed the problem) which appears to be a leak in the valve when the cap isn't tightened tight enough..

Jul 29, 2014 05:16 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Urgh, Joan, I would hate that as mine is a dark blue and turns into a sauna after it's just been parked for a few minutes! Good luck getting it fixed, and at least you're not living in the south!

True, Michael - there's enough other stuff to worry about or feel uncomfortable with!

Jul 29, 2014 05:17 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

You're so right, Gita! Of course, sometimes we reap it's positive effects as well!

Bruce, a week is wayyyy too long! I hope you're happily reaping the benefits now.

Jul 29, 2014 05:19 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Yes, Jan, I was surprised as well, but from what I gather it seems that's pretty random and more dependent on hot weather than the age of the part.

Hi Tammy--would love to see that!

Gene - you're way spoiled by the awesome weather in LA! In DC, AC is not optional on most summer days. The air is akin to hot syrup, and it doesn't usually really cool down at night, either. So, it's more a question of noisy and not very attractive window boxes vs. CAC. window AC is probably not more energy-efficient, either.

Jul 29, 2014 05:26 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Jim--movies sound like a brilliant idea, except then at some point you have to come home and sleep in your "oven" house. That's the hardest part for me.

Dörte - can you share the design, please!!

Jul 29, 2014 05:29 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Thanks, Kat! Of course, today is the nicest, coolest day of the summer!

Kimo - of course it depends on the size of the house, insulation, and the efficacy  of the system itself. My costs have gone down significantly since I replaced the 20-year-old AC a couple of years ago. I now pay about $150 for each summer month (3000 sqft house), but according to the power company's statistics, that's a lot lower than comparable homes in my neighborhood. Installing a second zone (rather than a second system) has been the most brilliant step in that respect. - But I doubt that's necessary in your area. As I said before, you guys have the ever-perfect weather over there! I bet opening the windows at night goes a long way for you.

Jul 29, 2014 05:34 AM
Catarina Bannier
Compass - Chevy Chase, DC
DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way

Pete - thanks, and as I said, the rest of the country envies you for that weather! :-)

Christopher - glad for you, too, that it has finally stopped! Hope the warranty's deductible wasn't too high!

Jul 29, 2014 05:46 AM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County

I don't know how we did it (grew up without AC in Florida).  I am spoiled and the heat is brutal.

Jul 29, 2014 07:48 AM
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA

Hi Catarina, Where I live, it is usually in the mid 90's during the summer months. Because I office at home, it would be impossible without AC. Annual servicing is a must here. 

Jul 29, 2014 10:19 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Thanks for the Air Conditioner tip Catarina, it is nice to know that the most likely part to fail is such an inexpensive part

Jul 29, 2014 01:05 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Catarina, AC units have a way of going out on the hottest days when they are working hard 24/7.  I'm glad you-re cool again.

Jul 29, 2014 03:31 PM
Andrea HoffDomin
Florida Dream Homes Realty - Fort Lauderdale, FL
- in Real Estate always on your side!

I feel with you. It is much worse when it happens in the summer heat but in our home it happens just before Christmas two years ago. In South Florida you can hardly live without a working air condition at all because of the nice sunny weather.

Best greetings from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jul 29, 2014 07:45 PM
Claude Labbe
RLAH / @properties - Washington, DC
Realty for Your Busy Life

Hi Catarina,

I don't recall Wednesday being all that ugly this week, though it's been such an amazing summer in DC, we've gotten spoiled.  I'll grant you, it was warmer than the rest of the week, but then, my a/c was working fine.

One of the perks of being a realtor is having people like Diego on your speed dial, and when we call, they take the calls.

It's especially nice when the solution is quick and not 4 figures too!

Aug 02, 2014 02:34 PM
Dianne Goode
Raleigh Cary Realty - Raleigh, NC

Hi Catarina.   The value of air conditioning quickly becomes apparent on a hot and humid summer day.  At least it wasn't Friday afternoon when the AC went out! 

Sep 06, 2014 11:18 PM
Winston Heverly
Winston Realty, Inc. - Atlantis, FL

I think we have some of the best reads out there on Active Rain. Thanks for sharing

Mar 19, 2015 01:38 PM