It’s 7:30PM. Do You Know if Your Furnace Working?

Home Inspector with Safe@Home Inspections, LLC in SE Washington 215

I had a client in Lewiston ID recently who closed on a house over by Lewis-Clark State College.  Eric, the dad, was active duty military and had only had a few minutes to spare when we did the inspection.  His wife was also busy plus they had three kids under the age of four.  These were busy, busy parents.

The night that they closed on the house, I got a phone call from Eric.  The gas furnace was dead, no good, muerto.  7:30 pm on a Friday night and my clients have no heat with the temperatures supposed to drop to the high 20's that night.  Not good at all.

So I bundled up, headed out and went to see what I could do to help.  When I got there, the Realtor was already there (which impressed the heck out of me since it was a Friday night!) and the kids were running from room to room having a blast.  Eric was out buying new fuses for the current overprotection on the furnace - he and  Brian Wilson, the Windermere Allstar Realtor, thought it might be a power problem.

I tested the thermostat first and heard it click to activate when I hit it with a heat demand.  Good.  But nothing from the furnace.  Bad.  So I tried turning on the fan from "auto" to "on" to see if I could force the blower to start.  Switch worked fine, good.  Blower didn't start, also good - I now had a (slim) clue.  Brian and Eric were on the right track - it was a power problem.

The next test was to see if the fuse was burned out (newer houses will have a wall switch instead).  It looked good but we replaced it anyway.  I could track the input power to the junction box and also to the furnace.  Into the box was "live" and to the furnace was "dead".  And it stayed that way after changing the fuse.  Odd, so I did what home inspectors aren't supposed to do - I took apart the junction box.

It turns out that there were two lines into the box and two out but only one was live and they mixed up the two wires so the new stuff was connected to the old feed and vice versa.  One line from the electrical panel (supplying the furnace) was dead.  Obviously, the breaker at the main panel was off.  Easy fix.

We went outside to the breaker panel and I just stopped dead.  The panel didn't look right.  It had been a couple of months between the original inspection and this particular Friday night.  I had forgotten that the house had a Federal Pacific panel that was just fried.  Eric had asked for the panel to be replaced and the seller agreed.  Brian reminded me of the original panel - It's never good when the inspector is looking confused.  I went ahead and opened the new panel, looking for the breaker for the furnace.  I looked again. 

Then I laughed.  When the electrician rewired the panel, he forgot to include the furnace circuit when he did.

We didn't have a furnace problem.  We had electrical issues , one easy to fix (on Monday!) It was very much a relief to Eric and his wife and to me as well, plus I had the satisfaction of being of real service to Eric's family and to the Realtor.

Comments (2)

Olga Diaz Potter

Good for got going!


Jan 14, 2009 03:24 AM
Lori Cofer
Beasley Realty - Moscow, ID
REALTOR, Moscow Idaho Real Estate
Sounds like you went above and beyond!  Way to go!!!


Jan 14, 2009 03:38 AM