I’m still working on getting the blog caught up with all of the notable stuff that’s been going on around here since we last posted – and while this might not seem super notable, I thought it was worth including this update to (what feels like) the never-ending saga of our furnace.

So, first, some background:  the first winter we were in the house, we had so many troubles with our newer Trane XR90 furnace blinking error codes and shutting off.  We used our home warranty to have it serviced multiple times (with mixed results – we think the whole home warranty process actually worked against us, but that’s a story for another time).  Anyway, in a nutshell, we had problems with the furnace blinking the error code for “Pressure Switch Error” and shutting off.  What finally fixed it was lowering the gas pressure and increasing the fan speed, which together caused the furnace to not burn so hot, keeping the unit cooler.  Over the last four years or so, we’ve had a couple of times where various errors have occurred and we’ve had to go “reset” it by cycling the power, but nothing that’s been repeatable.  All was well – until last summer when the main circuit board burned up, leaving a lovely burnt plastic smell throughout the house.

The funny part of this story is that it took us forever to realize that the furnace was the culprit.  We heard what can only be described as an “electrical noise”, followed immediately by the strong smell of burnt electronics.  First we blamed the fan in the bedroom since the smell was so strong in there.  We took it outside, expecting it to melt down – it did not.  Then, after realizing that a breaker had been tripped, we started hunting down all of the things on that breaker looking for the culprit.  Living in an old house is such a joy at times like this – on that breaker was half of the outlets in the office, the wall sconces in the master bathroom, and the upstairs furnace.  First, we thought the wall sconces must be to blame, since we were in the middle of the master bath renovation and the electrician had just finished the wiring in there a couple of days earlier, but they had been off at the time, which seemed strange.  Then, we went around the office, smelling all of the electronics in there, looking for something that was singed and smelled of burnt plastic, but that was a no go also.  Finally, we figured it must be the furnace.  The strange thing about it was that the furnace is in a little closet upstairs and the closet didn’t smell at all, even though the master bedroom and office reeked.

The culprit.

The culprit.

Anyway, I called a service technician the next morning and they were able to confirm right away that the circuit board had melted down.  They showed me the old one – I, of course, neglected to take pictures, but it was pretty crispy.  A couple of hours and a new circuit board later and the furnace/air conditioning were back up and running.  Getting the smell out of the house was not such a quick process, however.  By the way, if you ever find yourselves in this situation, I highly recommend a ClenAir Odor Block.  We tried all varieties of air fresheners and odor eliminators that we could find locally and the house just smelled like wild berry burnt plastic, especially when the furnace ran.  I think the smell was trapped in the duct work.  We put one of the odor blocks in the return air vent for the furnace, though, and noticed a bigger difference – still not a miraculous recovery, but so much better than the alternatives.  The smell actually went away instead of just being covered up.  We’ve actually left one in since then because we felt like it also helped to reduce the “stuffy old house smell” that sometimes creeps up when it’s especially hot and humid.

The interesting part about all of this is that I looked back at some of our old blog posts about our furnace issues after this incident and our circuit board was replaced as part of the troubleshooting efforts back in 2008, so it really wasn’t that old.  General opinion seems to be that Trane furnaces are really good and we’ve had no issues at all with the one in the basement, but I’m really starting to think we’ve got a bit of a lemon upstairs!

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