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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Woke up to NO HEAT!

Nothing like waking up to 40 degree temps in your own house (20 outside, and -1 predicted for this weekend). Went to check the thermostat and it was dead (or at least appeared to be). No display nor any response from the buttons. Popped it off and it was missing the batteries (which its never needed before, as its powered from the furnace). I inserted some and the display was restored, but no matter what I did the furnace did not ignite.

Checked and reset the breakers, the gas stove, fireplace, and the hot water heater just to make sure everything tied to gas was still functioning properly.

Now down to the furnace which is in the basement, removed the panels, checked the filter, the status led was green and blinking properly, the only oddity was about 2" of water below the furnace in the drip pan.

There is a pump in the pan that should be pumping this water out but its apparently not...if yours is in the attic or a closet you shouldn't have this drain problem as there will simply be a down grade of your drain to get rid of the water automatically. The rust build up had been unseen by me during my many trips in this area because its in the rear of the furnace.

After some fiddling around, checking the transformer and conductivity from the thermostat (if you check the 'C' and 'R' contacts they should register 24v) with a multimeter, and verified that the furnace was still operating.

Down near the pump was a small piece of equipment attached to the side of the pan, it said AquaGuard. OK...thats a good lead. a little more fiddling and googling, and this is apparently the safety cut off switch for the furnace. When the water gets too high in the pan, it actually disables the furnace to keep it from producing more water and flooding your basement. So now panic mode was subsiding, as this was definitely the culprit. I pulled it off of the pan and the furnace cranked right up.

The only problem now is that the pump is supposed to get rid of the water BEFORE the monitor needs to disable the furnace. There is no switch on the pump to start it, it is engaged with a water float, like the type you find in your toilet tank and when the float piece hits a certain angle from being raised by water in its tank, it should start the condensate pump and everyone should be happy.

Well, I took the cover off of the pump and manually pushed the float mechanism. The pump started to loosely eject the water out of the clear tube, but it wasnt really doing anything worthwhile. The pump is obviously blown as it doesnt seem to be creating a suction strong enough to eject the water the 15 feet required to get it up the clear ejection tube out of the house.

So, I emptied the drip pan with a wet/dry vac, replaced the pump, and sprayed the pan with a rubber sealant.. Happily I saved $500, not needing a service call and of course Im outside of the warranty period. Luckily a replacement pump runs anywhere from $40-$80 and is a simple install.

While I waited for the replacement pump, it looks like it takes about 2-3 days for the drip pan to refill with water, so thats the only buffer of time you have to get this taken care of before you need to wet vac it again.

A common maintenance step for your high efficiency furnace (which you should have been instructed to do by your PM or HVAC installer) is to dump approximately a liter of a bleach/water mix into an inlet tube that feeds the pump every 6 months or making a service change (changing cold to heat or vice versa), it should be capped like this...that feeds directly into your pump to keep it from getting clogged with algae and dirt particles.

Good luck!


  1. Oh man, at least you knew what to look for and what to do. We had been waking up and going to bed with no heat off and on for the last couple of weeks. We had Breeden out maybe around the holidays to come check out our issue, of course they claimed it was fixed. So naturally on the coldest nights we've had the heat would suddenly go. Apparently, they have had issues with the particular units they installed in Fairwood (MD) and some kind of repair was necessary for all of them. Now.........instead of them just notifying the homeowners with these units and doing the repair, it seems they have been waiting for calls about the unit not working first. It's jackassery. But as of Monday they came and fixed it again.

  2. We have had both heat pumps go out on us in the past year... one last winter and one last month.

  3. So I re-read this post because here we are in year three of our Rome and for three consecutive years our furnace has gone out in really cold temps. With a blizzard pending as you can imagaine, I'm not happy. Hunsure got a service contract with a company last week so we could have someone other than Breeden look at it. Oddly, no one can find anything wrong yet our heat goes out every other day or so. We are so lost on what to do next. Any suggestions??