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Furnace Problems?

My Saga of Furnace Problems...And the Startlingly Simple Solution

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Even though the furnace in question is a Coleman Echelon Gas Furnace, this tale of my furnace problems isn't about Coleman furnaces. But because we had no idea at the beginning of this saga if Coleman furnaces were to blame or not, you will find this reflected in the earlier entries:

Why Doesn't This Expensive Furnace Work?

When you buy a new thing, you expect it to work. When you buy a very high-end new thing, you expect it to work flawlessly. In the first four weeks, this was not my personal experience with the Coleman Echelon Gas Furnace. Rather, this furnace, which cost $5,042.03 after taxes and before any federal tax credits or local energy company rebates, had been nothing but heartache since the day I bought it.

Churning Like An Out-of-Balance Washing Machine

The morning after the furnace was installed, I woke at 5:40 am to the sound of what appeared to be an out-of-balance washing machine churning away in my basement. This comparison to a washing machine is not hyperbole or an attempt at humor, as this is the most apt comparison I can come up with. It's the comparison I used when speaking to Sears Home Improvement and the local HVAC company which installed the furnace.

I realized that a new furnace may deliver a greater volume of air; thus, more noise as the heated air pours from the vents. But this loud noise came from the furnace itself, which was down a level in my house and as far from the bedroom as you can get.

But more alarming was that gush-gush-gush churning sound of this Coleman furnace working at full capacity. In fact, I was so alarmed that I shut down the furnace immediately.

A day later, I had the furnace running during the day. I shut down the furnace via the thermostat. I slowly became worried when I realized that this furnace did not intend to shut off. Ten minutes later, I was down in the basement, fingers on the circuit breaker to shut down the furnace. At that moment, just before I hit the circuit breaker, the furnace decided to shut down.

Still, I gave the furnace two weeks before I called Sears Home Improvement and the local HVAC company.

First Repair on the Furnace

The HVAC company told me that the electronic control board was bad and needed replacement. After the control board came in, the HVAC company came to install it.

I assumed this would be a quick, one-hour job.

Four hours of work and the control board was finally replaced. But there was another problem: a pressure switch was cracked.

I asked the HVAC technician about this. He said, "It's usually something you might expect to see slowly develop over time. But you never see it happen within weeks."

"Do you often see problems with Coleman furnaces?" I asked.

"No, we don't usually have these kinds of problems," he said. "This is the first problem this bad that I have seen."

Second Repair: Five Hours of Nothing

But replacing the control board did not help. The HVAC company came in again and worked for no less than five hours on the furnace.

All I could think at this time: these people are repairing a brand-new furnace. It's like buying a new Lexus and then having the shop immediately begin repairing it for about a month.

Five hours of work produced nothing. It was now time to call in the big guns: the actual Coleman HVAC field representative. He would come the following Monday.

To their credit, the HVAC company said that they would also put a new Coleman furnace on the truck, in case my entire unit was a lemon.

That weekend, my son and I lived in an unheated house. Thankfully, it was only early October--only a slight chill. Nothing that a fireplace couldn't cover.

The Solution? You Wouldn't Believe...

Improper electrical grounding.

If you've ever done your own electrical work, grounding seems like a minor detail. You might think it's just there in the event of a catastrophe.

But when we're talking about a highly sensitive piece of equipment like the furnace's control board, improper grounding will scramble everything. I mean everything. Just a few examples:

  • It caused the blower to turn on long before the heating element.
  • It caused that awful churning sound.
  • It prevented the furnace from turning off when requested by the thermostat.
  • It caused the furnace to run harder than it should have.
  • It caused signals within the control board to go off randomly (thus causing many of the above problems).
  • And on and on.
What's the moral of the story? For me, it's this:
  1. If you're having problems, try to seek the ultimate help. The HVAC company deals with all brands (many of which are all manufactured by the same company, Johnson Controls, Inc.). But the Coleman representative was the one who could pinpoint the problem and solve it.
  2. If it doesn't seem right, it's probably not right. Even though I am not an HVAC expert, even I could tell when my HVAC system wasn't working properly.
  3. Grounding.
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