Fans That Go Around. Or Not.

Is the fan going around inside it?

I try not to roll my eyes: You can hear that over the phone, you know. As a follow-on question to my statement that the thermostat display is blank and the air conditioner is not working, it’s sensible enough. Ask anyone who’s been in any kind of technical service job: In general, the general public is generally an idiot. It’s best not to assume that they’re giving you good information. (Try to sound like you) trust, but verify.

No, the fan is not going around
inside the air conditioner.

Indistinguishable murmuring, as the pleasant service-person confers with, presumably, someone more technical. Would that I had that option.

Is there a light on the switch above the furnace?

I pound down the stairs but cannot locate said switch, thereby proving myself to be a general idiot. More indistinguishable murmuring.

What’s the brand name on the thermostat?

I pound up the stairs but cannot locate a brand name either. My report is, shall we say, received with the credibility I’ve earned at this point.

Not Eco-Type? Honeywell? Emerson?
Nothing on the back?

Does she think that I can’t see or that I don’t know what a brand name is? Anyway, no. Not those names. Not any name. No. Brand. Name. It is a no-name, incognito thermostat. And it appears to be screwed into the wall, so its back is inaccessible.

More murmuring.

Well, it should have batteries anyway.

Anyway? As in, even if it doesn’t have a name? (Which in her mind is clearly not settled science.) What does that have to do with it? The logic is lost on me, but what do I know?

I look askance at the thermostat: I’m afraid I’ll break it if I start prying at it. On the other hand, it’s effectively busted now. With my free hand, I get my fingernails under a little ridge and tug gently.

Whoa. Just a minute.

That’s me speaking, not the pleasant service-person. One end of the cover has lifted, both surprising and exciting me. I know I don’t get out much, but surely anyone would be thrilled at this point. I’m in!

I put the phone down and tug gently on the other end. Voilà ! I am looking at the innards of the thermostat and there, right at the top, are two batteries. I pick up the phone.

Can you see the batteries?

That’s the pleasant service-person speaking, not me. She *does* think I can’t see.

I’ll call you back.

I replace two slightly crusty batteries with two oddment ones from the linen-&-oddments closet and there you go: The display, she is no longer blank. Woohoo!

Not so fast. Will the air conditioner work? That is, will the fan go around inside it?

I set the temperature for lower than the current reading (Who says I’m not technical?) and stick my head out the back door. All is right with the world, or at least with our air conditioner. Look at that fan, going around like nobody’s business.

Now, you might wonder where the minimally technically competent member of this household was, and why the maximally technically incompetent member was handling this problem. Let me just say a four-letter word.


But here’s the great part about this story. I know you’ve been waiting for it and I appreciate your confidence that it was coming.

On the weekend, when the thermostat first went blank and the air conditioner’s fan stopped going around, I said something tentatively but presciently, as it turns out.

Any chance it’s batteries?

But you know, when you’re not sure you know something, you don’t really know it.


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12 Responses to Fans That Go Around. Or Not.

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Great story, Isabel.
    Reminds me of a recent instance. For three times in a row, my dishwasher cut out at precisely the same time without completing the cycle.
    There is warranty on the machine so I called the dealer from whom I bought it. They said I had to phone the insurance carrier, Phoenix Insurance. So I did. My call was handled very promptly and courteously. The service rep said she would proceed to set up a service call, but just to be sure had I done any troubleshooting? “Such as?” I asked.
    “Try unplugging the dishwasher for a couple of hours, and then let us know if that mattered.”

    So I did. Ran two loads. No issue at all.
    Who’d a thunk it?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – I guess even dishwashers like to unplug for a while. 🙂 But I would not have thunk it. Especially the “few hours” part.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    Tom, my car has one of those features that shuts off the engine when it’s standing still at a stop sign or traffic light. When I lift my foot off the brake, it’s supposed to start up instantly, in gear, and move forward.

    The other day, it didn’t. I turned on my flashers. I swore. I waved my hands. Nothing helped. Until I turned the ignition off completely and started from the beginning.

    I should have thought of the classic Microsoft solution to everything: re-boot!

    Which is basically also what you did with your batteries, Isabel.

    Jim T

  3. Marilyn Smith says:

    Tom, for future reference, how do you unplug a dishwasher if it’s built-in? And Isabel, I completely empathize with your experience and have been enlightened by the fact that there is a thermostat above the furnace. No, wait — it’s a light above the furnace downstairs and batteries in the thermostat upstairs? At times I miss being able to call the building manager. — Marilyn

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Marilyn – 🙂 Yes, it’s nice to have on-site help. Of course, they have to actually be some help . . .

    • Tom Watson says:

      My dishwasher is essentially built in, but it has a power cord that plugs into an outlet.
      In your case, you could follow Judith’s suggestion – cut the power for a short time and plug back in.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        There you go, Marilyn – cut the breaker if you have to. I *can* show you how to find the breaker: it’s batteries that stump me.

  4. Yup. Basic fix. Cut the power supply, count to twenty, restart. Changing the batteries is good, especially when cruddy. However, sometimes just twirling the batteries works. I have learned it saves a lot of time to do this before calling. However, if I do have to call, the service rep has me do it all again anyway. And, usually they are reading a script. Who wants to pay an actual technician to tell all and sundry to cut the power and try again?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – The other lesson I learned (well, that I observed in the wild – whether I’ve learned it only time will tell) is not to be a complete chicken. If I had opened the cover earlier I would have seen those pesky batteries.

  5. Oooooh, yessss! I feel your pain. Your travail. Your victory! Now I have to add a battery to my reminder collection: china mug, wine glass, battery. Life is getting easier all the time!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – If you can remember that list, you’re doing well. But yes, always check the batteries . . . even if the first step has to be “Does this thing have batteries?”

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