Fresh Air

by Tom Swift

Cool air is coming from my vents. The figure on the thermometer just got smaller.

And I just got lighter.

You take for granted the magic of air conditioning until the morning you wake up and realize it got warmer in your home while you slept.

Of course, air conditioning breakdowns happen on the hottest days. After all, you don’t run the A/C in December. Not in Minnesota anyway. Not yet anyway.

This presented me with the obvious problem, fixing the A/C, which came with at least two cascade problems that I was aware of. First, I am cheap and service calls are not. Second, I am not especially savvy about fixing such devices but have shame that I am not.

In this case it seemed likely to me that the issue was minor. The thermostat was charged, air still came from my vents — everything inside sounded right. Outside, at the unit, which is a fun word, the fan did not spin. That is, unless I flicked it with a stick. Then it would spin, but not with the necessary force. Most telling: the hum. The unit sounded as though she wanted to start.

Through the magic of YouTube the diagnosis I arrived at was a blown capacitor. This is, apparently, among the most common reasons an air conditioner fails. Fortunately, capacitors are cheap and they are not hard to replace. Not hard for the average person, that is. In mechanical situations, I am below average. In fact, if average is the thigh, I am down there in the shadow made by the ball of the ankle.

Several days passed while I figured all this out and looked for someone who might assist. For one thing, the fix, even if I was right on the diagnosis, involved wires. For another, there was no guarantee I was right about the diagnosis. I have a habit of looking for evidence to back up my theories. Often, this involves the use of blinders. I might well have talked myself into this one, hoping I was right. When I could not find anyone to confirm and oversee, I set up a service call.

The day before the tech was going to come out and charge me $99 to shake his hand (before he charged me additional to do the rest), I found myself in a discussion group in which members of the group had the opportunity to share a dream. “I want to fix my air conditioner and I don’t want to pay a lot to do it,” I said. (Some people see white, Sandy beaches, others strolls down red carpets. The Dog just wants to be happy at home, I guess.)

One person who heard my dream happened to be a contractor. He agreed with my diagnosis. He said he could get me a name of someone who would either talk me through it on the phone or do the work at cost. Something about the affirmation and the support changed my view. Whereas the dilemma had started to weigh on me, on the way home from the group I felt an ounce lighter. I popped into my ACE and asked for Mitchell, my go-to guy, to see if he had a capacitor I could buy. No, Mitchell said, but he knew a place.

I bought a capacitor from Mitchell’s preferred appliance parts store. I could have found one online cheaper, no doubt, but there is something about human interaction. The guy behind the counter calmed me down and made sure I had the right one for my unit. The guy behind me in line had professional experience he freely offered. I walked out of the appliance parts store not just with the capacitor but also with a bit more confidence. Let’s do this.

Kind neighbors are golden and when I asked to borrow a socket wrench from one of my kind neighbors he pulled out his large box with every size wrench you could think of and just walked over. We pulled off the panel, pulled off the wires, and put those wires on the shiny knew capacitor. Some minutes later, the unit fired outside. Inside blew cold air.

I paid $31.22 to fix my air conditioner. I didn’t do it entirely myself. But I am grateful for the way I got it done — and especially for the people I encountered in the process. A capacitor is an electrical component that stores energy so that it may release that energy when the energy is needed. Metaphors make the Dog happy, too.