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August 21st, 2019

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Don't Cry For My Air Conditioner

We had an unusually cool spring, so maybe the problem didn't start with the first heat wave of the year, but that's sure when we noticed it: Our big window air conditioner blew air just fine, but that air wasn't conditioned.

If these things don't happen at the worst possible time, they're at least discovered then.

I can't complain, because the air conditioner came with the house--which I bought thirty years ago. In fact, we did an internet search for the model, Sears Coldspot, and learned they stopped making it in the 70s. Our air conditioner had actually survived over forty Indiana summers, and that's remarkable.

I was still in my teens when that thing was made! I wish I'd held up nearly as well.

One final indignity: The box for the new air conditioner ended up on the old air conditioner.

My house doesn't have central air, or central anything. I suppose we could pump cold water through the hot water radiators and cool the house that way, but ... say, maybe that's something to try. Although the furnace is also over forty years old, so best leave well enough alone.

The air conditioner was set into a window, at one corner of the house. But it was powerful enough to cool the entire downstairs, as long as you set up three fans to blow the air from room to room, in a windy circle that ended with the kitchen air being pumped right back to the conditioner. If you set it up just right, walking through a room can feel like being Jim Cantore reporting for The Weather Channel.

The upstairs is on its own. We bought a small unit for the bedroom, and left the smaller room upstairs to swelter in the summer. We use it as a backup fridge in the winter. Old house problems.

When the downstairs air conditioner, which had its own electrical shutoff and a special plug, stopped cooling the house, Emily went outside and laid her hand against the side of it. Then she came back inside and placed her hand in a stream of cold water until the burning stopped.

At least a fire would have taken care of that ugly wallpaper.

Yes, there was definitely something wrong, of the "play Taps at its grave" variety.

Anyone who knows my history will not be surprised to find I'd been saving up for the next big home repair job. After that, it was a simple process of taking the old air conditioner out and replacing it.

It's usually when the word "simple" appears that we run into trouble.

The old unit had been permanently installed in that #@%& window. It had been screwed, hammered, molded, glued, foam-sprayed, and caulked into place. It was as if in addition to stopping air leaks, they wanted to stop burglaries, alien invasions, and Godzilla.

Eventually we freed it, using two screwdrivers, a hammer, chisel, crowbar, power saw, and two sticks of dynamite. (Luckily it was close enough to Independence Day that nobody noticed the noise.) Preparing to install the new air conditioner, I tried to raise the window further.

The window wouldn't raise. It wouldn't raise because it had been installed at the same time as the air conditioner, and was fitted to its exact specifications.

The new unit did not, of course, meet those specifications. But you knew that.

That wrapping on the new air conditioner contains ... a remote control. Unless both my legs are broken, I have no idea when I'd use it.

Keep in mind that Emily and I were doing this work on a day when the temperature was 88 degrees (at 6 p.m.) and the humidity was 107%. How this is possible I don't know, but after an hour we looked like we'd stepped into a shower fully clothed. Oddly enough, the dog didn't seem at all bothered by this--if anything, he seemed happy to have a new window to look out of.

When we finished, I left the pried out metal, the hunks of insulation and piles of screws, the broken drill bits, right where they fell, and simply taped over the areas the new unit didn't cover. Then I tried to plug it in.

Which wouldn't work. The new unit didn't have a special plug.

Some things you should check first. Luckily, there was a more normal plug a few feet on the other side; we turned the new unit on and went out to get a pizza while it was working.

No way were we cooking inside that house. I mean, any more than we already had.

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