Last week our air conditioning broke. Its last breath was a hideous screeching metal on metal noise that is simultaneous with the destruction of machinery. At first, I was not overly concerned. The season was still early which meant lower temps and open schedules for repairmen. However, I obviously had no experience with the horror that is HVAC negotiations.
Working with HVAC companies is akin to negotiating with terrorists. They know that you will do anything short of (or perhaps not) selling your first born child to get your house cool or warm again. The situation is like this: First a person comes to diagnose the situation ($). After diagnosis, he orders the part ($$$ and more time). Then he comes again a different day to do the actual repair ($$). Have a diagnosis from another company but want the work done by someone else? Doesn't matter. The new company will insist on an initial diagnosis. (In fairness, I sort of understand this policy, but aggravating when you are dealing with a matter of urgency.) You want it fixed before their next scheduled opening, weeks from now? Sure, but it comes with a really hefty "after hours" price tag. HVAC companies are out to bleed you dry.
Mr. F. thought the problem was perhaps the motor of the AC. This was confirmed by the repairman we first called to check out our unit--a repairman from the same company who installed the unit to begin with. We had hopes that because we were using the initial company, they would put their records to good use and know what model parts would be needed, etc. so the repair could be expedited. Mr. F. had a picture of the model number to send to them if requested. (They did not.) The repairman came woefully ill-equipped. He stopped by at the last minute of the day despite us being the second job on the list. He did not have the right motor. He would need to order it. It was a holiday weekend. Five days later was the earliest it could be replaced.
Mr. F. was confident he could replace the motor if he could find the correct part to order. But it turns out you just can't order AC parts like you can with other appliances. You have to be in the business. Or you have to know a guy. Turns out, we know a guy. We were able to buy the exact motor we needed for a fraction of a price. Only......Mr. F. had to make a 9 hour round trip drive to get it. But hey! Even factoring in gas, etc., we were still coming in less than half the quoted price. And we were looking at having the AC fixed in a day or two vs. five. Win. Mr. F. makes the drive, gets the motor, installs it...........only to find that the motor isn't really the broken part, but the compressor instead. The first repair man was a complete idiot.
The compressor fix was a bit out of Mr. F.'s skill set. It is also a whole lot more expensive to replace. We made some more calls in an attempt to find a better repairman. One that could get the job done sooner rather than later and who might actually know what he is doing. We recieved a recommendation, and our AC is completely replaced a week later. We are also significantly poorer.
So, that is a rather long, convoluted story which may or may not be interesting to you. However, that isn't what I really want to talk about. I want to talk about how I survived (or didn't) said week without AC.
I would have thought I could live a week without AC without much incident. AC is a pretty recent innovation, and my parents didn't live in places with AC for most of their lives. I, myself, have spent some time living in places with no AC with seemingly no ill effects. One can manage.
To put it bluntly, I could not manage. Two days later in AC bliss, and I am still suffering from PTSD from the week without. And when I talk about the week, I am really only talking about the 3-4 rather hot days. (The other days were rather blissfully cool). I am suffering PTSD from 4 days sans AC, and those 4 days were enough to send me over the edge.
We live in a town house. Town houses are the most inefficient energy designs in the history of the world, I think. The thermostat is on the middle level so the first level is always very cool and the top level is always warm. The bedrooms of our townhouse are on the third floor. Of course. Mr. F. and I could probably manage with the heat, but our kids could not. They slept like crap. You might ask, "Why didn't you just camp out on the first floor where it was cooler?" Yeah. That could work......if you had any children other than our own. Remember this post? My children need darkness to fall asleep. In fact, we had to close up the windows and pull down the blinds and close the curtains and doors and then try to put them to sleep in what is basically an oven with a fan, because they could fall asleep in the heat better than they could fall asleep with light. Too bad they couldn't stay asleep though. The result was I spent 3 hellish, hot nights not sleeping. The last night before our AC was due to get fixed, was the hottest yet, so we decided to escape to a hotel. We figured we wouldn't be getting any worse sleep, and at least we would be cool.
The sleep wasn't worse, but it wasn't better. Enna was up every 1-2 hours. All. Night. Long. And I couldn't let her fuss or cry, because Finn and Mr. F. needed to stay asleep. It was ghastly. But hey! It was cool, which preserved what little sanity still in my possession. The culprit? Slivers of light coming in from the edges of the blackout curtains all night long. Light from the dratted parking lot lights. I am sure Enna kept thinking it was morning time and she should get up. *Bangs head on wall* This is why we can never leave our house.
I am a bit ashamed of how poorly we managed. I feel like my forebearers are looking down at me shaking their heads at how unhinged we get when faced with the elements. "You weaklings! We crossed the plains! In the dead of winter and the heat of summer! Wearing petticoats and long dresses. You shame our memories!" What can I say? My privilege has made me weak.
Things should be better now with our AC fixed, right? Well, not really. I now have two sick kids* on my hands. Sick kids who are sleeping like crap.
*Sick because they didn't sleep for a week on end.