Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Diy - When Your A/C Won't Stop or Start / Contactor Repair

Not always but most of the time, it's really simple to diagnose... go out to the outside unit and on the top of the unit at the four corners strike (several times if necessary) the unit with your fist (vertically). If you hear it click and shut off, it's your contactor. A $12 part, if not further investigation is warranted.

It's bloody hot out there. It really sucks when the A/C doesn't work right. Getting it fixed can be expensive if you call the HVAC people & I don't understand how Lowes and Home Depot have tons of Do-it-yourself stuff, but when it comes to home heating and air conditioning they have nothing.

You would think we all had nuclear reactors sitting in our backyards, with technology so incredibly
Basically the 24 volts enters one of the small wires
 and plugs into a connector on the coil.
The coil magnetizes, and pulls the contactor
 close and now the 110volts or 220volts
 of electricity can pass through the switch. 
complicated that the average person could never understand. The truth is it isn't. In fact, every A/C unit out there generally has the same basic parts that make up the unit. Many of which can be replaced by the average person. HVAC people don't want to tell you this, but one of the most popular parts to fail is the electrical contactor.

I've put this repair off for about 3 years, each year I go out and bend, or modify the 18 year old electrical contactor just to get us by. This year it was finally time to replace it. It's actually really simple, and the symptoms of a bad contactor are usually that of an outdoor compressor unit continuing to run after the indoor thermostat is shut off. Other symptoms are the A/C unit not coming on, anal leakage, and a erection lasting more than 4 hours. :)

A contactor or relay is an electrical device that takes a control signal usually 12 volts DC, 24, 120, 208-230 volts ac and creates a magnetic field to pull in a set of contacts that controls another device that may or may not get its electrical power from the same circuit. Note: 99% of most control circuits are 24 volts AC.

An example of bot a dipole and single pole contactor. A
dipole CAN replace a single pole contactor.
One side will not be used.
Now here is where things get sticky. You take the top of your heat-pump or A/C unit and find the contactor. You can see the bronze terminals are firmly soldered to the contacts even when you shut the circuit breaker off. The bronze stuff is what keeps the contactor from welding itself shut, and when that wears down, the contactor fails.

You call your HVAC neighbor who wants $150.00 to repair it, and you look up on the Internet how much a part is and they want about $50.00. Or you can just buy it from where the Air Conditioning repair guys get it and pay $10.00.

First look on the coil of the contactor and find it's voltage. Most have stickers, but mine didn't. The voltage should be labelled around the copper wound magnet. If your unsure, almost every major brand home A/C & Heat Pump unit uses a 24 Volt 30 Amp 2 Pole Contactor which can be ordered here for $13.57.

Careful when touching the terminals. Often the the capacitors are still charged and can give you a nice 24volt shock even if the power is cut. I would tell you how to avoid this, but that wouldn't be much fun, now would it?
A 240V circuit has two hot wires (black/black or black/red)
 and these must both be connected to a double pole contactor. 
A 120V circuit only needs a single pole for the hot (black) wire.
 If you replace a single pole with a double pole you can either
 just use one side for the hot (black) wire  
or you can connect both sides with the neutral (white)
 and hot (black). Either works and is safe.

My new electrical contactor replacement came in less than 2 days, via UPS to the house from MSC's distribution warehouse in Pennsylvania.

Run outside with the bad boy and screw the wires in matching the old positions to the new contactor. Don't be shocked if the contactor looks different. My original 18 year old contactor was definitely "outdated".

While I had the top of the A/C unit off, I pulled the sides of the unit and did some preventive maintenance by cleaning off the leaves, dust, and dog hair on the coil that has been decreasing efficiency and using more electricity.

How to replace a Electo-Magnetic Contactor:

**Shut off any power to the unit before commencing any work.

1) Stare and gawk at how an 18 Year old Trane Heat-pump that's never been serviced, still runs.

2) Rip the top off. It's usually just a few screws holding it on:

3) Find the Contactor. Diagnose, and replace:

(There's the new one installed. Much cleaner then the old one... and it works!)

4) Take the old contactor and throw at neighbor's chicken:

5) Go inside and enjoy the cool A/C with the knowledge you don't have to run outside in the middle of the night and smack the unit to get it to shut off!

Now I say this only doing it once, and not having any knowledge in the a/c business, but it's probably impossible to screw this up, so I wouldn't worry too much.... When I say impossible, I mean unlikely... when I say unlikely, I mean... do this on a cold day.

But... as long as the 110V leads stay on their respective poles, and doesn't touch the 24 volt leads that go to the coil on the contactor then practically any combination of insanity will bring about some sort of function. Just do screw for screw, bolt for bolt, and take pictures as a backup. Also have lots of water to drink as you sweat over the thing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Journey Through The World Of The Coliseum Inn

Crack Dealer's Rabbit Hole
Yes Weekly's cover story is "A Night at the Inn" this last week, by Amy Kingsley. Okay? I thought as I read the headline outside of center city park in downtown Greensboro. Is that my motel? I asked myself? Is that Coliseum inn? It was. I've never really talked about my night at the inn, because well... it's not necessarily a very positive reference of my character. I had however spent a very interesting evening in the boro at this "red light" motel. It was one of those weird evenings where things happen so oddly, they didn't even seem real.

Mistake #1

It was 1998, and that night a party had been planned at a friends over on New Garden road. My friends and I were coming out of the now defunct Hardee's on Wendover when I was approached by a young gentleman of a clearly darker complexion then myself. He asked for a ride, and while I wanted to say "No", I eventually said I would if it was close. He couldn't tell me exactly where he lived, but pointed me in a direction, and off we went. 

Magic Fingers

A few minutes later we were at Pep Boys on High Point road. He said he just had to run in for a minute. I walked in with him, and he went back and got some product off the shelf and went to the front to pay. At least that's what I assumed. When we got up front he held out the item, and demanded a refund. The kid was stealing, and I was shocked! What's even worse is he got away with it, and left with several dollars and some change from the fake return.

I would have just ran out and left, but I was beginning to worry about the character of this guy, and realized I needed to make a cool getaway. He was clearly worried about me leaving, and jokingly said, he just needed to do it to get something to eat. He was trying to befriend me. He said, hey, drop me off at this motel down the road, and I'll be good from there.

I confirmed: "It's just down the road?"
Him: "Right down High Point Road"

I wasn't going to judge this guy, after all he probably was "just poor and hungry", and my Methodist upbringing clearly led me to believe, judge-not-be-judged.


So off we went to the Coliseum Inn, or whatever it was called at the time.
We pull in, and he says "come on in, and I'll give you some money for gas." Being gullible, and a complete idiot back in the 90's, I did so. I also felt compelled to make sure this poor soul was able to get in his room okay, before dropping him off at some random hotel So we walk up to the door, and a 7 foot tall Ethiopian black man with no teeth and so thin he probably weighed under 100LBS greets us. He invites us in to the room which was filled with a deep thick smoke. Every lamp was covered, and beads hung from all the door frames. In one area of the room, a static television with barely a picture mumbled in the background, and a small metal fan blew the warm smog air throughout the room. The room was obviously lived in, as clothes hung from a line rigged from one wall to another.

In the room was another skinny black man, who I was introduced to, and then offered to sit. My hitchhiker and the gentlemen sat around making small talk, before he eventually handed him the acquired money, and the Ethiopian NBA player broke out a crack rock.

Yes a crack rock.

Checking Out

Next thing you know there's a crack pipe and the 3 of them are passing the crack pipe getting high. I had already gotten some sort of contact buzz from whatever was amidst in the air, but clearly things were about to step up a notch as my hitchhiker passed me the pipe to thank me for giving him a ride.

You could hear what sounded like spousal abuse coming from the neighbors, children doing jump rope outside of the crack dealers door, and yet it was almost silent in sense that this room was so abstract, so far removed from Greensboro and its "Disney's small world boat ride facade". Here in this hotel was the Greensboro people didn't want people to know about, it was where all the people go, that the rich of the city wants to get rid of. A metaphorical sweeping them under the rug. In this hotel people tried to forget the world outside. They, in a sense, had created a door, by which walking through takes you to a different place, a place of exile, a place of forgetfulness... of Isolation. 

It wasn't long before I finally realized I was way over my head. I had to leave. Unfortunately the adventure continued before I finally was able to ditch the guy in the urban housing project on Elm Eugene street. I drove as fast as I could, and drove to my friends party. It was at this time, I was glad to be in a house on New Garden road that cost $200,000 dollars, surrounded by my Western Guilford friends, all of which think Greensboro is boring, and that there is never enough shopping at the mall. Two different worlds, and I had journeyed into both via the Coliseum Inn. 

Friday, June 1, 2007

Eve without Adam

Adam & Eve Store in Burlington, NC
Why is Greensboring so much better than every blog in Greensboro combined? Because we're the only site that's actually going to post what the people want.... a trip to the neudy store!

That's right. Say you find yourself unemployed, needing to write something for your blog.... I could write about Time Warner Cable.... or I could go to Adam and Eve. Hmmm... Oh yeah....

Let me preempt this by saying. I'm a prude. I'm a conservative, missionary style lesbian who feels like she's going to get struck by lightning for just thinking about vibrating, rotating bristled apparatuses which do nothing but rot your brain and bring you closer to Satan. Shannon is the same way. We felt it was time to break out of our skin. We thought we'd be driving to Cary (aka Sin City NC), but after viewing Adam & Eve's site (, we realized that good ole wholesome Burlington has a Adam & Eve store smack dab in the outlet center. Yep. Socks, refurbished Sony's, and cake pans in the shape of genitalia. We were so embarrassed we almost didn't do it, but, we did it for you. We took one for the team; let's call it investigative journalism, or something another.

So we got over to the  Burlington about 8:30 where we found Adam & Eve wasn't open to 10 AM. Apparently only lesbians think "Lets go shopping for vibrators at 8:00 am in the morning." So we did the next best thing and went to Cracker Barrel. We played checkers, ate steak and eggs. Oh my it was good.

After a bit, we returned to Adam & Eve's store to spend the next 45 minutes in shock and awe. Half the stuff looks like it's from star wars. One had a rechargeable base, a remote control, and took voice commands. I did eye the stripper pole for sale, but couldn't quite figure out how to fit it in the Taurus to take it back home.  I mean, I need to lose weight, and I've never seen a fat stripper?
Dirty Store!

So back to the flesh of the story. The store is clean, roomy, and well overpriced. I don't know exactly what half the stuff should cost, but I do know the electronic components in them don't cost $130. (I'm such a geek.) I also was bit upset. I had tried to do some research over the years, and was really hoping to find some paint on latex paint or a Mister Twister. This store had neither.

In fact I highly recommend, if you go, you go with someone who has a huge, mammoth wallet and thinks with their, well, you know. I mean, that's how the adult industry works: she says "do you think this pink vinyl bikini would look good on me?" and he, (or she,) whom is now suddenly overwhelmed with animal instinct,  abandons all rational thought and slaps their house payment down on the counter. This is how the cycle of lingerie addiction begins.
Insert pun here.

Luckily, being two, sound, rational and sexually void human beings, we decided to maintain a budget of  $50.00. It was tough. Even more hard was figuring out how to use half the stuff. The one large item on display which looked like Eva from the movie Wall-E came with a DVD video for an instruction manual. Cost? About $300.00. Of course it might be worth it, it did have stereo inputs for your I-Pod.

In the end we settled for some finger paint (Who doesn't love to paint?) and some randomly kinky device with a remote control, (Thank God it's pink as to not confuse it with the blu-ray player) that we're not exactly 100% sure how to work. I guess that's the fun, figuring it out.