Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pearl's close encounter

We keep the cats in the bedroom during the day when the workers are here. The cats are just too curious to have around construction. Not that it is to so great when the workers leave, either.

The workers took the sheet rock off a wall with a furnace vent in it. It has been really cold and the house is not insulated (insulation by Christmas is the goal!). The cats found that it was nice and warm down under the floor in the vent. The furnace is going most of the time and I shudder to think what our bill will be this month…

Yesterday I hadn't seen Pearl for a little while. Then I could hear some distant meowing. I looked around for her a bit, with no luck. The meowing didn't stop, so I looked in the furnace closet where it sounded like it was coming from. She wasn't in there either. Where could she be? Finally, incredulous, not knowing where else to look, I opened the cover to the furnace filter and she crawled out. She had apparently crawled down one of the air returns into the furnace.

I thought I'd better check to make sure the furnace was okay. When I looked at the thermostat, it was blank. Nothing. Nada. Great, she had broken our new furnace! I checked the circuit breaker and that was okay. I opened up the furnace panel to see if she'd jiggled any wires loose. Everything looked attached.

From what I could see, it looked like it worked like this: the return air vents, where she likely was exploring, attach to the shaft in the ceiling/floor. It is a straight drop down about 12ft to the filter area. The air would then pass through the filter and into a big drum with a fan or turbine that would then push the air back up into furnace, warm it, and push it up into the house.

Pearl was in the turbine area. I shudder to think what would happen if she was exploring in there and it turned on and started spinning fast with lots of force. Would she have been chopped up or cooked? What a tragic mess that would have been.

I called the contractor to see if he had any suggestions for easy things I could try to get the furnace going again. His suggestion was to reset the furnace by turning the electricity off and then on again. This proved successful and we had both a cat and functioning furnace in a matter of moments.

Thinking about it some more, I think Pearl probably did go in the turbine and then the furnace did go on. At that point, some safety system set in because there was a large heavy object on the turbine. The furnace shut off to avoid burning itself out.

We heard Pearl, found her, and let her out. Phew! Glad to have a cat and to also know the safety system in the furnace worked.

I put in a new filter (she pretty badly dented the first), and made the return air vents too narrow for cats to fit through. Pearl seemed a little upset by the whole thing, though, so I don't think she'd venture down there again. Curiosity and cats and all that.

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