I started working as a tech when I was 17 years old, fresh out of tech school. My first winter out on my own I went to a service call in an older part of Orlando, a part of town I had never worked on before. It was an especially cold winter that year, and the service call was for insufficient heat.
When I arrived, I found the system was a really old GE straight cool system. After testing the system, I found the system had a 10kw heater, but only 5kw was working. After a closer look, it was discovered that 5 KW of the heat was disconnected. This was no problem for me; wiring was always my specialty! I grabbed some #12 stranded and had that puppy heating in no time.
#1 – It smoked like a chimney and set off every alarm in the house
#2 – Once I got the doors and windows open and the smell cleared out as best I could it got me thinking… How long has it been since that second 5kw was connected?
When I looked closer I saw that the feed wire going to the air handler was only #10… then it dawned on me.
The REASON they had one-half of the heat disconnected was because the breaker and wire size were only rated for 5kw. Why did they a 10kw you might ask? Likely it’s what they had on the truck and they figured if they disconnected one-half it would be safe.
Lessons learned –
#1 – Never assume that a system was installed properly to begin with and keep an eye out for proper feed wire size.
#2 – Don’t use improperly rated heat strips or other rated parts and simply make an “alteration”. When the next technician arrives he likely won’t understand what you did. At best you confuse him, at worst you kill him.