Haus Schwatz: Cati's DC Real Estate


Murphy's Law And The Hot Air

Melting Ice

I'm not entirely sure whether last Wednesday was the hottest day of the century in DC, but it sure seemed that way when the AC in my house stopped working in the early afternoon, just as the outside temperature reached the mid-90s.

By the time the realization set in that it was indeed just luke warm wind coming out of the vents and that reprogramming and restarting the system wouldn’t change that fact, it was, naturally, after hours. 

By nightfall, we had about a million degrees in the upstairs bedrooms. Opening the windows added insult to injury because the humidity must have been close to 100 percent. Our CAC is barely two years old, and  it shouldn’t have just failed on us.

By the time Diego, the AC tech, showed up on Thursday, the weather had already turned dry and cooler. It took about two seconds for Diego to figure out the problem: The “capacitator,” a 10-dollar part that kickstarts the compressor, had blown out. Who would have known. But it’s a very common thing to happen,  the technician assured me.  

And of course, it always happens when you need it the least, because that’s when those air conditioner parts tend to overheat.

As for me, I felt grateful that it wasn’t one of those third-world power outages this time. Miserable or not, we still had ice and fans to work with!

(- Cross-posted at



© 2012, Catarina Bannier


Comment balloon 43 commentsCatarina Bannier • July 26 2014 09:16PM


Things happen... and we still push on.


Love and light,


Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) almost 6 years ago

Hi Catterina, love you picture of the ice melting on the counter top.  Best of GREAT success to you in 2014!

Posted by Jordon Wheeler, J W Group Real Estate Sales and Service (The Jordon Wheeler Group) almost 6 years ago

Yes, Laura, and I sometimes have to remind myself how pampered and priviledged I really am!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Thanks, Jordon! I actually took a bowl of ice cubes to bed with me that night, trying to recreate that awesome cool draft you feel in the mountains on a hot day when you're standing on a sparkly glacier bed. (Well, it didn't quite work out that way. :-) )

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Great information, thanks for sharing.

Have a Big day,


Posted by Randy Shamburger, FHA, VA, USDA and Conventional Mortgage Expert (Movement Mortgage) almost 6 years ago

Yikes!  That's about my worst nightmare!  Glad you got it fixed.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) almost 6 years ago

Ah Murphys law, years ago when I opened my own brokerage I was thinking of naming it Murphys law, but thought I would get sued fo illegally practicing law.

Posted by John Marshall - FORE!, Specializing in Golf Course Properties (LoKation Real Estate) almost 6 years ago


A word of caution for do it yourselfers .... there is high voltage in an A/C unit and the capacitor can hold  a charge even with the power to the unit cut off.

So although it is a relatively inexpensive part, you were wise to let a professional perform your repair!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) almost 6 years ago

We were spared Murphy's Law this year.  Yes, our air conditioners (2 of them) died at exactly the same time.  And yes, we did get them fixed.  But we've been having the coolest summer in years so in the end, we've hardly used them!  


Posted by Margaret Goss, Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate (Baird & Warner Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

So glad you survived!  And kudos to Diego for charging for the part without over-charging for the part!

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 6 years ago

Whew it is heating up everywhere.  So glad you have things up and running again. 

Posted by Paula McDonald, Ph.D., Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Beam & Branch Realty) almost 6 years ago

Just as you mention it's Murphy's Law. You are fortunate that it didn't follow Kelly's law, and you would have still been waiting for Diego. Kelly's law states that Murphy is an optimist

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 6 years ago

It is awful when the AC goes out on the hottest day of the year.  My car AC died and it has not been fun driving around without it.  

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) almost 6 years ago

That's just one of the many things that we don't need when working on the field.

Posted by Michael Ha Elmhurst, Woodside, Maspeth (Rego Park, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, Corona, Middle Village) almost 6 years ago

 We cannot deny Murphy's law exists.Glad it worked out. Have  a good day. 

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 6 years ago

Hi Catarina. Glad you got it up and running so quickly.

Mine went out on July 2. With the Holiday weekend involved it took a week to finally get the whole system replaced. Ironically, we'd just started looking into replacing the HVAC since it was 20+ years old just to keep this from happening... Timing is everything...
Thanks for sharing,


Posted by Bruce Kunz, REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale (C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100) almost 6 years ago

I hear you.  I'd hate to lose my AC.  Here in AZ, we always recommend having them serviced during the winter months for optimum performance.  Amazing that your part went out with a 2 year old unit?!

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) almost 6 years ago
I recently saw a YouTube video on ice/cooler a/c. I'm definitely making one to have on hand for emergencies
Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) almost 6 years ago

We have not been using our AC to save money.  We have lots of fans, wear shorts and drink lots of water.  Setting a fan in front of an open window helps.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

An A/C shutting down in the summer, is what we call "movie theater time".  Here in Phoenix AZ. it has happened a time or two when the A/C decides to take a rest.

Posted by Jim Miner, Loan Modfication & Short Sale Specialist (Miner Noh & Associates) almost 6 years ago

Dear Catarina,

And you did not build a DC swamp cooler?

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) almost 6 years ago

Thanks Randy - stay cool!

Yes, Pat - you know what I'm talking about! :-)

John, that's pretty funny! Not sure if it is copyrighted, but I hope you were thinking of it in more positive terms (i.e., one sale will attract many more to follow)!!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Ugh, there's not too much that's worse than the air conditioning not working on an incredibly humid and hot day.   Yuck.  Glad it's all fixed now!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) almost 6 years ago

I'm curious as to what the average electricity cost per month is for homes with AC's in your area? My average monthly cost is $95, however, I don't have AC and live in a 2600sf SFR one mile from the ocean. If I install AC, I'll probably install Solar, so do most homes in your area have Solar to reduce the costs of AC?

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) almost 6 years ago

Thanks for pointing this out, Richard! Personally, I would never dare touching anything like this on my own, but I'm sure all those youtube videos might give some people false confidence. (Who would have thought turning off the power might not be enough?)

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago
Always grateful for AC especially when I lived in the SE, now very close to the ocean in CA we rarely use it. Good thing it was a inexpensive fix for you.
Posted by Pete Xavier, Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide (Investments to Luxury) almost 6 years ago

Margaret - both at the same time is double misery! I have two damper-regulated zones but they each call for the same compressor, so this one piece makes all the difference. Enjoy the mild weather!

Thanks, Carla! Honest and capable service people aren't always easy to come by!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Thanks, Paula! I guess you're not exactly living in a chilly area, either!

Ed, you made me laugh! So true, and good that there's always a positive spin possible!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Our AC went out a few times last year.. we finally got a Home Warranty to help cover the costs to fixing it, and that was a great investment.. It finally stopped breaking down, but they never did find what the problem was (or at least never fixed the problem) which appears to be a leak in the valve when the cap isn't tightened tight enough..

Posted by Christopher Lotte, Central Ohio Realtor, 614-390-9243 (Red 1 Realty) almost 6 years ago

Urgh, Joan, I would hate that as mine is a dark blue and turns into a sauna after it's just been parked for a few minutes! Good luck getting it fixed, and at least you're not living in the south!

True, Michael - there's enough other stuff to worry about or feel uncomfortable with!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

You're so right, Gita! Of course, sometimes we reap it's positive effects as well!

Bruce, a week is wayyyy too long! I hope you're happily reaping the benefits now.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Yes, Jan, I was surprised as well, but from what I gather it seems that's pretty random and more dependent on hot weather than the age of the part.

Hi Tammy--would love to see that!

Gene - you're way spoiled by the awesome weather in LA! In DC, AC is not optional on most summer days. The air is akin to hot syrup, and it doesn't usually really cool down at night, either. So, it's more a question of noisy and not very attractive window boxes vs. CAC. window AC is probably not more energy-efficient, either.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Jim--movies sound like a brilliant idea, except then at some point you have to come home and sleep in your "oven" house. That's the hardest part for me.

Dörte - can you share the design, please!!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Thanks, Kat! Of course, today is the nicest, coolest day of the summer!

Kimo - of course it depends on the size of the house, insulation, and the efficacy  of the system itself. My costs have gone down significantly since I replaced the 20-year-old AC a couple of years ago. I now pay about $150 for each summer month (3000 sqft house), but according to the power company's statistics, that's a lot lower than comparable homes in my neighborhood. Installing a second zone (rather than a second system) has been the most brilliant step in that respect. - But I doubt that's necessary in your area. As I said before, you guys have the ever-perfect weather over there! I bet opening the windows at night goes a long way for you.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

Pete - thanks, and as I said, the rest of the country envies you for that weather! :-)

Christopher - glad for you, too, that it has finally stopped! Hope the warranty's deductible wasn't too high!

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) almost 6 years ago

I don't know how we did it (grew up without AC in Florida).  I am spoiled and the heat is brutal.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Hi Catarina, Where I live, it is usually in the mid 90's during the summer months. Because I office at home, it would be impossible without AC. Annual servicing is a must here. 

Posted by William Johnson, Retired Real Estate Professional (Retired) almost 6 years ago

Thanks for the Air Conditioner tip Catarina, it is nice to know that the most likely part to fail is such an inexpensive part

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) almost 6 years ago

Catarina, AC units have a way of going out on the hottest days when they are working hard 24/7.  I'm glad you-re cool again.

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) almost 6 years ago

I feel with you. It is much worse when it happens in the summer heat but in our home it happens just before Christmas two years ago. In South Florida you can hardly live without a working air condition at all because of the nice sunny weather.

Best greetings from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Posted by Andrea HoffDomin, - in Real Estate always on your side! (Florida Dream Homes Realty) almost 6 years ago

Hi Catarina,

I don't recall Wednesday being all that ugly this week, though it's been such an amazing summer in DC, we've gotten spoiled.  I'll grant you, it was warmer than the rest of the week, but then, my a/c was working fine.

One of the perks of being a realtor is having people like Diego on your speed dial, and when we call, they take the calls.

It's especially nice when the solution is quick and not 4 figures too!

Posted by Claude Labbe, Realty for Your Busy Life (Real Living | At Home) almost 6 years ago

Hi Catarina.   The value of air conditioning quickly becomes apparent on a hot and humid summer day.  At least it wasn't Friday afternoon when the AC went out! 

Posted by Dianne Goode, Realtor/Broker (Raleigh Cary Realty) over 5 years ago

I think we have some of the best reads out there on Active Rain. Thanks for sharing

Posted by Winston Heverly, GRI, ABR, SFR, CDPE, CIAS, PA (Winston Realty, Inc.) about 5 years ago