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Strangest thing that you have found in a unit

SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
Today I was sent on a maintenance call for a new customer with an oil fired boiler. I arrived to find a fairly new Weil McLain P-WGO-3. It was installed without a low water cutoff and a few years ago someone put anti-freeze in the boiler but didn't bother to install a backflow preventer. But the oddity that I discovered was inside boiler on top of the sections.

Looks like Tweety Bird got a little too comfy on top of the chimney.

I've found plenty of mice nesting inside of A/C condensers, bats in attics, pornography stashed away by the system, drug paraphernalia and I'm sure a few more will come to me that I've tried to forget, but what strange/wierd things have you ran into while out in the field?


  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 3,662
    a cold chisel inside a semi-hermetic compressor motor windings
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,768
    A 12" pipe wrench inside a 3 pass boiler. Also had numerous dead birds and one dead squirrel from falling down the flue.
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    Damnit is that where I left my wrench? This was the first time I found remains inside the unit. Found dead mice in power vent assemblies a couple times.

    I imagine the critters die from asphyxiation rather than the cooking. Not a good way to go.
  • kcoppkcopp Member Posts: 2,981
    I found a squirrel skeleton inside a water heater flue...
    I was told under NO circumstances was I to share this information w/ the lady of the house....
  • LeonardLeonard Member Posts: 240
    edited February 17
    Commercial building, tenant. Heard guy close old unused coal furnace door as I approached and acted nervous, so later check it. Ashtray, remnants of bunch of pot butts in combustion chamber, old coal furnace converted to oil. Unused as building was now heated by nat gas box heaters. Pot head was not very smart, furnace was not used anymore, so the evidence was not getting burned up. Just piling up. Even not hot chimney draft was enough that he could blow his "smoke" into furnace so room would not "smell".

    Told him abandoned furnace should not be used as an incinerator, and it should be cleaned of accumulated "debris". Few months later I check, they were gone.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,678
    a raven standing up inside the chamber looking out the view door... opened the door and almost had a heart attack... :neutral:
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    A Raven looking at you from inside the chamber? And it was alive? Sounds like something I would dream up during a bender.

    I assume it must have been a large furnace. Even the overcooked Tweety Bird I found couldn't make it into the chamber past the sections.
  • Big EdBig Ed Member Posts: 1,029
    edited February 16
    A collection of sacrieficial Barbie dolls in an Timken burner set up ..
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    I did have one years ago that was a furnace with pretty much no ductwork. It just blew the supply air through a big grill in the middle of the floor. Apparently since the previous season someone had thought it was a bright idea to sweep all the junk off the floor into the furnace.

    I remember pulling out matchbox cars, dice, wrappers and assorted other junk and garbage.
    It certainly wasn't the nicest house in the nicest neighborhood.
  • the_donutthe_donut Member Posts: 219
    edited February 16
    Contractors decided to use the boiler pit as a urinal. It wasn’t fun removing the old burnam and replacing with a slimfit. Also they put in a temporary sump pump after the smell got too bad and didn’t install a check and used it as urinal. 20’ to the exterior wall and 7’ up. Needless to say, the contents never made it to the destination.
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    That's why I keep an empty Gatorade bottle in the van. I've been on a job site without proper facilities more than once.
  • DZoroDZoro Member Posts: 247
    Oil furnace no heat call. Furnace had a 120volt draft damper, stuck in the closed positon. Making strange noise when attempting to open. Next to it was the flue draft damper, so I opened it up to take a look and someone's tail was waving at me. Dammn, shut it, opened, shut, opened tail hairs just a waving. (from the chimney draft coming down!) Don't think it's alive......fresh squirrel. It wasn't alive broken neck when the power damper closed. Whew.....
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    I can never figure out how people don't notice the smell coming from the dead mice that I have found in return ductwork and blower compartments.
  • the_donutthe_donut Member Posts: 219
    SuperTech said:

    I can never figure out how people don't notice the smell coming from the dead mice that I have found in return ductwork and blower compartments.

    High merv rating air filter?

    I came home once on a 90F day to a warm house. Wife said ac is on, I don’t know why it’s so hot in here. Go outside and contactor is buzzing. Took panel off and found dead earwigs frying in space between. Cleared jam, AC has worked ever since. That was the first AC issue I debugged.
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 1,281
    the_donut said:

    ...found dead earwigs frying in space between.

    Had this happen over the summer at the in-law's, had to take the whole contactor apart to get the little bugger cleaned out. What a pain!
  • the_donutthe_donut Member Posts: 219
    ratio said:

    the_donut said:

    ...found dead earwigs frying in space between.

    Had this happen over the summer at the in-law's, had to take the whole contactor apart to get the little bugger cleaned out. What a pain!
    At least it is an inexpensive fix parts wise.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 4,141
    My rental duplex, one unit, the lady said she could smell a dead mouse in the furnace. She was right. I started to dismantle some of it. Then the nose directed me to the stand pipe for the cond drain. It was an "S" trap with the cond hose stuck into it.
    The mouse had crawled down the hose for a drink out of the trap but could not get out. This trap was shared with the P&T valve of the water heater. I opened it and sent his remains off to a watery grave. (I know an S trap!, he would have still went into the P trap......see what having an air gap gets you ;) ). At least tested the P&T anyway.

    Another one was in my house. We are pretty well in a rural area and mice are always looking for a winter home.
    I noticed a runner in our whirlpool tub and saw his tail disappear down the popup drain. I tried to send this one down the drain and that was the last of him. (you don't tell your wife about these things or she might not use the tub again.......but that would save 50 gallons of hot water.....)
    Days later the dead mouse smell arrived. By running the trip lever you could feel some crunching action....eventually the pieces were small enough to flush away.

    A dead mouse is bad, but a wet dead mouse is really bad!
  • Stephen MinnichStephen Minnich Member Posts: 1,797
    edited February 18
    3 things that stand out for me -

    First year in the trade, I diagnosed a restricted suction line filter on a new system. Cut it out and found a huge yellow jacket bee in there.

    On another AC maintenance call, I found a dead mouse standing on it's hind legs with its front feet fried to each side of the contactor.

    And the smelliest one was a dead squirrel cooking in a 3" flue pipe. The odor was terrible!
    It's all in the details.
  • kjl520kjl520 Member Posts: 10
    edited February 19

    Yes... He's alive. Lucky little guy. He held the damper closed, causing us to go out and rescue him.

    I found a duck once in a 6 inch flue, once. Like a full sized (dead) mallard. I don't touch dead animals. I kept the duck in the pipe and just threw the whole thing out.

    The squirrel lived, maybe. I locked it in the boiler room and left. Animal control were on their way.
  • OldSchoolHVACOldSchoolHVAC Member Posts: 3
    A little hint i learned along the way, If you find a family of raccoons in a return air duct, don't grab the smallest one first. Momma coon will soon come out guns a blazin!
    Grab momma first, then the little ones will follow.
  • RobertMcRaeRobertMcRae Member Posts: 2
    I’ve found birds in combustion blower wheels, squirrels nosed up against the cross tee on the water heater vent hood, all sorts of insects in contactors, mud bees blocking off a gas regulator vent line, wasps building a nest in the PVC intake tube of a direct vent furnace, but the most puzzling of all for me was acorns stuck in a residential heating circulator I had just installed while upgrading an old gravity system. After removing them for the third time, I managed to figure out that when initially installed, the system was “open.” There was a small galvanized vent pipe that still showed through the roof, but in the closet below it had been cut and capped. That line connected under the floor to the piping for a nearby radiator. By the time I ever saw this system, it had been converted to a closed loop with an expansion tank. I have to assume that in the oldest days some squirrel thought that vent pipe would be a great place to store nuts for the winter. The installation of the circulator caused the increased velocity to work those nuts down to the basement over time. I would up installing a strainer on the inlet pipe to the circulator and that was the end of jammed up impellers.
    On a similar note, but a much larger scale, I used to work for NYS OGS as a stationary engineer at the Albany steam plant that serves many buildings downtown. In the early 80’s, I worked at the then brand new RDF part of the plant (refuse derived fuel). We had a display case in the lobby that showcases some of the unusual things that had made their way through the trash stream, through the hopper feed screws, along the traveling grate in the firebox and wound up in the “clinkers” in the ash bins. Most memorable was a full Ford pickup’s twin-I-beam front suspension. It was definitely mangled and obviously exposed to high temperatures, but still recognizable. There were plenty of other things in those cases, from guns to motorcycle frames and parts, but that complete suspension assembly always made me pause.
  • tomhaeusslertomhaeussler Member Posts: 6
    I did a clean and check on an old lowboy gas furnace for a lady that just bought the house I opened the blower compartment and their was a black bag on top of the blower I pulled it out and it had a small pistol in it she said the previous owner was a cop so she called him and he was there to pick it up before I finished the call! It seemed a little strange to me
  • the_donutthe_donut Member Posts: 219
    Had a water heater tripping thermal limit switch. A walnut fell out when we removed the flue. Went to roof, no trees in sight. Silly squirrels.
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 25
    When I was a little kid I remember coming home from school to find the whole house covered in black smudges on the white walls. Upon further investigation, a duck had gotten into the chimney and fell to the bottom, then pushed out the inspection plate at the floor and flew around the house covered in soot until it killed itself smashing into the patio door.

    Once found a hardhat in a feedwater tank, a 6" crescent wrench in a Y-strainer, remains of what I assume to be a chicken in a suction diffuser, plenty of rocks and pipe scraps in many areas of systems, a melted matchbox car wedged in an elbow above a 60psi steam sterilizer, a set of keys on a ring wrapped on an electric water heater element at one of my rentals, a 9mm pistol tucked into a 400 ton chiller cabinet, tons of booze bottles and porn stashed away in hospital ceilings, and a crusty severed human hand under a 500HP Cleaver Brooks boiler in the basement of an old hospital. The hand still creeps me out every time I think about it; not sure if it was pinched off when they set the boiler or if someone in the morgue 80 years ago thought it would be funny some day when the stupid apprentice that demoed the boiler finds it.

    Also I myself accidentally dropped a DeWalt 1/2" cordless impact down a 4 story tall 16" low pressure steam header. There was a welded drip tee at the bottom with no drain from the 60's but cutting it open wasn't part of the project. That's still in there for someone to find one day lol
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    A crusty human hand?!!

    We have a winner fellas!
  • Erin Holohan HaskellErin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 544
  • DennisDennis Member Posts: 84
    One partly burnt and desiccated Box turtle the size of a child's soccer ball. The customer said "So that's where he got too?" I wondered if they noticed the smell; "No". Looking around the house I could understand that.
    Just do it, right.
  • Big EdBig Ed Member Posts: 1,029
    Yep , I would say Finding a hand is a winner unless someone found a head :)
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 1,281
    Or the rest of the body?
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    Yeah. What happened to the rest of the carcass? Didn't anyone find it suspicious that only a hand was located?

    This is very disturbing.
  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 347
    well someone did clean the ash out of the boiler, right?
  • SuperTechSuperTech Member Posts: 251
    I think he found Jimmy Hoffa.

    Was it too crusty and rotten to identify by fingerprints?
  • PumpguyPumpguy Member Posts: 311
    edited March 13
    Many years back, we were asked to troubleshoot a vacuum pump problem at a local teaching hospital's pathology lab. The tech reported back seeing a container of fingers, and asked if someone else could go back to do the repairs.

    We ended passing the job off to one of our subs.

    One of the nastiest places vacuum pumps are used are poultry processing and evisceration plants. Needless to say, not everything gets caught in the knock out pot. And those pumps got stored outside while awaiting disassembly.
    Specializing in vacuum pumps for steam heating systems, especially older Nash Jennings units. We build new ones too!

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  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 25
    For those wondering about the hand, I am not sure what ended up happening. I was real green, maybe a 2nd year apprentice cutting this boiler apart with a gas axe in the basement of a VA hospital. We found it and brought it to the supervisor's attention, at which point we were instructed to leave the area until it was clean. 2 hours later, the hand was gone and we were back to cutting. I asked a couple times if anyone knew anything and it was just swept under the rug like everything else that went on in this particular place. I had a cousin who was a nurse at the same hospital at the time and asked her several times about it, nobody had ever mentioned it to her besides myself. The building was built in the 40's, so my guess is that someone pinched it off while setting the boiler and that's where it stayed. Boiler room was also right next to the morgue, so there may have been a funny guy at some point who tossed it under there. Honestly have no idea
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,678
    or that's how they dealt with all unclaimed bodies.. :open_mouth:
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 25
    Wellll.... This was a big oil burner, not an incinerator or solid fuel burner. I'm fairly certain body parts were not consumed in this unit but thanks for the mental photo haha
  • FredFred Member Posts: 6,306
    Slight of Hand, maybe? >:)
  • georgegeorge Member Posts: 51
    doing repair work at state penitentiary and found bag with loaded 45 up on pipes. took it home , who would report it missing. also every day around shift change a bottle of whiskey would come down the laundry shoot
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 1,281
    Empty, or full?
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