A heating technician’s skills are a hot commodity when cold winds blow and low temperatures settle into the region during an otherwise mild winter. With forecasters calling for single-digit readouts on thermometers this week, area heating and cooling companies have been answering additional calls for help.
“We always do when it gets cold,” said Ashland Furnace Co. owner Chris Daniel, who said his staff has been busy during the relatively warm winter. Most of the calls the shop has received in recent days were from those with concerns such as “blowing cold air ... not coming on, things of that nature,” he said.
Daniel said there is one basic thing people can do to help their heating system operate efficiently, and possibly prevent more expensive problems.
“Without having to call us, they can change the filters. That’s really all they can do,” he said, explaining his staff is happy to make maintenence calls to complete tasks such as filter changes, as well as lubricating moving parts and tightening belts. “It’s always good just to have one checked out in the winter.”
Daniel said many local residents have chosen to install new heating systems, which provide more heat for less. Older furnace systems have efficiency ratings as low as 50 percent, he said, while new ultra-efficient units boast ratings at or above 90 percent. “We’ve done a lot of upgrades,” Daniel said. “With the new systems, it’ll pay for itself in a couple of winters ... sometimes one winter depending on how cold it is.”
On Main Street in Grayson, Help Air Conditioning & Heating has also been getting lots of calls in recent days, according to secretary Kara McGranahan.
“People say almost exactly the same thing every time — ‘I keep turning it up to 80 degrees and it’s still blowing cold air,’” she said. “We have had a lot of calls. A lot of them have been repair calls.”
McGranahan also advised people to check their furnace filters, explaining clogged air intakes can cause much bigger problems.
At General Heating & Cooling on Argillite Road in Flatwoods, service dispatcher Jennifer Kouns said technicians have been in serious demand during the current cold snap.
“Oh yeah, we’ve gone from three or four calls a day to seven or eight — and that is per technician,” Kouns said, explaining most of the calls are from those whose furnace is not working, or is blowing only cold air.
In addition to changing filters, Kouns advised people to check and clean their drain traps, and “occasionally” pour a small amount of bleach into those drains to prevent bacterial growth. The business has also installed many new units, she said, with customers investing in units with improved efficiency.
Veterinarian Ruth Boll at Academy Animal Hospital on Midland Trail in Cannonsburg reminded people to keep their pets and livestock warm and safe during frigid weather.
“Animals are affected by cold just the same as we are,” Boll said, citing frostbite and hypothermia among the most common results of winter exposure for people and pets alike. “Common sense goes a long way. If an animal is shivering, it is cold.”
Boll said those who own livestock should provide shelter, such as a barn or lean-to “or at least out of the wind,” as well as a constant source of water.
“They need water they can drink. When it is that cold and you put out water it freezes almost immediately and the animals could get dehydrated,” she said, advising some animal owners to invest in special water heaters designed for livestock purposes.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at