When weather reports showed winds chills of 29 degrees below zero last month, Topekans did their best to keep warm, but some homeowners quickly realized it would take more than blankets and space heaters to battle the bitter temperatures.
Many heating systems couldn’t withstand the freezing wind chills.
Larry Lutz, who lives in the Westboro neighborhood of Topeka, said his steam heater failed days before the temperatures plunged.
McElroy’s Inc. provided Lutz an electric air handler as a temporary solution to keep the Lutz residence warm until the company could put in a hot water boiler to replace his outdated steam heat boiler.
Many local HVAC companies are still trying to catch up from the many maintenance calls placed during the December cold front.
Clients are aware of the function of their furnace than before
As long as the system appears to be working, HVAC experts said homeowners are hesitant to replace their system.
Greg Hunsicker, vice president for residential HVAC at McElroys, said many of the emergency calls from residents were ones to replace heating systems that should have been replaced years earlier.
“When people play that game with their system, I always tell them it’s going to fail them when they need it the most,” said Hunsicker. “When temperatures get below zero, your heating system needs to perform at 100% and run nonstop in order to maintain a 65 to 70 degrees in the house.”
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More than 90 service calls had been made to McElroy’s in the days after the winter storm.
Greg Debacker, Debacker’s Inc. general manager, said his company had about 60 emergency calls.
“Every time you could hang up the phone, it would ring again” said Debacker.
Brandon Barnette, HVAC estimator, said BluDot is handling a surge in work.
“We are seeing an increase in people that are deciding to upgrade their inefficient, outdated systems,” Barnette said. “People are calling and saying, ‘I don’t want to ever be stranded again.'”
What can you do to maintain heat for potential below zero wind chills?
While homeowners can change their furnace filter, apply plastic to windows and keep system free of debris to help your HVAC system, professionals recommend professional maintenance.
Debacker said people forget to change their filters, but it is important. He recommended people change their filters before winter end.
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Bob Vila, home improvement expert and TV personality, has said homeowners can expect to pay between $250 and $400 for an HVAC inspection, with unit type, location and inspection level influencing the final cost. Averages in the capital city may differ.
“You need to have a regular maintenance on your furnace, and the same thing goes for your air conditioner,” said Barnette. “We have extreme cold. We have extreme heat. You need to have it regularly maintained, or you could very well find yourself with your furnace exposed to its weak spots and in a situation like we just had.”
Keishera Lately is the business reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Lately_KT.