July 24th, 2024

Heating companies trying to keep up with service calls


By Lethbridge Herald on January 15, 2024.

A service van sits parked in a lot while making a service call at a downtown business. City heating companies have been working non-stop to meet the demand for service among residential and business customers alike. Herald photo by Ian Martens

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

When temperatures plummeted late last week to lows southern Albertans haven’t experienced for awhile, people and animals weren’t the only ones affected.

Mechanical devices including furnaces were impacted as well and city heating companies have been working non-stop to meet the demand for service among residential and business customers alike.

A couple of city companies said on Monday they’ve pulled staff from other departments to meet the flood of calls that have come in from people who have suddenly found themselves without heat when even daytime temperatures have been in the low -30s.

Chris Bruce of KB Heating told The Herald that his company has seen calls from both residential and commercial business increase due to furnace and boiler problems.

Dean Palmarchuk of Airtech Heating & Air Conditioning said all the local companies are in the same boat as they try to effect repairs to restore heat to homes and companies alike.

Both men say that some problems could be prevented through regular maintenance and recommend home owners and businesses have inspections done during the shoulder seasons to help prevent an emergency situation. 

Bruce said the main thing is to make sure exterior exhaust vents are clear. Sometimes they will freeze up, preventing air flow.

“You want to keep those clear for sure,” he said.

Furnace efficiency “has a come a long way,” Bruce says.

Some furnaces “have been in circulation for a long time. You may have had a good run but after a strain of so many winters, that’s when you see parts start to go. And technology has changed a lot in terms of efficiency, as well,” he says.

A lot of furnaces his company has been replacing in recent years are 40 to 50 years old.

“They all kind of have a life cycle,” he added.

One reason companies have seen more business – on a typical day KB will have 20 names on a board but on Monday it had close to 100 – is because of the toll the weather can take.

“It’s five times the call volume and we allocate assets from all the departments we have to our service department to try to get not just residential applications, but a lot of commercial applications,” he said.

“There’s a strain on a lot of different places.”

Bruce says people should do maintenance in spring and fall.

“Once or twice a year is typically what we recommend typically with the season changes and you make sure your equipment is prepared. It lessens the likelihood you’ll run into issues in the times you need your HVAC system the most.”

If a person loses heat and needs a repair, his company will do what it can to get a furnace working with just some parts. But a furnace swap can be done in as few as a couple of days or even in one day if the company has the resources to dedicate to a job.

“But right now everyone’s kind of in the same boat where those resources are stretched pretty thin and we’re just trying to deal with repairs as much as we can,” said Bruce.

KB crews worked all weekend and the company took calls 24.7  on its emergency line.

“The guys are pretty much only sleeping and fixing furnaces right now.

“They’re doing the best they can and trying to get people heat the best they can but unfortunately there’s only so many resources in the city and so many companies in the city. And we’re all in the same boat. Hopefully, we can get through this as fast as possible.”

Palmarchuk said he doesn’t recall a time it’s been this cold for so many consecutive hours.

“What I kind of tell people is furnaces aren’t meant to be -40. That’s the extreme end of them.. . obviously when there’s extremes and gas lines are starting to freeze, there’s not much we can do.”

Palmarchuk said maintenance is key. 

“Regular maintenance helps to solve a lot of those nuisancy calls. If we come to your house and we’re out of there within an hour it’s usually because of something maintenance could have caught like cleaning the flame rods or even checking the amperages and telling people potentially something is getting a bit weaker so be prepared for this part to potentially fail down the road,” Palmarchuk said.

Maintenance includes regularly changing filters.

Palmarchuk the lifespan of a new furnace is roughly 15 to 20 years and then people can expect to see parts failing and problems arise.

While older furnaces were about 80 per cent efficiency, modern units can be 96 to 97 per cent efficient.

Palmarchuk had everybody he possibly could working on the weekend including his service team and other departments, as well.

“It was just one of those weekends and unfortunately calls exceeded bodies and they still are. We’re still trying to catch up to individuals because we just can’t get to everybody,” said Palmarchuk.

“Unfortunately it comes down to the bottom line is we don’t have enough guys in the trades. I think everybody in the HVAC refrigeration technician industry is looking for guys and there’s not enough guys coming in. And too many guys coming out,” he added.

The career is secure and pays well, he said.

“It’s a great pay scale and they’re only going to be worth more.  . . I would say it’s an employee market right now. They can demand a bit more because they know if you’re a good company, there’s more work than guys.”

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old school

Interesting ,my 40 year old furnace never skips a beat ,yes at a little lower efficiency. My 10 year old high efficiency furnace required $1200 in repairs. Somehow that’s not efficient,in my books.

R.U.Serious

Correct! Quality has been reduced by greed! With all the technology we have, we should be able to make appliances that only require minimal upkeep and cost little to run for 25 to 40 years. Refridgerators last about 10 years, furnaces, as for your situation ought to just require component and humidifier upkeep over of 30 or 40 years for minimal costs. There are many old furnaces and major appliances still in use which are over 3 or 4 decades old, in some cases 60 years old.
Greed is filling our landfills and making significant greenhouse emissions to replenish the junk we are sold, yet you won’t see this change!  
China is busy buying up all of the major computer and appliance manufacturers, so quality will only get worse.