Cold snap warms up heating business

PARKERSBURG – Frigid temperatures have kept local heating companies hopping.

The temperature dropped into the single digits Wednesday morning and highs are expected to reach only into the 30s during the next several days. Lows will be in the teens.

It is a dramatic change from the relatively balmy temperatures the area has seen in recent weeks, Bruce Bolden, vice president of sales at Steers Heating and Cooling in Parkersburg, said.

“Whenever there is a drastic change, especially with the mild weather we’ve been having, it puts a strain on everything,” he said. “These appliances don’t have to run quite as often, and then suddenly they are running all the time.”

Bolden said most of the service calls in the past week have been due to malfunctioning heating systems.

“Most of the calls are no heat or just not warm enough,” he said. “Over the last four days, we’ve probably taken in more than 80 service calls.”

Steve Hardman, vice president of service for Steers in Parkersburg, said crews have been working all hours and through weekends to meet the demand. In many cases service engineers are outside in the cold themselves.

“There is a lot of work outside, on rooftop units, on outside units,” he said.

The boost in calls hasn’t only affected Steers. Grogg’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Parkersburg also has seen a massive jump in service calls during the past couple of days.

Owner Tim Hanlon said the company has been “slammed” this week.

“They’ll call and say ‘it’s cold in my house’ or ‘I have no heat,'” he said. “Then you start worrying about the water pipes freezing. It can turn into all sorts of problems. Also, we have a lot of elderly customers and it creates a health issue.”

Hanlon said what seems like a furnace suddenly breaking can actually be an issue for weeks beforehand.

“When it’s 40 degrees outside you don’t notice, because your furnace is working just well enough to keep up with it,” he said. “When it gets down to single digits over a couple of days, it forces it to run a long time, and that’s when you can tell there is a problem.”

Hanlon said on Tuesday Grogg’s had about 50 service calls. Another 20 had come in before noon on Wednesday.

“We have six service techs, and they have been pretty well booked for three days,” he said. “I think once it does start warming back up, the calls will decrease, and even if it doesn’t start warming up, a lot of problems from the initial cold snap will already have been brought to our attention and dealt with.”

Bolden said he also expects the service calls to slow down even if the temperatures remain relatively low.

“The first couple of days you’ll get hit hard, then it will go back to a normal schedule,” he said.

In the meantime, Hanlon said the biggest concern should be safety, especially if people are using alternative means to help stave off the cold, such as space heaters.

“Make sure there are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the house,” he said. “Make sure they are good and the batteries are changed. If they think for any reason they do have a carbon monoxide issue, call the fire department.”