With heating season upon us, Michael Ritter of Great Lakes Heating and Air Conditioning shares tips on keeping us safe and comfortable in our homes. Heeding his advice, homeowners can also save money on their utility bills.
“What we do is save people money while keeping them safe and comfortable at home,” stated Ritter.
Do-it-yourself homeowners may try to work on their own heating and cooling systems, something Ritter claims can be costly. “There are plenty of people that try to fix or maintain it themselves,” he said, “They’re trying to save a nickel here and there, and, in the long run, it costs them more money.”
Heating unit manufacturers now offer long warranties that are void if anyone other than a certified technician performs maintenance. “If they have newer equipment, the manufacturers require that any work is performed by a licensed, certified contractor to keep the warranties valid. They have extended warranties now on equipment that are longer than they’ve ever been since I’ve been in the industry, but they do require them to be maintained,” explained Ritter.
A heating system that is not tuned up properly can also cost homeowners more in their monthly utility bills due to the amount of electricity or fuel being used. Ritter described what some in the industry call a ‘blow and go:’ “They go in there and change the filter and kind of blow on it and leave.” Because it’s no longer a new furnace, adjustments are needed to make sure the appropriate amount of gas and electricity are being fed into the system.
“They all have parts and components that are going to be getting dirty and going to be having normal wear and tear. Those are the adjustments that we make,” Ritter continued. “That normal wear and tear put something out of tolerance so we need to adjust that, dial it back into the proper tolerance so that it’s running efficiently.”
Calculating the right size heating system for your home is also very important. “If they’re going to install a brand new system, they should certainly hire a licensed, bonded contractor, preferably NATE certified, someone who can do a load calculation on their home,” advises Ritter. “If the person giving them a bid on the equipment doesn’t do a load calculation, I would never buy from them.”
“If they’re not doing that, there’s a slim chance they’ll put one in that’s too small and then they won’t be comfortable. More than likely, that contractor’s going to cover himself and make sure it’s big enough, in which case it’s probably going to be oversized and it’s going to cost in utility bills and cause the unit to break down prematurely,” warns Ritter.
Installing a heating unit that is too big for a building can cause it to break down sooner. “It will short cycle,” explains Ritter, “so, it will actually run more than if it was properly sized because it will be short cycling.”
Guidelines published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency volunteer program, Energy Star, confirm Ritter’s knowledge. “Oversizing will shorten the life of the equipment by causing it to cycle on and off more frequently than a properly-sized unit. Undersized equipment with airflow that is too low can cause distribution efficiency drops and accelerated wear on system components, leading to earlier failure.”
Ritter’s experience has shown that homeowners don’t always know what questions to ask. The second-most important questions they should ask involves their personal safety. He strongly advises, “Ask if the contractor actually employs or if he subcontracts, and if he does a background check on his employees. The number one trades taught in prisons right now across the U.S. are HVAC, heating and air conditioning and plumbing.”
“Spending time in prison leads to increased criminal earnings,” when prisoners return to society, Donald T. Hutcherson II, Sociology professor at Ohio University, told National Public Radio in an interview.
“I think homeowners take it for granted that contractors do that, but I know that a lot of them don’t,” states Ritter. “Some of them have told me that ignorance is bliss. It’s really difficult in our industry to find quality employees that are able to do the work.”
That is why Great Lakes hires based on a person’s people skills and ethics before sending their staff to school to learn the mechanical skills. “They end up with an actual college degree through ABC Associated Building Contractors of Indiana and Kentucky,” a process which Ritter realizes takes a long time but produces a top-notch employee, one who can be trusted to help keep your family safe and comfortable in their home.
To learn more about Great Lakes Heating and Air Conditioning, call (574) 287-5046. Or, visit their website: