“You want to make sure it’s safe for the winter season,” said Jeff Richard, general manager of Northern Colorado Air, Inc., a residential and commercial HVAC installation, service and repair company located in Fort Collins and in business since 1992.
Homeowners are advised to set up an annual furnace inspection and cleaning service, optimally in early September. One option is Northern Colorado Air’s Check & Service, a 30-point checklist to inspect the furnace’s operation.
Technicians on staff, certified by North American Technician Excellence, or NATE, check for gas leaks and carbon monoxide issues, verify the gas valve is operational, take apart and clean the blower, and make sure all the safety components are functioning. They also change the air filter – something the homeowner should be doing about every three months, unless they have a high-performance filter, then every six months to one year, depending on the product. Homeowners also can clear leaves, lint and spider webs from the fresh air inlet outside the home.
Another thing homeowners can do is to make sure there is a clear path to the furnace and to keep flammable materials out of the furnace room, such as paint or varnish that if bumped or tipped can become an ignition source. Both the furnace and water heater have burners on them, which can ignite the flammable materials.
Homeowners also can vacuum or sweep out dust and debris that collects around the furnace, and they can check their carbon monoxide detector to make sure it’s less than five to seven years old. If it’s older than that, it’s best to replace it, since it loses calibration over time.
Beyond a service check, homeowners can be on the lookout for unusual smells or noises when turning on the furnace, such as a burning odor or a clanking or screeching sound of metal on metal. Another indicator of an issue is if the unit blows cold air in the heating season.
Poorly maintained units have to work 20% harder, which raises their cost to operate—there also can be issues of a sudden malfunction, a premature system failure, elevated sound levels, energy waste and degraded air quality. Alternatively, maintaining the unit is a way to catch and correct minor problems, preventing more extensive damage and repair costs later on.
Northern Colorado Air offers Peak Performance, an annual renewable program that gives customers preferred status, so that if they call, they get priority service immediately for their HVAC units. The program is a maintenance plan that addresses wear and tear specific to Northern Colorado’s local weather and extends service life of the unit and heads off the majority of repairs.
“We will take care of you and replace the component or equipment, because you’re a preferred customer,” Richard said. “Usually we have the product to make that happen.”
If homeowners have a humidifier and are a Peak Performance customer, the Check & Service includes a check over of the unit, which helps add moisture back into the air that gets removed by the heating cycle. Humidifiers help prevent colds and viruses and, with the added moisture, allow for easier breathing.
Northern Colorado Air is a Lennox Premier Dealer and one of the largest Lennox dealers in the state of Colorado.
“(Lennox offers) a nice, quiet system that cools and heats, or conditions, your house at the appropriate time, whether done through your smart phone or the thermostat, and cleans the air while doing it,” Richard said. “It gives you much more comfortable peace of mind at home.”
As a Premier Dealer, Northern Colorado Air primarily sells the Lennox brand but services and warranties all brands. Premier Dealers have to follow strict criteria for technician training, installation quality, business practices, sales volume and customer service. Northern Colorado Air received recognition as a Lennox Centurion dealer for the past 12 years, marking it as one of the top 100 dealers in the United States and Canada, an even more prestigious award from Lennox.
In keeping with that status, Northern Colorado Air tripled its inventory in February and even had to start manufacturing some of its own parts using a plasma machine to be able to make on-time installations for customers.
“It’s a challenge for us but beneficial for the customer,” Richard said. “We plan jobs eight to 12 weeks in advance now. That’s why we have triple the inventory. We’ve got to be prepared for something that’s going to happen in September or October right now.”
Richard advises customers to not wait for an emergency. Common ones include motor or ignitor failures, gas valve problems, and electrical and transformer issues.
“If you’re thinking about replacing equipment that could be a problem, now is the time to look at it,” Richard said.
To protect the furnace and clean the air even more, Richard recommends the Lennox PureAir air purification system. The system, compatible with most HVAC systems without requiring additional energy costs, is a three-part filtration system that filters out dust, allergens and airborne viruses and destroys odors from cooking, pets, solvents and cleaning products.
“The blower motor in the furnace pulls air through the return air side of the system and then filters the air before it comes into your home,” Richard said.
Northern Colorado Air still has the same owners, founders Joyce and Roy “Griff” Griffin, and operates with 40 to 45 employees, some who have been with the company for more than 20 years.
“We are not corporate America. We’re a family-owned business that’s been around a long time,” Richard said, adding that the company is set apart by its dedicated employees and relationships with long-term customers.
By Shelley Widhalm, At Home Colorado. Photos by Tim Seibert.