2019 WINTER WEATHER

Business heats up for furnace, auto repair shops in Eastern Iowa

Tips: Patience, clean furnace filters, letting cars run

Adam Rotter, a service technician with Novak Heating, Air & Duct Cleaning of Hiawatha, finishes installing a new blower motor Thursday for the furnace in the home of Janet Ireland in Marion.  (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Adam Rotter, a service technician with Novak Heating, Air & Duct Cleaning of Hiawatha, finishes installing a new blower motor Thursday for the furnace in the home of Janet Ireland in Marion. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

It’s been a busy week for furnace companies and tow trucks.

Rob Wenzel, who’s worked for Novak Heating, Air & Duct Cleaning in Hiawatha since 2009, said the shop had more calls Wednesday than any day he’s worked there.

“When it gets this cold, it pushes furnaces to the extreme of operation, ” Wenzel said of the record cold temperatures this week. “One person called me and said they were actually having a panic attack.”

Handling so many callers, he said, requires “a little bit of triage.”

The company tries to get to the people with no heat at all as quickly as they can, while others have to wait a while.

Technicians, he added, see a variety of furnace problems during such extreme cold — everything from ice buildup to failing igniters. Problems often depend on both the age and condition of the heating unit, Wenzel said.

He added the familiar cautions about making sure furnaces have clean filters and resetting programmable thermostats to “hold” at one consistent temperature. If automatic thermostats change to a lower temperature at night — which they typically do — it puts extra stain on a furnace trying to warm up a cold house in the morning when it’s extremely cold.

“Despite the fear and cold, people around here were really great to work with,” Wenzel said. “As tough as it is this time of year for us, we’re a heating company. This is what we live for. We try to do the best we can for Cedar Rapids here.”

cold cars

On another front, vehicles also were struggling to keep up with the cold.

Wes White, owner of Albert Auto 380 in southwest Cedar Rapids, said calls to his shop have been non-stop this week.

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On Wednesday and Thursday — with windchill in the minus 50 rangs — “we strictly did nothing but (battery) jumps,” White said. “As cold as it is outside, it’s just not healthy on equipment.”

To help cars function in low temperatures, White suggests starting cars for about 10 minutes once or twice a day.

He also suggests people be patient while waiting for a service call.

“Every tow company is behind,” he said. “That’s because it’s just cold, and the cars aren’t used to it. It’s no different than if your furnace goes out at home.

“We know it’s cold out. We can only do so much at a time, just like anybody else.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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