Heating and Cooling Solutions


Dear Comfort Advisor,

My heating system is finally getting a break from the winter weather. What can I do to prepare for next season?

Dear “Think Ahead” Theodore,

The heaters in the Flathead Valley do get a workout over the course of the winter. Annual maintenance on most equipment is a manufacturer’s requirement. This is written in the owner’s manual that is rarely, if ever, referred to. Many times your warranty depends on documentation of maintenance and service work. We see this as more of an issue now because the equipment manufacturers are under the financial constraints of the new economy. A warranty can easily be denied now without proof a piece of equipment has been regularly maintained. Imagine trying to get a new engine for your car if you never change the oil.

But fear not Theodore, the required attention is just a phone call away. Call your local heating contractor (hopefully AirWorks) and give your heater a hug. The unit typically needs general cleaning, pressure checks (if it is a heat pump), safety component checks, combustion check, and a filter change. Any fuel-burning appliance needs to be tested with an exhaust gas analyzer. If whoever is doing your servicing is not using one by now, they need to pony up and start doing the job right. This tool is the only way to know how well the combustion process is being completed in your heating system.

As far as timing is concerned, paying attention to your furnace or boiler now is much better than doing it the first time the weather gets cold. As long as your unit is checked annually it is not important what time of year it is done. Most heating companies are inundated with “no heat” calls as soon as the first cold snap hits. This is not the best time to do regular maintenance. It is far better to do in the spring months when demand service calls are minimal. Our technicians are generally under less pressure in the spring and concentrate on your system rather than the impending pile of emergencies.

Northwestern Energy also offers rebates on furnace and boiler maintenance of $75 for residential customers and $100 on commercial boilers. However, you must be a Northwestern Energy customer in order to receive the rebate. Other energy efficiency measures have additional incentives. We would be more than happy to review those options with you during our visit.

Making a small investment in your comfort system will pay dividends in more reliable operation, greater efficiency, and peace of mind. Regular service agreements (ours is called a Safety and Efficiency Agreement) are designed to set this up on an annual basis and provide the homeowner with a multitude of benefits: optimized efficiency, finding and fixing small issues before they become expensive repairs, no overtime charges, discount pricing for parts, and priority scheduling.

We provide this service for hundreds of customers that know we will be there to help as soon as the need arises, 24 hours a day. These customers have very few “no heat” emergencies because their equipment has been cleaned and tested on a regular basis. Of course, there are always unexpected issues like frozen venting, insects or birds finding their way down the venting, or older parts that finally conk out. Whatever the problem, whatever day or time, we can be there at discounted rates to get your system back online.

To answer your question about what you can do, check your filter regularly. Let us know if we can help you with your comfort system.

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