February 17, 2014

Points East: A sweet deal on fixing the furnace

By Ike Adams

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — About three weeks ago, way past the middle of the night, Loretta punched me awake to ask, “can you hear that noise? It’s coming from the furnace.”

 I listened and, sure enough, I could hear a squeaking noise every once in a while.  I told her it was a bearing that needed oiling.  A couple days later I paid 6 bucks for a little tube of “bearing grease and oil” at an auto parts store because I couldn’t find any three-in-one oil anywhere and I’d looked or called all over the place. 

 But, when we went to the basement, there was no way that either of us could get to the blower or fan or whatever you call the contraption that makes air circulate throughout the house. We could stand there and tell that the noise was emanating from deep in the bowels of the big, green box where we routinely replace air filters.  The filter was clean because we replace them, on the premise of “better safe than sorry,” no fewer than four times a year, even though one is supposed to last a year.  

 The noise continued for several days and we could hear it every time the heat kicked on, until one night it changed from a squeak to a squeak and rattle.  We both agreed that we needed to “call somebody” but after a few days, the furnace kept on running and we sort of got used to the noise; until, one night last week, it changed again.   By this time we’d called several people but nobody had actually showed up to look at the furnace.

This time the noise was “Rattle-rattle, squeak, squeak, whump, whump, whump,” over and over and over and finally, in the wee hours last Friday night, the blower simply stopped running.  Dead silence prevailed. 

 Loretta pulled out the yellow pages on Saturday morning and commenced calling.  Several repair places said they could send somebody out but it was gonna cost at least $125 just to see if they could figure out what was wrong and they were not willing to guarantee they could fix it.

 Several of them swore straight up and down that our HVAC system was obsolete and the only solution was to get a new one and they’d be glad to get right on that sometime next week if we had 10 thousand dollars lying around that we didn’t need for anything else. 

 Anyway after getting the runaround from well over half a dozen other places, Loretta finally made contact with Mary Barnett at Barnett’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Berea.  To make a long story short, Ms. Barnett told her that she’d send somebody out, because her guys did work on Saturday and, if he couldn’t fix the problem, there would be no charge

 Within the hour, a fellow, dressed in heavy, winter,  coveralls named Paul Anderson, was knocking on our door.  By this time Chris and Lo had fired up “ole stinky,” our kerosene heater that hadn’t been used in three years and he was living up to his name in the kitchen. 

 Paul didn’t waste a lot of time on small talk but headed straight to the basement where he dismantled the big, green box and figured out, just as I had thought,  that the blower motor bearings had in fact locked up and the only solution was a new motor that would probably cost about $300, but he wouldn’t be able to get it in until Monday.

 But he said, “I may have a used one in the shop that will last a while.  I’ll call you back if I find anything that’ll work.

 Thirty minutes later the phone rang. It was Paul Anderson from Barnett’s HVAC.  He’d found a blower unit with a motor on it that would work and he’d be right out there with it in a few minutes, and he did just that. 

 In the meantime the mercury was dropping like a lead sinker on catfish bait. 

 But in shorter, after Paul Anderson returned,  I noticed a curtain over one heat register billow out.  We couldn’t hear the furnace but obviously it was back on.  Sure enough, nice, warm air was pouring in from every register in the house.  And I was thinking I don’t care what it cost, this is way better than freezing to death.

 But it turned out, the total bill for parts and labor was so low that Loretta made Paul Anderson repeat it several times.  It was less than half what I was expecting. 

 So I have added Mary Barnett and Paul Anderson to my list of everyday heroes and decided that when I do put in a new HVAC system between now and next winter, I won’t even think about calling anybody other than Barnett’s.  Because just when I was about to decide the whole world was a racket, Loretta and I found a jewel of a business that we won’t hesitate to recommend to anyone. 

 Barnett’s Heating and Air Conditioning is located at 104 Spring Circle Dr. in Berea.  The phone number is 859-986-1802.  Talk to Mary if you can. She’s getting a sweetheart Valentine card  from yours truly.