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Getting ready for another cold Nebraska winter

Getting ready for another cold Nebraska winter


Forty-five years ago, on Nov. 10, I was washing my 1966 Chevelle convertible while wearing a T-shirt and cutoffs on an unseasonably warm afternoon. I wanted my car spotless for our wedding. Before the night was over, our groomsman covered it with shaving cream, soap and other things!

That comfortable weather seemed like it would continue forever, but then we had a brutally cold winter. On Dec. 31, it was minus-20 degrees. On Jan. 12, 1974, it was minus-33 degrees. That Chevelle sat outside in the bitter cold, and thankfully started every day with the help of a battery charger. It was our only car, and we needed to get to work.

Warm weather gives us a false sense of security, but then reality tells us to consider past cold winters. We can always count on at least some bitterly cold Nebraska winter days. Will you be ready?

Hopefully your furnace is serviced already or is scheduled for annual maintenance. A properly serviced furnace will operate more efficiently, safely, and the odds are better it will not fail. It’s every bit as important as servicing your car, if not more important because of carbon monoxide risks.

Who should service your furnace? It’s important to think this through, because there are well-known service providers to avoid. For instance, one Omaha company offers a ridiculously low Service Maintenance Agreement (SMA) price that gets them into your home so they can condemn your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) equipment. That base price does not include any service work. How trustworthy is a company that strives to condemn HVAC equipment so they can make a sale?

If your HVAC equipment uses more natural gas, does that help you or a utility company that sells natural gas? An easy monthly payment offer to an unsuspecting customer for an SMA may seem like a good deal, but what is the overall cost in efficiency in the end?

Also, beware of companies that offer low costs and use technicians that have only a few weeks of out-of-state training. HVAC equipment can be difficult to service, troubleshoot and repair.

It makes sense to use locally licensed HVAC contractors with better trained technicians. For instance, John Henry’s has NATE-certified HVAC service technicians with trade school degrees. Their technicians are properly trained to troubleshoot and repair all HVAC equipment. John Henry’s has also won the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award twice!

A John Henry’s Service Maintenance Agreement (SMA) is a great choice, because its primary goal is providing quality service with Good, Better and Best SMA options. Your HVAC equipment will operate more efficiently and safely.

Some technicians do not have special service tools like carbon monoxide test equipment that provides an actual reading of carbon monoxide levels produced by the equipment and also in the room. If your tech does not have carbon monoxide test equipment, it’s time to change techs.

Servicing the furnace and also the water heater reduces your risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Water heaters can be even more dangerous than furnaces, because fumes can more easily escape their flue pipes. The water heater is typically located by the furnace, which helps circulate those dangerous fumes throughout the home.

In Nebraska, it’s wise to have a secondary heat source, too. A good example is a gas fireplace with a standing pilot light that does not require electricity. It’s important to get carbon monoxide levels from fireplaces checked too.

A customer-owned carbon monoxide detector is also a necessary safety device that provides an early-warning sign of elevated levels. Please remember, carbon monoxide detectors fail and are sometimes installed incorrectly or in a location too far from the source of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every 5 to 7 years or according to the date stamped on them.

Historically, Nebraska winters are so dry they cause us to suffer physically. It’s important to have a properly serviced whole-house humidifier providing 40-60% relative humidity levels.

Low humidity levels increase respiratory issues that affect the body in many ways, increasing susceptibility to colds and flu. Dry air is also dangerous for allergy and asthma sufferers since it aggravates their symptoms. Long-term exposure causes lung damage and skin to get that wrinkled leather effect.

Cheaper is not necessarily better when making SMA decisions. You get what you pay for.

It’s a great time to get prepared for another Nebraska winter. Will you be ready?


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