"The person I worked for subcontracted for three different companies. About four years later, I started working for a company on my own," said Klicker.
"I decided to take the mechanical state test to be licensed. It was a lot of studying, and I had to prove that I had already worked in the field, and I had to provide references from these individuals. The certification process took about a year."
In the end, Klicker became one of the first women in Michigan to become licensed in heating and cooling. And, during the past 20 years, Sharon's Heating and Air Conditioning, located in Westland, Mich., has earned a solid reputation for service, repair, and installation, specializing in residential and commercial heating and cooling.
"It's nice to have the customer call us and say that they enjoy the furnace that was put in, and that they enjoy the new system. It gives you a good feeling," said Klicker.
"We are running gas lines for appliances - all appliances," she said, noting that even though many of her customers are in the Westland, Livonia, and Garden City areas, "We do work all over."
In the winter, the contracting firm has 24-hour service agreements with many of the local senior and nursing homes. Klicker said there are a few companies in the area that offer this service during the cold Michigan winter months.
"We pride ourselves on our service," she said.
In fact, the readers of Michigan's Community Newspapers recently voted Sharon's Heating and Air-Conditioning the "Best Air Conditioning and Heating Contractor." Her company is involved in various organizations, including the two local (Westland and Canton) chambers of commerce.
In order to provide good, quality service, the owner said she informs customers that a technician cannot diagnose a problem without spending some time analyzing the situation and system.
"When a person calls for service, there's no way that a technician can tell a customer how long it will take," she said. "The repair technician needs to use an electrical tester on all of the wiring to see what does not work."
"We use boilers. We install about 10 a year. It's very nice for new homes. It's not as easy to install in an older home, unless it's a home that already has one," she said.
When a family wants to add on a room, or an entire floor, they need to hire a heating and air conditioning contractor to ensure that all furnaces work properly. She said a lot of people do this type of reconstruction and add-ons to their homes, as many want to stay in the neighborhood, close to their kids and families.
"If they add on a family room, it has to have heat," she said. "Most like to have a fireplace, which means that they have to have a gas line there."
On an older, three-bedroom ranch, some local homeowners add a whole second floor. They take off the roof, and add another story to it, she said.
"It usually takes us two to three days to complete the job," she said. "I remember a time when we ran into a problem where the heat in the basement couldn't reach that [added second] floor, and they had to add a second furnace. It's expensive."
Klicker received her boiler license six years ago. She said the furnaces that are installed usually last about 15 years, and that the heat exchanger in it is the only part that has a lifetime warranty. From her experience, most of her customers will elect to change furnaces rather than replace a lot of faulty parts. In addition, many want a furnace that is more efficient, she said.
She said she stresses to customers that after the furnace is installed, it needs to be periodically checked by a technician to make sure there are no carbon monoxide leaks.
"It's good that people know how deadly it is, and more people are aware of the danger," she said, noting that the media has been instrumental in conveying this message to the general public.
"They are rated the best in Consumer's Reports and they hold up better than other brands," she said, adding that, in her opinion, "the parts are made better."
When it comes to humidifiers, Aprilaire is the company's best seller. Klicker likes the flow-through system because there is no standing water.
"It helps you feel warmer if there's moisture in the air," she said. "It gets rid of static electricity and the dryness in your throat."
Klicker cautioned that water quality can be a factor in system performance. The water going through a humidifier may contain a lot of calcium, which can build up inside and cause it to stop working. In some areas, the potential for buildup is greater. This can happen where there is farmland, she said.
"This usually happens when the water comes from a well," said Klicker, pointing out that some local counties and cities still have wells.
Another item homeowners purchase is an air cleaner. The two types Klicker's company installs are media and electronic. She said media air cleaners are more popular, mainly because they require less maintenance. There are no electric parts, but they still need to be changed twice a year to keep the furnace running properly, she said. The electric model has to be taken apart, and some parts should be cleaned in the dishwasher.
"It has to be maintained properly, or it won't work," she said.
In fact, Klicker still fabricates custom ductwork in the company's sheet metal shop. Employee Al Gilkerson is responsible for making some of that custom ductwork.
"We make ductwork connectors, and we can make almost any fitting, elliptical or conical," he said.
He said the company has the capability to create oval or concentric round, as well, and that they have a multipurpose use.
In the end, it's providing a service many of the local contractors cannot offer. And, in Klicker's estimation, "It gives you a good feeling."
Publication date: 12/20/2004