Craig Jones, co-owner of Slasor Heating & Cooling, Livonia, Mich., gives last minute instructions to the participating contractors.
NOVI, Mich. - For the 17th consecutive year, heating and cooling contractors - members of the Northwest Heating & Cooling Dealers Association, a chapter of the Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors of America (MIACCA) - offered free furnace inspections, tuneups, and repairs for senior citizens on limited incomes. The event is named the "Al Keats Day Project Heat."

This year, 18 companies participated in the event, servicing 58 homes in the northwest Detroit area and surrounding suburbs. The results for the happy seniors included one complete furnace changeout and two heat exchanger replacements.

Contractors pose behind the banner of “Al Keats Day Project Heat” in front of Day & Night Heating & Cooling, Novi, Mich.
Seniors were also given free CO detectors if they had none in the home, or were offered free tests to assure that their CO detectors were functioning properly.

The News rode along with Kelly O'Brien and Sean McGinty of Guardian Environmental Services of Livonia, Mich., as they visited with an elderly homeowner in Livonia. Her furnace, a "Fairway" model sold by the defunct Montgomery Ward department store chain, may have been as old as 30-40 years - it was too hard to tell. The furnace was not heating the two-story home to comfortable temperatures.

Kelly O’Brien inspects the cast iron heat exchanger for any defects or cracks.
McGinty and O'Brien inspected the heat exchanger as part of their service. They also checked the blower motor and noticed that the bearing assembly was "stiffening up and putting an extra load on the motor," according to O'Brien. They also noted that the fan was not operating. Any heat to the upstairs was coming via gravity only.

McGinty reconnected a lead on the blower motor, which seemed to be the only problem. However, both men were concerned that the bearings were almost shot. They made recommendations to the homeowner.

Sean McGinty performs routine maintenance on the furnace, believed to be over 30 years old.
"The furnace is so inefficient that we are recommending that it be replaced with at least an 80 plus efficiency model, which would probably pay for itself in five years in energy savings," said O'Brien.

The homeowner said she would send the recommendation to the local senior citizen agency, which may approve funds for the replacement.

Publication date: 12/15/2003