As part of the first-ever Heat the Country program, a volunteer from ACCA’s National Capital Chapter installs a new air handler for the Johnson family in Manassas, Va.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - On a late October Saturday, 23 members of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America - National Capital Chapter (ACCA-NCC) kicked off the association's first Heat the Country program. They came away with an experience that will stay with them for a long time.

Heat the Country is a program designed to provide free heating service to repair or replace faulty furnaces for low-income, elderly, and disabled homeowners. ACCA chapters across the country participated in this program in their respective states.

Homeowners in the Alexandria area were screened by the city of Alexandria, the Department of Human Services, and the Housing and Community Services of Northern Virginia.

Participating contractors providing free labor included Cropp-Metcalfe A/C, Foley Mechanical, Krafft Service, M & M Mechanical, Northstar Heating, and Shapiro & Duncan.

ACCA-NCC Heat the Country Chairman Dan Clarke gives final instructions to one of the teams participating in the Heat the Country event.
It is estimated that a total of 132 man-hours and more than $10,000 in parts and equipment were involved in servicing and repairing systems in 11 homes in the area. The equipment was donated by corporate sponsors Aireco Supply, Belair Engineering, East Coast Metal, Northeast Supply, R. E. Michel, and Thomas Somerville.

One of the projects involved replacing a complete system, including a boiler, for the family of two-year-old cancer patient Cody Johnson in Manassas, Va. (See the story " HVACR Contractors Make A Difference For A Little Boy" in this issue.)

Clarke told The News that the crews discovered a couple of potentially dangerous situations. "Two homes needed some serious repair work done," he said. "One was a boiler that wasn't safe or up to code and a heat pump that needed a lot of work because the elderly homeowner was in poor health."

Representatives from Foley Mechanical install the new boiler donated by Thomas Somerville for the Johnson family.
Clarke was grateful for all of the suppliers who stepped up to the plate to donate equipment. "Almost all of them that we solicited help from stood up and said, ‘Absolutely.' Everybody really came together."

Beth Queen, ACCA manager, federation relations and national Heat the Country coordinator, visited the ACCA-NCC kickoff site and the Johnson home.

"It is very overwhelming to realize that this type of ACCA community service is happening all over the country today," she stated.

For future Heat the Country programs, Clarke would like his chapter to partner with some national organizations that provide services and products like free carbon monoxide detectors for homeowners.

"We would also like to find a national organization, like the United Way, who could provide the names of people in need," he said.

Clarke also wants to see the event gain more local media exposure in the future, too.

Sidebar: It All Started With The North Texas ACCA Chapter

The origins of Heat the Country can be traced to the North Texas Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). The national program is modeled after Heat the Town, which began in the Dallas/Fort Worth area 14 years ago. Patrice Pruitt, executive director of the chapter, talked about its history.

"Volunteers in North Texas usually service, replace, or repair approximately 200 heaters annually," she said.

"In addition to contractors and technicians, the program also enlists the aid of administrative personnel, HVACR students, and community groups to either ride along with technicians or provide administrative assistance at the kickoff headquarters.

"This nationwide program is the result of many hours of planning and preparation that actually began with a resolution submitted by the North Texas Chapter to the ACCA National House of Delegates meeting at the 2004 Annual ACCA Conference. The National Board of Directors approved the resolution, which cleared the way for contractors from the far north to the deep south to do what they do best - service and repair heating equipment."

Pruitt added that ACCA chapters get their leads on needy homeowners from a variety of different sources. "Some chapters are working with their local housing departments, while other chapters are working with community agencies and groups," she said. "Regardless of the agency involved, the outcome will still be the same.

"The industry gives generously of their time, talents, and money to assist people that cannot afford their services. Without the services of these volunteers, homeowners would face another winter with either no heat or would risk the possibility of either carbon monoxide poisoning or injury/death from operating unsafe heating equipment. Some chapters are starting on a small scale, running 20 calls, while other chapters are planning on servicing 100 or more homes."

- John R. Hall

Publication date: 11/15/2004