Homeowner Thelma Schultz thanks Kelly O’Brien for repairing her boiler as part of “Al Keats Day — Project Heat.”
PLYMOUTH, Mich. - Thelma Schultz will be spending her winter in warmth and comfort, thanks to the helping hands of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America for Southeast Michigan (SEMIACCA). The 99-year-old Schultz was one of dozens of Detroit-area homeowners who received free furnace inspections and repairs during the "Al Keats Day - Project Heat" on Dec. 4.

Kelly O'Brien, service operations manager of Guardian Environmental Services, Livonia, Mich., repaired Schultz's 20-year-old boiler. The boiler, located in the basement of her 100-year-old home, needed work partly because of years of neglect.

As part of the service call, O'Brien replaced the thermocouple, cleaned the burner section, and adjusted the manifold gas pressure. He partially drained the boiler, checked the pressure relief and fill pressure, and checked the boiler limit switch.

He also checked for a properly functioning thermostat, checked all radiators, and tested the carbon monoxide (CO) detector. He concluded that the air bleeder needed to be replaced and the system should be flushed and cleaned. He planned to return later in the week to complete the service.

Schultz had complained about hearing banging noises when the heat came on.

It appeared to be caused by a buildup of air in the system, causing a water hammer noise, according to O'Brien. A clogged air bleeder valve was the culprit.

Kelly O’Brien keeps in touch with other contractors while inspecting the furnace on his second stop in Plymouth, Mich.
"Every single valve in the system is shot," O'Brien said. "If I tested the water in the system, it would probably be highly acidic. The system is mudded up." Every time O'Brien tapped on the piping, a little more dirty water came out of the pressure relief valve.

In addition to the boiler service, Schultz needed a lot of work done on her leaky basement. There were large cracks in the foundation, and holes were open to the outside. Rodent feces and a dead mouse were evident during the visit. Loose drywall in the basement was caked with mold.

O'Brien said he planned to discuss the problem with Schultz, with the ultimate plan to clean up and waterproof the basement.

O'Brien's second stop of the morning was at another home in the Plymouth community.

The furnace, which was about 25 years old, was practically free of dust and dirt. She had followed a routine maintenance schedule, and O'Brien's inspection turned up no mechanical problems.

The homeowner asked O'Brien if he could recommend a duct cleaning company because she thought her ductwork needed cleaning. O'Brien said he would give her a list of some reputable companies he was familiar with, but after inspecting the supply and return ducts near the furnace, O'Brien was surprised by their cleanliness. He suggested that she probably wouldn't need duct cleaning at this time.

O’Brien inspects the 20-year-old boiler in the home of 99-year-old Thelma Schultz.

Project Heat Details

Now in its 18th year, the community service project was renamed Al Keats Day in memory of Keats, who did a great deal of volunteer work for local organizations and helped out when the volunteer day was in its infancy.

This year, 13 HVACR contractors serviced systems for 60 homeowners. There were four scheduled furnace replacements, including one that was changed immediately by Cliff McCourt of Day & Night Heating & Cooling, Novi, Mich. The homeowner had no heat and was keeping warm with a space heater in her bedroom. The furnace was condemned during the initial inspection that day.

In addition to Guardian Environmental and Day & Night, the following contractors and distributors/dealer reps participated. All are based in Michigan.

  • A to Z Heating & Cooling (Dearborn Heights).

  • Airtronic Heating & Cooling (Redford).

    O’Brien talks about humidifier and furnace maintenance with a homeowner on his second stop of the day.
  • All Weather A/C & Heating (Dearborn Heights).

  • Curtis Air (Plymouth).

  • Dearborn Heating & Cooling (Dearborn).

  • Diversified Heating & Cooling (Farmington Hills).

  • Family Heating & Cooling (Garden City).

  • Liberty Heating & Cooling (Redford).

  • Royal Oak Heating & Cooling (Royal Oak).

  • Slasor Heating & Cooling (Livonia).

  • United Temperature Services (Livonia).

    Companies donating equipment and supplies included Behler-Young, Calverly Supply, Carrier Great Lakes, Foster Kilby Supply, Lennox Industries, Potter Distributing, Research Products, Wholesale Heating, and W.W. Grainger Co.

    John Keteijian (left) and Marty Williams install ductwork on the new furnace installation.

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    LIVONIA, Mich. - Following up from a 2003 service call during the "Al Keats' Day - Project Heat" program, contractors from the Northwest Detroit chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America for Southeast Michigan (SEMIACCA) made a note to install a new furnace in the home of a senior citizen whose furnace was on its last legs.

    Livonia contractor Kelly O'Brien of Guardian Environmental Services made the initial service call last year and returned in 2004 with some fellow contractors to install a new Goodman furnace, which was donated by Goodman distributor Universal Electric Products of Howell.

    Jeff Beaton, president of Universal Electric Products, said, "We are committed to give back to the industry that works so well with us, and we provide statewide support for ACCA organizations along with all Habitat for Humanity local chapters throughout the state. Part of our business motto is to work with those who need help."

    O'Brien was joined by co-worker Marty Williams; Gary Shelly and his son, Matt; and Chris Kotek and John Keteijian from A to Z Heating & Cooling, Dearborn Heights, Mich.

    Publication date: 12/20/2004