I write and read about HVAC contracting eight hours a day. However, it’s uncommon I actually get to see these skills put to the test. It’s even rarer that such actions occur inside my own home.

Some background: My wife and I purchased our first home about two years ago. After eight months of playing the real estate game, we settled on a two-story colonial built in 1987. The home boasted many recent upgrades including a new furnace. And this isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill furnace. It’s a 96.7 percent AFUE, two-stage, variable-speed furnace. Lord have mercy.

As brutal as Michigan’s winters may be, we’ve vastly enjoyed the quiet, efficient performance the workhorse provided. But, little did I know, we weren’t getting everything the furnace has to offer.

This spring, I decided to upgrade my thermostat. The device we had on the wall was antiquated, and the allure of today’s high-tech, Wi-Fi-enabled controls pulled me in to the purchase. Out of curiosity, I yanked our existing thermostat from the wall and examined its wiring. I was shocked to find the unit was wired for single-stage control. After a quick Google search, my assumption was confirmed. The previous homeowners — well, the contractor they hired — installed a top-of-the-line furnace, but paired it with an inadequate thermostat.

This had to be fixed. Now. I contacted Thornton and Grooms, a metro Detroit-area contractor I knew rather well, since the company was honored as one of The NEWS’ Best Contractors to Work For in 2013. Owner Mike Bergstrom and I traded emails, where I shared my problem and he offered a few solutions. And, since I’m in the business of publicizing HVAC contracting, I asked him if our staff could videotape the company’s visit, to which he gladly accepted.

Techs Brian McVety and Drew Barnum arrived on time and were professionally dressed. They introduced themselves with a handshake, shared their business cards, and placed booties on their shoes. They discussed the issue at hand and proceeded to the basement to review the system. They examined the wires at the furnace and followed them up to the thermostat’s first-floor location. Not only were there enough wires to adequately connect a two-stage thermostat, the previous contractor had run a few extra wires in preparation of such an upgrade. When I asked why the previous homeowners opted for the dumbed-down single-stage control, neither tech could provide a reasonable answer.

Half an hour later, the shiny Wi-Fi-enabled control was affixed to the wall, and I was logging in via the manufacturer’s smartphone app. The techs were well versed on how to use the app, and I was up and running in less than five minutes. After a brief review of the company’s maintenance agreement options, the pair swiped my credit card on the spot and wished me a great weekend before they exited.

McVety and Barnum were professional, punctual, and well informed. Needless to say, Thornton and Grooms earned a customer for life. Using my smartphone app, I’ve yet to return to a home warmer than 75°. And, with winter looming, I can’t wait to test drive a quieter, more efficient furnace. In fact, with autumn in the air, I think I might turn it on right now.

Publication date: 9/22/2014

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