Furnace tips to keep your home cozy

The heating season is just around the corner and while all of us are hoping we don't experience another bitter winter season like we did last year, there are no guarantees. So, we have to be prepared.

The last thing anyone wants to experience is a furnace failure on a freezing cold night when all you want is to come home to a warm, toasty house.

Erik Schroll, manager of the heating, ventilation and cooling division of ABC Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Electric, has some tips to keep your system functioning well during the cold months.

"First, it is really important that you get your furnace tuned up regularly. A furnace is like a car. It is a mechanical device and usually the ones we are called out to fix on an emergency basis are the ones that have not been cleaned and maintained. Between 80 (percent) and 90 percent of breakdowns are caused by dirt," Schroll said.

"People don't realize their furnace runs year-round, even when the air conditioning is on," he added. "There is always air flowing through the furnace, even when there is no heat. So you have to keep the unit clean and have the entire heating/cooling system checked every six months."

Second, he said, you should be careful about the type of filters you use.

"The 1-inch pleated ones that trap allergens also restrict the heating system, which is all about air flow. It is like putting your hand over your mouth and trying to breathe. We really don't recommend them because most furnaces cannot handle them. Because the air flow is restricted with these types of filters, the heat doesn't flow correctly out of the furnace, the metal gets too hot and it causes the furnace to break down," he said.

Instead, the company recommends the use of the standard 1-inch fiberglass filters and changing them once a month; or the washable specialty filters that should be checked regularly and probably washed twice a year; or the larger 4-inch pleated filter that gets changed twice a year. A special cabinet usually has to be installed next to a furnace to accommodate this wider filter, Schroll said.

Third, in order to save money on heating, you probably want to set your thermostat back by seven to 10 degrees when no one is home. The newest programmable thermostats will calculate what the furnace needs to do to get back to a comfortable temperature by the time you get home from work. Older ones will simply turn back on at the time you dictate.

Schroll said most of ABC's customers feel comfortable with an interior temperature of between 70 and 72 degrees, as long as they have a humidifier on their furnace. Humidifiers make the heated air feel warmer. Those without a humidifier generally need to keep the temperature between 75 and 78 degrees to feel comfortable in their homes, he said.

Fall is the time of year when manufacturers offer their biggest discounts, so it wouldn't hurt to ask what "deals" are currently available from the various companies.

ABC Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Electric has been in business since 1948. It started in the Hyde Park area of Chicago as a firm doing public sewer work. Don Schroll purchased the one-truck sewer operation in 1968. In 1972 he added the plumbing division and over the years has continually added to the growing operation - first HVAC and then electrical, and also moved it to its current location in Buffalo Grove. His sons, Gordon and Bryan, joined the firm in 1975 and daughter, Cindy Bruggenwirth, came onboard in 1980.

Today, Gordon Schroll is the president and CEO of ABC while Bryan Schroll runs the ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning operation in Englewood, Florida. Grandsons, Matt, Erik and Peter, run the firm's three divisions - plumbing (Matt), heating, ventilation, air conditioning (Erik) and electrical (Peter). Granddaughters, Meghan Evans and Beth Richards are involved with office administration.

Three generations of the family are actively involved since Don still visits the office on a regular basis, said Mike Then, marketing manager.

"ABC services residential properties in a 30-mile radius of Buffalo Grove, ranging from the Wisconsin border to the lake, to Elgin and as far south as Bolingbrook. We have three separate divisions so that our highly-skilled technicians can keep their focus and stay up with training in their specialty. It is too much to expect one person to be skilled in furnace repair and plumbing and electrical. So we have multiple technicians to help our customers," Then said.

"Our focus is on customer service and attention to detail," he said. "Every decision is made, based on how it will impact our customers. We have live people who answer our phones 24/7. Our technicians are also available 24/7. All of our technicians are background checked and drug tested. They arrive at customers' homes in uniform and in a lettered and marked truck so there is no question that they represent us. And we email a photo and profile of the technician to the customer before he arrives."

In addition, ABC trucks are always fully stocked with all the equipment and tools the technician should need to handle your problem without returning to headquarters and wasting time.

Customers also receive a written price before work begins since they charge by the job, not by the hour.

If the worst happens and, for instance, an entire system needs to be replaced, the technician calls in one of the firm's comfort consultants who work with the client to do load calculations and help them choose a replacement item. All work can usually be completed within 24 to 48 hours and ABC will bring in space heaters or whatever is needed to keep the family comfortable while they are waiting for the installation to be complete, Then said.

"We are involved in fields in which homeowners often call us during a crisis or when they are under stress. We work to remove the worry and make them experience as little discomfort as possible," he said.

ABC is also very active in the communities it serves. It regularly holds job fairs, food drives and even a "Touch a Truck" event for families. ABC also accepts requests for donations to charities within their service area.

"We also hosted two Ladies Nights this year where over 40 women came to our corporate headquarters for an evening of food and drinks and the opportunity to ask questions to and learn from our technicians, and we hosted several "Movies In the Park" over the summer, partnered with a local sports team and more," Then said.

The firm is also hard at work on its second "Men of ABC" calendar showing actual ABC technicians helping out around the house in other ways that just equipment service. Fifty-thousand calendars are annually sent to customers and others in the suburbs, Then said. They also feature coupons for ABC services as well as helpful reminders throughout the year.

ABC can be reached at (888) 903-4070 or

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