Although it doesnâ€™t have a speaking role, the smoke-belching furnace at Ralphie Parkerâ€™s house is a scene-stealer in the 1983 comedy â€œA Christmas Story.â€
But after 35 years in the indoor climate-control industry, Joe Weber, owner and president of Weber Heating & Air Conditioning, knows all too well that a furnace on the fritz is no laughing matter.
â€œFurnaces can be dangerous as well as inefficient if they arenâ€™t installed and maintained properly,â€ he said.
â€œI like the challenge of figuring out problems and making people comfortable. Around here, everybody has allergies, so we sell and service a lot of air cleaners and humidifiers. This time of year, of course, we focus on heating.â€
In â€œA Christmas Story,â€ Ralphieâ€™s father would have swooned over the dual-fuel system that Joe and his crew install.
An electric heat pump keeps the house cool in summer and warm during cool months, until the temperature drops below a selected degree, at which time the gas furnace takes over.
â€œItâ€™s more economical than a straight gas furnace,â€ Joe said. â€œPeople usually set them to switch at around 30 to 35 degrees. I donâ€™t recommend them for older people, who tend to like their homes warmer.â€
Geothermal technology, which essentially uses the ground to control indoor temperature, is newer in Kentuckiana but growing in popularity.
â€œGeological maps show whatâ€™s down there â€” you want dirt, not caves and things like that, so it isnâ€™t suitable everywhere,â€ Joe said. â€œThe problem used to be that the machines digging the wells, which go down about 100 feet, were too big for some subdivisions, but Iâ€™ve got a company whose machines are only about five feet wide. Geothermal is pretty pricey, but thereâ€™s a 30 percent tax credit on everything involved.â€
Joe and his wife, Peggy, now have â€œcomfort zoningâ€ in their house for temperature control.
Previously, the second floor was always warmer in summer and colder in winter. Dampers and a wireless thermostat now control settings for individual rooms or entire floors.
â€œLast summer was the first since we installed it,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™ve been there 15 years, but have never been so comfortable.â€
Another impressive innovation is a thermostat that can be reset from other locations.
â€œItâ€™s adjusted remotely by computer, smart phone or tablet, using wireless Internet. Iâ€™m putting one in our house,â€ he said. â€œSuppose you set it for 65 degrees, but while youâ€™re out of town, the furnace acts up. The thermostat notifies you that the temperature is going down; it can notify your contractor, too.â€
One of Joeâ€™s employees has a lakeside house, and he signals its thermostat to turn up the air conditioning or heat on the day before he arrives. The device also can be programmed for alerts such as â€œItâ€™s time for regular maintenanceâ€ or even â€œHappy birthday.â€
Until youâ€™re ready, or need, to replace your furnace, Joe recommends having it serviced and cleaned.
When thinking of a new HVAC system, one thing to consider is how long you intend on owning the house.
â€œIf you wonâ€™t be there a long time, you probably donâ€™t need to invest in a top-of-the-line furnace,â€ he said. â€œWe give free estimates and focus on quality, not quantity. Most of our business comes from word-of-mouth, and we want people to be satisfied when weâ€™re done. One fun thing about my work is that Iâ€™ve been at it so long, the kids of my customers are buying from me now.â€
For information about Weber Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., visit www.weberheatingac.com or phone 502.896.1617; phones are answered around the clock for emergencies.