Home Repair Services Offers Heating Assistance

Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 30, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-30 08:12:02-05

There’s nothing worse than getting to this time of year and finding out your furnace is on the fritz.  And for some in our West Michigan, getting it fixed can break the budget.

Fortunately, there are organizations that exist to lend a hand in just that type of situation;  Home Repair Services is one option to help homeowners in Kent County.

Portable electric heaters have been the only thing keeping Josephine Gonzalez warm for the past two weeks, after the furnace died in the southeast Grand Rapids home she and her husband bought less than a month ago.

“All of a sudden, I felt like it was really cold in our house, I told my husband, ‘Something’s going on,” Gonzalez said.  She used the appliance service contract she had purchased from Consumers Energy to have a technician check out the problem.  The old unit had to be shut down immediately due to a potential carbon monoxide threat.  “And I said, ‘Oh my God, so what are we going to do? He says, ‘You need a new furnace,” she said.

That new furnace is now up and running this week, thanks to Home Repair Services of Kent County.

“Josephine contacted us because her furnace needed to be replaced,” said agency weatherization supervisor Todd Calhoun.   “We were able to work with Department of Human Services to obtain some funding, we contacted one of our contractors to come and replace the furnace.”

Calhoun says the agency will help repair or replace about one hundred furnaces this year, working in cooperation with companies like Protech Heating and Cooling.  Homeowners must fill out an application, meet certain income requirements, and work out a plan to pay for the repairs.

Losing heat wasn’t just difficult for Josephine and her husband, but also on the couple’s new chihuahua puppies — one litter just born, and another on the way.  While the puppies got a heater in the dining room – Josephine and her husband covered the windows and hunkered down in the living room.

“We had to bring our mattress and we’ve been living here,” Gonzalez said.  “We’ve been sleeping here, going to the kitchen, eating here, because this is the warmest part.”

Calhoun says a good way to avoid this type of situation is to have your furnace tuned up and cleaned before the cold weather hits.

“To me, it’s almost like insurance – you’ll pay for it now, but if you don’t have to call a furnace contractor on a Saturday night at ten o’clock in the middle of winter, it’s definitely going to be worth it,” he said.

Gonzalez says she appreciates the people who helped her out in an emergency, and recommends the service to others.  “Oh yes, definitely,” she said.  “If they have an emergency like I did, they need to contact Home Repair Services.”

Home Repair Services is always in need of donations and volunteers to help build things like wheelchair ramps.  They only operate in Kent County, so check with your local human services agency to find out if similar help is available in your area.

In another note, Josephine is selling some of her chihuahua puppies; if you are interested, please send Jon Shaner an email at for her contact information.