Lee Supply

Mary Skinner, branch manager of Lee Supply Bloomington. Photo by Darryl Smith


When a serious Indiana chill sets in, most people don’t think twice about turning the thermostat up a few degrees.

But some Bloomington residents have furnaces that could potentially kill them … that is, if they have a furnace at all.

That’s where Bring the Heat comes in. The annual Indianapolis-based program, which just started including Bloomington, sends Lee Supply technicians into low-income homes to perform no-charge furnace cleans and checks to ensure there’s a safe heating system heading into the winter months. Usually, this just means a system inspection and filter change, but sometimes it requires replacing a dangerous furnace.

Bring the Heat began in Indianapolis eight years ago, expanded to Lafayette, Indiana, and added Bloomington this year when inspections took place on October 11. Lee Supply worked with the Office of the Mayor and the City of Bloomington Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) department to identify families in need. Seven technicians then checked 36 homes, replacing several filters, making minor repairs, and red-tagging five furnaces for replacement.

“The customers were so happy that we did this — actually, that’s the same feedback we got from our techs,” says Mary Skinner, branch manager of Lee Supply Bloomington. “They were excited to be part of this and were already asking if they can do it next year.”

So what can the average homeowner do to keep a furnace running longer, safer?

“Change your filters,” says Skinner. “That’s the huge thing that most people don’t do, and it’s so easy. You just get better efficiency if you have a cleaner filter.” Filters can last anywhere from a month to several months. She recommends taking a look at it every month, watching for extreme grime and dust.

An annual cleaning check is also smart, adds Skinner. “That covers checking your flues, making sure you’re venting properly.”

And above all else, she says, get a carbon monoxide detector that detects poisonous gas produced by an improperly functioning furnace. The city installed several of those, along with smoke detectors, during the recent Bring the Heat event. “That,” says Skinner, “is the biggest thing that can go wrong with a gas furnace.”