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Homeowners feeling the heat this winter...

Margo Deusenbery remembers one winter night very well. The house turned bone cold and there wasn't a drop of fuel oil in the tank. I had a handy husband, recalled the Naples resident. She was fortunate for that, she said, and a supportive family. Her husband, James, went out in the middle of the night to their son-in-laws house to siphon some fuel oil to bring back and put in their tank.

Now a widow, and living on a fixed income, Margo said she not long ago made the switch to natural gas. as it's much more convenient and better on my budget.

While Margo and others in the Finger Lakes are struggling to keep warm this winter and waiting for the early spring predicted on Groundhog Day those who service heating units and replace furnaces have been scrambling.

While business is booming, it isn't necessarily all that profitable, though.

The phone has been ringing off the hook at Comstock HVAC. Owner Matt Burt, whose business serves customers from sites in Naples and Canandaigua, said due to the economy, people have been servicing units less and doing fewer system upgrades.

Until something goes wrong.

We do a lot of commercial and residential work, he said. While routine upgrading of systems is down nearly 50 percent, emergency repairs and replacements are way up.

A lot of people have been finding their old, outdated units don't do well in this cold weather, he said. That is when you get the 2 a.m. calls.

A popular choice right now is switching from oil to natural gas, said Burt. It's good for customers, as it's more affordable and natural gas systems don't generally need as much maintenance, he said. So once Comstock puts in a natural gas system, he doesn't usually get as many service calls.

Naples resident Sue Cowley said she has cut her heating costs about in half since switching to natural gas a few years ago. With the price of oil spiking and rebates available, it was a good choice, said Cowley, a retired teacher.
Margo Deusenbery