Keeping a steady hand on service
By Stephen Groessel
Stephen Groessel photo
Fuhrmann Heating & Cooling installer Ken Lau (center) of Reedsville makes a cut into a piece of sheet metal while owners Lyle Lannbrecht (right) and Mark Behnke observe the action. The Brillion firm is marking its 31st year in business.

Although the housing market has been at a low level for some time, the building industry in 2012 is showing small but positive signs of growth.

Even if new homes are not being built in great numbers, existing homeowners and owners of small commercial buildings are faced with replacement, upgrading and repair of heating and cooling equipment.

Fuhrmann Heating & Cooling, Inc. of Brillion maintains a steady schedule of service work; fall was very busy answering routine and emergency calls. “Gaps in work orders have not been the case,” said Andy Geiger whose serves as sales manager for the firm.

Service tune-ups were strong through fall however due to the mild winter service calls are down a bit, Geiger said. Right now additions and remodeling work is picking up and especially new commercial construction, he said. While the firm services most products, it is primarily a Carrier dealership and over the years the company has received several awards from Carrier acknowledging its quality work.

Geiger who is responsible for handling all bids said he is seeing an increased number of bids on home plans for spring and summer construction projects. Interest rates remain low and attractive, and existing home prices are down making home buying attractive. Many people want to buy low giving themselves extra financial leverage in doing renovations and upgrades.

Firm’s mainstays

The firm’s mainstays consist of heating, air conditioning, commercial and residential, boiler systems, radiant infl oor heating, forced air heating and cooling, GEO thermal, wood and oil. “Most of our work is in new construction, existing homes, performing a nice mixture of retrofits and remodeling work,” said Geiger. “About 80 percent of our business is forced air heating and cooling.”

Commercial work has been fairly strong, both remodeling work and new construction. A recent project is West Haven, an assisted living facility in Green Bay, where Fuhrmann installed heating and cooling systems for a substantial addition there (double the size of what they have there). Fuhrmann did the heating and cooling work in the original building. Other larger projects recently undertaken were dental clinics in Sheboygan.

Central air is now standard in nearly every new home, and can be added to existing homes. Most existing homes that have hot water heat and are without duct work can be a bit tricky to air condition, and can be a bit costly, Geiger said.

Today ductless split system air conditioners work well in those applications if duct work is not feasible.

In-floor heating popular

Radiant (in-floor heating) is very popular. Today, it is often called for in the basements of new home construction even if the owners don’t plan on using it, Geiger said.

Fuhrmann does quite a number of in-floor retrofits in cold floor areas and warms the area with radiant tubing either under a sub floor or in a concrete slab. Geiger said it is most efficient if tubing is installed in concrete or some type of conductor of heat, as opposed to wood which is a non-conductor source. Tubing in concrete produces an awesome heat, warming one’s feet and moving that warmth into one’s entire body, he said.

Is GEO thermal catching on? It depends, said Geiger. Different areas and fuel types and different utility rates determine the feasibility (pay back) of that type of investment. There are certain areas that offer low electrical rates and when compared with higher fuel rates those areas are very appealing and offer a faster return on the investment than areas with higher electrical rates. Depending on rates that you are paying for natural or LP gas as opposed to the same amount of heat with GEO thermal determines the pay back Geiger said. “All our GEO thermal systems have been done in new construction. A retrofit is more of a burden and more costly,” he said. “With GEO thermal we like to do a dual fuel GEO system. When the GEO thermal runs down to a certain temperature; then the fuel (natural or LP gas) system will take over to keep down the cost of the GEO thermal.”

In today’s new home construction homes are built so tight and insulated so well that if not exchanging indoor air with some outside air, it could create health problems such as excess moisture and mold issues. “Air exchange units are very common today; we do a lot of that,” Geiger said. “Our firm also does duct cleaning, the cleaning of bath fans, and the venting of other appliances, for instance, the clothes dryer.”

Fuhrmann a good neighbor

While offering quality products and services is important Fuhrmann practices good community relations and neighborliness. Fuhrmann is very good at supporting and funding local causes, Geiger said. An example of that is a generous donation of time and labor spent in 2010 on a Brillion Nature Center addition. Besides Fuhrmann, a lot of local people made donations of time and labor in that project. “Last spring Brillion Nature Center undertook another expansion project in which Fuhrmann participated,” he said.

The company routinely contributes sheet metal to Brillion High School’s technology education department.

Fuhrmann holds professional memberships in the Brillion Chamber of Commerce, the Mid-Shores Home Builders Association Inc. and the Manitowoc County Home Builders Association. The company will participate in this year’s Mid-Shores Home & Garden Expo in New Holstein, March 2-4.

Service at Fuhrmann is available 24-7, 365 days of the year. Someone is always on call. When customers call Fuhrmann’s regular number outside of business hours, emergency calls are transferred to the employee who is on duty overnight and on weekends. Some residential customers are on an annual computerized recall for whom annual checkups are performed.

Owners of Fuhrmann Heating & Cooling are Mark Behnke and Lyle Lannbrecht. Fuhrmann Heating was actually started by Arlyn Fuhrmann in 1981. He owned it for one year and then formed a partnership with Behnke and Lannbrecht. Arlyn retired six years ago and Behnke and Lannbrecht purchased the company. All three had prior HVAC experience when employed at the Coop in Brillion. When the Coop chose to get out of the heating end of the business, Arlyn started Fuhrmann Heating which is marking its 32nd year. Fuhrmann has 11 full time employees and part-time employees.

For more information on Fuhrmann Heating & Cooling visit its Web site: firm may be reached by calling 756-3277 or e-mailed at