PUEBLO WEST, Colo. (KRDO) -- It's easy to take modern home furnaces for granted in winter -- until they don't turn on when we really need them.
On a weekend that brought low temperatures near -20 and highs that struggled to top zero, many homeowners found that their furnaces couldn't handle the strain.
And many repair crews can't keep up with the demand for repairs.
"I've been turning customers away," said one repairman Monday. "One guy didn't like it. I told him that maybe I can get to him in a few days. I'm booked solid."
Tom Massman, a KRDO producer who lives in Pueblo West, was one of the many homeowners going without heat -- which isn't good when his 86-year-old mother lives with him.
"My furnace has been going on and off for the past month," he said. "I started noticing it more as the weather was getting colder -- especially if it was snowing. It would be on, and all of a sudden it would be stopped. And it would stop for like two days."
After two visits by a repairman over several weeks, Massman's furnace was pumping out heat once again.
"This morning it was 50 degrees in here," he said. "Today, it was 72. I was worried about my mother because she had only blankets and a space heater to keep warm. Elderly people are cold already because many have poor circulation."
Massman said that his repairman told him the furnace kept turning itself on and on, which burned out a control switch.
"I think it was because snow blew into the intake pipe that provides air for the flames to burn," he said."
The repairman said that snow is a common factor in furnace repairs.
"I can usually figure out what's wrong within 10 or 15 minutes," he said. "Usually, snow gets into a furnace somehow, or it's one of those high-efficiency furnaces. They have lots of parts and lots of things that can break down."
Massman said that having a home warranty kept his repair bill under $100.
"If you don't have one, you're going to pay through the nose," he said. "Especially if it's a persistent problem that requires a repairman to come out more than once."
Massman hasn't had much luck with heating devices lately.
"I also have a wood pellet stove," he said. "But it doesn't work, either."