Jason Senseth knows his stuff; that fact is unimpeachable. The owner-operator of ROX Heating and Air is not your father’s HVAC technician. He is, however, his father’s tech.
Jason began working at the elder Stenseth’s knee (well, OK, so it was more like chest level) as a 12-year-old apprentice. Every summer and winter break, while his buddies were busy mastering the latest video games, Jason was helping his father install new HVAC systems and learning to troubleshoot and repair failing ones. This early experience gave him a jump on those who entered the field much later in life—which is not to say, however, that it was his lifelong ambition.
“In all honesty, HVAC was the last thing I wanted to do,” said Jason. With encouragement from his father, he tried different stuff. That stuff did not include the usual frivolities of young adulthood. “Throughout college, I continued working for my father’s company, earning certifications, training, and licensure, while attending school full time in the evenings and weekends. I graduated at 22 with a degree in counseling and criminal justice.”
Thinking he had found his place in the world, Jason went to work as a juvenile probation officer. As is often the case for many people, life did not reveal his long-term professional heart’s desire, but instead, what he didn’t want to do. After three years as a PO, Jason figured out that he was not cut out for the office scene.
He returned to work at his father’s company, which apparently felt right enough for Jason to start his own firm when he was 30. Today he and two other techs provide services to area residents and businesses. Based out of 7183 Dome Rock Road in Littleton, they design, size, install, fix, and upgrade heating, air-conditioning, and water-heating systems, specializing in high-efficiency setups.
Everything must change
People want to get cool in the summer and warm up in the winter; that much will never change. The HVAC industry, on the other hand, has taken exponential leaps since a typical workday involved little more than basic wiring tasks, when high efficiency was the subject of occasional musings.
“HVAC systems have become much smarter and connected,” said Jason. “Now 95 percent of my business is high efficiency and communicating systems. Almost every new system we install uses smartphones and two-stage technology.”
Two-stage cooling, by the way, means your AC or heat pump compressor runs high when the summer’s hot and low when the days are milder. The unit runs longer than a one-stage system, the temperature remains relatively even, and the occupants stay comfortable. Because of the extended cooling cycle, the unit runs more quietly and efficiently. It also can remove twice as much moisture from the air than a single-stage unit could; lower humidity means less mold and other airborne nasties.
The practicality of renewable energy has not escaped the Coloradan consciousness, and Jason and his crew will be ready as more folks begin to realize the value of sustainable systems.
“I believe we will begin to see a lot more systems that run [on] solar, especially in heating and cooling,” said Jason. “Running an AC on solar will save people a ton of money. For heating, I suspect we will see the use of more heat pumps. A heat pump running on solar eliminates the need for gas, and the gas will only be used as an auxiliary heat.”
Truth and consequences
Surprisingly, many homeowners—even those with newfangled setups—often let slip their old-fashioned common sense. Jason cannot overemphasize the importance of minding the basics. He has made numerous visits to homes merely to change the air filters.
“This is the easiest and most important maintenance item for an HVAC system,” he said. “Dirty filters and coils can literally kill a compressor—which is easily a $1,400 repair.”
He also pointed out that water leaks in a furnace can rust out a heat exchanger, which would be terrible news indeed.
“I recently went on a service call because the furnace was setting off the CO alarm,” said Jason. “I opened the furnace and [saw that] the drain had been leaking for years. The heat exchanger was rusted and leaking CO. The furnace had to be replaced.”
Granted, most folks probably would prefer to call an HVAC service than an ambulance, but why put yourself in that position? There’s a reason stores sell carbon monoxide (CO) detectors: it’s dangerous. It’s why you don’t warm up your car in a closed garage.
While Jason has visited more than his fair share of homes during late-night snowstorms, not all of them were simple fixes. One homeowner complained that the furnace wouldn’t start. Knowing the pressure switch wasn’t closing because of an obstruction, Jason removed the flue and reached into the pipe with his bare hand, which touched something untoward—like crispy fur.
“I jumped back, got brave, and put on some gloves,” he said. “I pulled a well-done squirrel out of the flue.”
It cannot be said enough: Homeowners need to stay alert to warning signs. It’s not rocke t surgery. If breakers keep tripping, then something is amiss with a motor. Also, you should not dismiss any loud noises as the ghost bowling in your basement. And for Pete’s sake, change your filters.
Keeping it copasetic
Jason has found his place in the sun (as well as the snow), having achieved balance in his life. He married his childhood sweetheart and they had two children. They reside in Littleton, where Jason has been coaching his son’s sports teams for at least four years.
Whether the young’uns will carry on in the family trade remains to be seen. The 12-year-old daughter has her sights on accounting; she is noncommittal about employment with her father. The boy, 7, scoffs at the idea. Maybe he’s wavering between piracy and astrophysics.
“I am sure he will change his mind as I did,” said Jason. “It really is a great line of work.”