Keeping people comfortable for decades

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By Ron Benningfield

When Cliff Phelps started a Hodgenville business in 1933 that today is known as Phelps Heating and Cooling, the only cooling he offered was from his ice house.

“Air conditioning didn’t come along here until the mid to late 1960’s,” said Cliff Phelps’ grandson, Jim, who owns the business on West Main Street. “A lot of my grandfather’s business consisted of installing coal-fired boilers as he also sold coal, tires, and ice.”

Later, as coal gave way to fuel oil and natural gas for heating, Cliff Phelps’ sons James and D.G. joined their dad.

“At first, most everything in town was coal fired,” said Jim Phelps. “When natural gas came to Hodgenville in the late 50’s, Dad(James) probably ran 90 percent of the gas lines in town.”

His Uncle D.G. ran the tire business and gas station while his father took care of the heating oil and air conditioning business.

Though he had helped his father in most aspects of his business since he was very young, Jim Phelps didn’t intend to continue in the family footsteps.

“After I graduated from LaRue County High School in 1974, I attended Murray State where I received an associate degree in drafting and design,” he shared. “I intended to continue my education at Murray, but a chain of events, including that Dad didn’t have anyone helping him here, caused me to come back to work here in 1976, and I’m still going.”

Phelps acknowledged a lot of changes have taken place in the energy business since his grandfather and father ran the business.

“Natural gas today is concentrated in the towns—Hodgenville, Buffalo, Magnolia,” he said. “Outside of them, the heat pump is what’s predominant.”

Because of the changes with ever-increasing frequency in the energy field, Phelps said technology poses the biggest challenge to keeping current.

“It’s surpassing the ability of the average technician to keep up,” he acknowledged. “A person now can control the temperature in his house from his smart phone location.”

He added that some of the newer high-tech installations send him an e-mail at his office stating the location of the unit and with error codes relating information about what’s gone wrong.

“It can just about pin point what is wrong with the unit, and we may know it before the home owner does,” he remarked.

That’s what makes continuing education a must for him and his 10 employees.

“The every-day advances in technology are daunting,” he acknowledged. “If a person’s not willing to learn every day, he needs to learn a new profession. But, it also makes the work exciting.”

305 W. Main, Hodgenville. M–F 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on call 24/7. 270-358-3167