Can a small business become more successful and expand its services in a struggling economy?

Rusty Chiarella, co-owner of Aire Serv of Western Connecticut, responds with a resounding "yes."

In 2008, Mrs. Chiarella and her husband, Michael, who owned and operated Chiarella Heating and Cooling for 15 years, purchased an Aire Serv franchise so they could do just that.

So far, said Mrs. Chiarella, acquiring an Aire Serv franchise has proved to be a smart decision for the couple's HVAC business.

"They are showing us how to help customers save money," she said.

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., based in Waco, Texas, has been in the franchising business since 1993. The company prides itself on providing franchise owners with information on the latest technology and marketing methods, as well as techniques for increasing customer satisfaction.

Aire Serv of Western Connecticut provides residential maintenance, repair and replacement services on all major brands of heating and air conditioning units.

Its technicians also do plumbing and electrical work, so Aire Serv can provide a full range of services to customers.

"We don't use any subcontractors," Mrs. Chiarella said. "If a customer has a leak or an electrical problem, we can fix it. We are licensed to do it all."

New Milford resident John Purcell, a longtime customer, has high praise for Mr. Chiarella.

"He has been servicing my oil burner for 22 years and has also done some plumbing work for me," Mr. Purcell said. "He is very thorough and knows what he is doing."

As winter fast approaches and homeowners find themselves worrying about the high cost of heating, they may want to consider what Mrs. Chiarella offers as Aire Serv benefits.

By using Aire Serv instead of a fuel and service company, customers are free to shop around for lower prices through independent fuel providers.

It is not necessary to sign a contract for maintenance services, but Mrs. Chiarella notes that Aire Serv does provide an "Advantage Plan" giving customers 24-hour priority service and additional discounted services.

In addition to maintenance, Aire Serv also replaces old oil burners with high-efficiency systems that can result in considerable energy savings for customers.

The Chiarellas, who live with their three daughters in New Milford, have been able to use their growing business as a way to help support one of their favorite local organizations through donations by customers.

"We are big animal lovers, and every year we do a fundraiser for New Milford Animal Welfare Society," Mrs. Chiarella said.

After all, animals need to stay warm, too.

Aire Serv of Western Connecticut is located at 44 Old State Road, Unit 22, in New Milford. For more information, call 860-355-5989 or visit its website at www.aireserv.com.