The air conditioning repair business is hot right now in more ways than one.
As a result of the heat wave that has moved through eastern North Carolina this summer, service technicians have been busier than ever, according to industry professionals.
“It’s been crazy busy the last two months,” said Mark Porter, service manager with Advance Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning.
Within the last three weeks, Porter said his company has seen an increase in service calls over the number of calls that it was receiving at this time last summer.
Other companies are also busy.
Larry Osborne, co-owner of Delcor Inc., said his company is receiving between 40 to 45 service calls per day.
Technicians respond to calls at a variety of locations. Office buildings, retail shops and private homes have all been affected these past few months, Porter said.
“When you have temperatures that are like this, day in and day out, no A/C is safe. Commercial or residential, you still have issues,” he said.
“Over the weekend we had a commercial building that went down, and they mainly do retail, so when their unit’s down they lose money. We tried to get them up as quick as we could,” Porter said.
The businesses also receive calls from people whose units are operational but not performing well enough to keep them as cool as they would like to be.
Both Porter and Osborne said that customers don’t always understand how their A/C systems work.
Sometimes people set their thermostats at something like 68 degrees because they want to get the temperature really cold, Porter said.
“On days like the kind we’ve had this week, don’t expect your system to get any more than 74 degrees,” he said.
If people like it cool, they should set the thermostat in the morning when they get up and not wait until later in the day when it is hot, Osborne said.
“If you like it 74 degrees have it set on (that). Don’t have it set on 77 or 78 and then lower it to 74 (later in the day) because it’s not going to go there.”
Osborne also said that if it is extremely hot outside, like 100 degrees, the inside temperature may not be able to get down lower than 80 degrees.
Both Porter and Osborne said their companies are handling demand by having their technicians work overtime, extending their weekday hours into the evening and working on weekends.
“We never turn anyone away,” said Osborne. “Sometimes we have to tell them ‘some time today, but it may be late in the day.’ Normally we have nine service technicians, but we’re down to six right now.”
Porter said he also has a staff of six technicians who are working overtime to meet the needs of customers.
Both offered tips for keeping HVAC systems running as smoothly as possible.
The best line of defense is having a maintenance contract where a company checks on a system twice a year, usually in spring and fall, doing things like cleaning coils and making sure drain lines are clear, Porter said.
“What we normally see this time of year are non-maintenance customers,” he said, where a drain pan is filthy and a drain line is clogged.
While having a well-maintained system is recommended, it’s not a guarantee there will be no problems, he said. Even in extreme heat people who do routine maintenance on their systems still can have an issue.
Whether on a maintenance contract or not, homeowners still can do something very important on their own: change filters every 30 to 60 days.
When filters get blocked up, the air flow isn’t what it should be and that causes the motor to work harder which causes the pressure, in the system to increase, which can lead to refrigerant leaks. So switching out a $5-$15 filter really can prevent problems, Porter said.
Osborne recommends that home owners install an attic ventilator fan.
In many attics, it gets to be 170, 180 degrees. Heat absorbs through the ceiling and gets into the home. The smart thing is to put a ventilator fan in the attic that can suck the heat out of it, Osborne said.
Porter said that he would like people to be kind to the technicians, who have to go into some really hot attics to do their work.
“We’re just not used to 100-degree days,” Osborne said. “It’s taking a real toll on our men and service people and everyone else, but we’re dealing with it.”
Both Osborne and Porter said that their companies have openings for qualified HVAC technicians at this time.
Karen Eckert can be reached at 252-329-9565 or at email@example.com.