published Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Heat spurs increased air conditioning sales, repairs

Toby Skelley, 7, stands under a stream of water at the "Spray and Play" at Warner Park in Chattanooga, Tenn.  Temperatures soared in Chattanooga last week, and so did sales and repairs of air conditioners and fans.
Toby Skelley, 7, stands under a stream of water at the "Spray and Play" at Warner Park in Chattanooga, Tenn. Temperatures soared in Chattanooga last week, and so did sales and repairs of air conditioners and fans.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.
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Temperatures soared in Chattanooga last week -- and so did sales and repairs of air conditioners and fans.

"Air conditioners are always popular when it starts to get hot, but it's never been like this before," said Jada Nelson, operations manager at Home Depot. "Anything and everything that we get in, we sell."

Temperatures climbed to a record-breaking 107 degrees on July 1 in a heat wave that has enveloped much of the nation, WRCB-TV Channel 3 Chief Meteorologist Paul Barys said. He expects a cooldown to begin this week, but noted that "the South, Midwest and even the Rocky Mountains have been very, very, very hot."

The National Weather Service said the record-breaking heat that has baked the nation's midsection for several days was slowly moving into the mid-Atlantic states and Northeast, according to The Associated Press. Excessive-heat warnings remained in place Friday for all of Iowa, Indiana and Illinois as well as much of Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky.

Flintstone, Ga., resident Tammy Dockery said she's responded to the triple-digit temps by staying inside as much as possible.

"You've just got to stay indoors, drink a lot of water and have some air blowing," she said.

At Home Depot, Nelson said her most popular item is a large-room, window-mount air conditioner. Customers often buy the unit to supplement their central air system or replace an old window unit, she said.

"With these temperatures, the air-conditioning units are working so hard, people with older units have to replace them," she said.

Companies that service and repair units also have been busier than usual.

"When you get into this kind of heat, if your unit has an issue, it's going to show up and it's going to fail," said Robert Rayburn, sales manager at Chattanooga Heating and Air. "That's what's happening. Everybody is breaking down at the same time. We can't answer the phone fast enough."

Jimmy Malone, vice president of Malone Heat and Air, said he is doing 10 to 15 percent more repair work than he did last year.

"We're working seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, including holidays," he said.

Many of the problems he sees could be prevented by regular maintenance.

"The majority of calls we are running now are dirty units, and systems that have just not been very well maintained," he said. "In this extreme heat, they fail."

Preventive maintenance, such as checking a unit's air filter, is especially important during heat waves, Malone said.

"The units are seeing longer run times, which means the filters are getting much dirtier, much quicker," he said. "Normally you'd change the filter once a month, but right now we are doing it every couple weeks."

The heat should start to drop down this week, with thunderstorms rolling in Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Barys said.

"Some temperatures will just be in the 80s for highs, mostly because of the rain coming in," he said.

Malone said he is ready for the heat to break.

"My repairmen are pretty fatigued," he said. "Maybe if we have a cooler weekend, they might not all have to work and we can schedule some time off for them."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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