Hampton Roads air conditioning technicians work overtime during hot summer temperatures – The Virginian-Pilot

By the time technician Nes Mayor arrived at a home in Virginia Beach around 3:30 p.m., the scorching Wednesday had reached 91 degrees.

Sweat was already dripping from his forehead just 30 minutes into the A/C service call. He said he expected to be there for about four hours.

“But if I could knock this bad boy out in three and a half years, I’d be very pleased with myself,” the mayor said. “We’ve been sorely tested lately.”

With sweltering temperatures reaching the 90s on Hampton Roads, air conditioning units — and the HVAC technicians who service them — are working overtime to beat the heat.

Area repair companies reported more than 150 back-to-back service calls per week and 10-hour shifts to repair and replace as many HVAC units as possible. Summer workload contrasts sharply with fall, winter and spring when calls decrease due to cooler temperatures.

“There are plenty of ways to warm up when your system is down, but not many ways to cool down,” said Neil Philbrick Jr., chairman of Portsmouth-based HVAC repair company Philbrick Inc.

One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning juggles around 75 service calls a day, spokeswoman Alisha Lawrence said. One Hour serves all seven Hampton Roads cities plus Williamsburg, York County and Poquoson.

“When the weather reaches extreme temperatures, it adds extra stress on the equipment and we see a lot more breakdowns,” Lawrence said. “It would be like going for a run and seeing how far you can sprint compared to jogging. The added stress creates additional challenges.

The National Weather Service in Wakefield has recorded temperatures on Hampton Roads ranging from 91 to 97 degrees over the past 10 days, with the heat index climbing to 110 degrees.

Repair companies reported a 24-48 hour wait before a technician could be dispatched due to the influx of service calls. After a technician diagnoses the problem, the repair can take anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours.

Often the repairs require the technician to work in dark attics and crawl spaces where temperatures can soar to 170 degrees, the companies reported. In his experience, the mayor said technicians frequently encounter wildlife when crawling through these warm spaces.

“I recently encountered a rat snake in a house near water. She ran away with a full stomach. Anytime you walk into a crawl space, you know there’s likely to be something else with you,” the mayor said.

Supply chain issues are also weighing on repair companies trying to respond to uneasy customers as quickly as possible.

“Equipment manufacturers are taking longer to produce products due to staff shortages and shortages of materials and parts. There are also logistical issues involved in getting products from manufacturing through distribution to the end user,” Philbrick said.

Overcoming supply chain issues, the two companies said, requires ingenuity to find universal parts and cooperation with suppliers.

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Air conditioning outages also hit a building in the city of Portsmouth, forcing it to close twice this month. Portsmouth Town Hall closed for around four days, once on July 7 for a day and a half and again on July 18 for three days, for persistent problems with the cooling motor and circulating fan.

Wakefield forecasters expect the dangerously high heat to persist through today with a heat index of 108 degrees before cooling to the mid-80s for the weekend.

While you can keep your curtains closed and your air filters clean, one tip to prevent air conditioning failures in extreme weather is to take care of maintenance during the milder temperatures of fall and spring.

“A 20th of an inch of dirt on this thing will reduce its effectiveness by 14 or 15%. Keeping it clean is very important for the system to work effectively,” the mayor said.

The mayor, primarily a maintenance technician for One Hour, said cleaning and small repairs to units can help the system survive extreme temperatures. Units need to be serviced twice a year, much like going to the dentist.

“I’m a dental hygienist, that’s the best way to put it. I’m going to go, I’m going to check, clean the gums, tell him if there is a cavity or not, ”said the mayor. “I believe in being more proactive than reactive, especially in this heat. You want to make repairs on your time, not the time of the machine.”

Caitlyn Burchett, 727-267-6059, [email protected]

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