With temperatures consistently surpassing 100°F in the Pacific Northwest, residents and contractors are scrambling to stay cool. Traditionally prepared for more moderate 70° summers, many of the residents of Washington and Oregon don’t have a need for air conditioning and therefore don’t have regularly scheduled maintenance completed or don’t have an a/c unit at all.

The extreme weather, however, is not letting up and finding, repairing, and installing equipment is proving difficult. Several local news outlets have reported runs on portable a/c units and window devices at all major appliance stores, showing photos of customers waiting in lines wrapped around the outside of the buildings. Portable units aren’t the only cooling devices selling quickly, and two local contractors in Portland, Ore., and Seattle are working hard to keep up with the increased unitary demand.

Travis Smith, service manager for Sky Heating & A/C in Portland, hasn’t seen anything like this. “Leads for new systems are coming in more than double the normal rate. Many people are calling us back that had proposals for air conditioning and decided to wait,” he explained. “Now they are realizing that they are not at the front of the schedule and will have to wait.”

Sky Heating & A/C normally runs 1-2 technicians with four calls a day each. In an effort to keep up with demand, the company is currently running four techs solid with five calls a day each.

“Typically the weather is around 80 or 90 degrees at this time, which keeps us busy, but never this busy,” said Smith. “We are still backlogged quite a ways.”

The situation is much the same in Seattle, where according to the National Weather Service, not only are extreme weather advisories necessary, but fire warnings have also been issued. Jeff D’Amelio, general manager of Olson Energy Service in Seattle, sees this heat wave as a positive both for the business and for the industry.

“The heat is great for business. It creates a need which in turn creates a whole new base of customers,” he explained. “It also brings positive attention to our industry and the great work we do.”

Olson Energy has experienced a 30 percent increase in the volume of calls this season and is reporting that the number of leads has doubled over the last eight weeks.

“The weather has motivated some who already had bids done to make a decision, but there are almost too many no cool calls to handle” said D’Amelio. “We are in the same situation as we are in the worst no heat winter conditions. If our customers are too hot, we work until we get to all of them.”

Seattle’s weather is usually much milder in the summer months,. According to D’Amelio, a/c is not typically an issue to most people in the Northwest. “We are unaccustomed to severe weather of any kind, so this spooks a lot of people,” he said. “They are in some respects afraid of it.”

Smith’s customers are concerned about the end of the heat wave as they ask him, “When will this end and can I get a/c installed before it is over.”

The extreme heat is not expected to last the rest of the summer, but forecasters are not positive as to when this current heat wave will end.

“In the meantime, I am asking my customers if they would like to upgrade to a new 95 percent efficient furnace while upgrading to a/c so they can receive tax credits, rebates, and save money on a full system,” said Smith.

“We are also making a push to educate customers on the need for preventive maintenance. An air conditioner is just like a car, it requires regular maintenance and tune ups to ensure longevity and functionality during these hot spells.”

Publication date:08/10/2009