The cooling season has begun and HVAC contractors across the nation are gearing up for what meteorologists predict is going to be a hot summer. Temperature gains will depend widely on the region of the country a contractor does business in, but according to sources like The Weather Channel and The Farmers’ Almanac, there should be plenty of a/c demand to go around.
Take it from Travis Smith, owner of Sky Heating and Air Conditioning in Portland, Ore., who described his spring as much warmer than normal and is looking forward to the coming summer months.
“When you add a recovering economy to a warmer than normal spring, it is really boosting add-on sales and repairs,” he said. “Our warm spring is bringing a lot more a/c buyers to the market that would normally just wait out the two weeks of heat here. These same buyers are now looking at four to six weeks of heat and deciding that this is the year to buy an air conditioner. As with the rest of the Portlanders, we are bracing for a very hot summer.”
The warm up isn’t beginning as quickly on the Eastern side of the nation. Spring temperatures have been cooler than normal, but meteorologists don’t agree how long these cool temperatures will continue. The Weather Channel is predicting that, “below-average temperatures are expected in the Great Lakes Region and the Northeast,” in June and possibly into July.
“Summer has yet to arrive here, and who knows when it will come,” said Paul Wadsworth, general manager of PK Wadsworth Heating and Cooling in Cleveland. “I tend not to depend on the weather as summers in northeast Ohio are unpredictable and unreliable.”
According to Wadsworth, the phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook, but the company is up 8 percent year to date over last year.
“We capitalized on a warm summer last year and have been promoting sales in a niche market by adding cooling to homes with hydronic heat,” he explained. “We also got a jump on the pre-season tune-up business using gift cards to promote early season preventive maintenance checks.”
The spring has been unseasonably cool southeast of Ohio in Rochester, N.Y., Eric Knaak, vice president of operations for Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., described a pleasant warmup in April that cooled off, warmed up, and then cooled off again.
“The long-range forecast is calling for a warmer-than-normal summer for our region, however they are also calling for above-average precipitation as well,” he said. “How the two work together will be hard to tell. The past several years we have been having warmer weather later into the season, so we would anticipate the same thing this year.”
Riding Out the Storm
Warm temperatures and a/c sales can go hand in hand, but there are many other factors to consider when examining how the weather affects HVACR contractors and their businesses. Mitigating the effects of temperature is one of the first weather factors that contractors and technicians face. In the summer months, hydration is one of the most important steps that can be taken to avoid heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or other heat-related illnesses.
At Kobie Kooling, hydration is not an option; it is required on every truck. The Fort Myers, Fla.-based contractor’s spring hasn’t been as hot or as humid as usual, but temperatures are ticking up and the humidity level is on the rise. According to Fred Kobie, president, the heat starts in February, but May and June bring extreme heat, comparing the climate to a 24/7 running steam bath.
Along with the required hydration, Kobie mandates his technicians take routine breaks from attic work and has invested in cooling vests for installers to wear as needed.
The company not only deals with heat and humidity, but also faces hurricanes, tropical storms, and exotic wildlife. In an attempt to prepare the staff for these unpredictable situations, Kobie provides weather safety, animal life, and night-service training.
“We are in the hurricane and lightning capital of the world,” he explained. “That is why we discuss lightning, electricity, and extreme-weather safety. We have a shelter plan as well.”
Whether a looming large storm strikes or a sudden dust storm takes technicians by surprise, storms pose threats to personal and business losses to those caught in the elements.
Bob Keingstein, president of Boss Facility Services Inc., in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., understands this all too well. His company is in an area that was hit by Hurricane Sandy. Although the company never lost power, it did lose its Internet access and phone system.
“Without the Internet, we were unable to take service requests,” recalled Keingstein.
The company has since em-
ployed multiple Internet providers and purchased spare cell phones so that staff can communicate if the Internet is completely lost despite the precautions taken.
With communication restored, calls were being made once again and problems with flooding and saltwater exposure had damaged a lot of equipment. Along with replacing the equipment, Boss Facility Services now incorporates new methods to help mitigate future inclement weather damage.
“When possible, we are getting equipment off the ground and onto platforms, wall-hanging applications, roofs, etc.,” said Keingstein. “We’ll do whatever it takes to protect our equipment from a future flood.”
Often more unpredictable than the economy, technicians nationwide are sure to pay close attention to daily forecasts. As preparations begin for some and continue for others, experienced contractors suggest that each HVACR contractor take the time to learn about local temperature exposure, storm trends, weather safety, and any other possible threat that may arise in their area of operation.
In his area, Smith stays concerned not only with the heat, but also with the rain that plagues the Portland, Ore., area. In addition, he said one disadvantage of operating in the region is the potential of a volcanic eruption.
“If that happens, we will have a lot more than heating or cooling equipment to worry about.”
Publication date: 6/10/2013