Rain dampens, not obstructs AC businesses

Published 12:57 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

COURTLAND—The rain of the past several weeks has been more of a slight hindrance than major obstacle, say area businesses that specialize in repairing or replacing air conditioning.

Tim Parrish of Air Mechanix installs a filter on the roof of City Hall Tuesday. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Tim Parrish of Air Mechanix installs a filter on the roof of City Hall Tuesday. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

“Glenn tells people this: Any time there’s severe weather, it taxes the unit,” said Sarah Rawlings, co-owner of Rawlings Mechanical Corp. in Courtland. “Those on the edge have to be repaired or replaced.”

Extremes in weather can cause problems that usually wouldn’t happen, she added.

“We’ve had right many calls due to the hot weather for some minor and major repairs, even replacements,” Sarah said. “What the rain does for us, especially the plumbing crew, is we can’t go in because the ground’s too wet to install insulation under houses.”

The business has been fortunate that the frequent rain has only slowed the plumbing aspect, said she, but not the heating, ventilation and air conditioning aspect.

At Henderson Heat and Air Inc., the company looks for ways to get around rain delays when possible, said owner Jim Henderson.

“I think there’s been a slight to moderate impact,” he said of recent storms.

“When it’s raining and we have to do work outside, obviously we can be delayed a few hours to days. It has not really hurt us that bad. There are ways to get things done,” said Henderson.

For example, the technicians can set up a shelter over the air conditioning unit. Pop-up tents have been quite useful.

“The worse thing we’ve seen is if we need to get under the house,” he said, explaining that some homes are quite low to the ground and when flooding is discovered the crew can’t work in those several inches of water.

“It’s not safe or healthy,” Henderson said. “It’s a little aggravating and difficult.”

The storms haven’t been an issue so much as the temperatures for Parker Darden, co-owner of Parker Darden Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. in Franklin.

“It’s hot and the humidity is high,” Darden said with laughter.

“The weather’s not been dramatically different than other years,” he added. “It’s rained a little bit more. We’re busy as usual.”

Likewise for Modern Oil Corp., which has locations in Franklin and Smithfield.

“The rain hasn’t hurt us too much, except doing work outside and insulation work. That can put a damper on plans,” said Bernard Rook, operations manager.

Service calls have been plentiful, averaging 10 a day, he added.

“Some days we can get them all, some we can’t. It depends on how long each job takes. The hotter it gets, the more they (AC units) break down,” Rook said.

Air Mechanix of Franklin has also found a way to work outside more effectively when sun and rain seem to conspire against the crew.

“The rain got in the way last week when we changed out a rooftop unit on Franklin City Hall,” said co-owner Tim Parrish. “I made a purchase that I never want to be without again. I bought a 10×10 canopy and set it over the unit on the roof while we worked. Sure enough a gigantic rainstorm came up and we continued working. When the sun was out it also gave a little shade to work under. I don’t know why it took so long to think about using it. Now if I can figure out how to put a lightning rod on top I will have the perfect tool.”

Parrish added that his business has seen the biggest increase in its volume of service and replacement calls in all 20 years in the AC business.

“The higher temperatures put more stress on the AC system due to the higher pressures and longer runtimes,” he said. “All this means they consume more electricity, which increases the cost of operation.”

Factoring in humidity caused by the frequent rains, Parrish added, breathing could be a difficult issue, particularly for the elderly.

He noted that the most frequent failures in AC units his team encounters are with motors, capacitors and Freon. Higher humidity also has meant more drain overflows, which can stain ceilings.

Parrish offers these tips to reduce operating costs: Raise the thermostat setting, change air filters often and have regular service performed.