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AC providers, services struggle to meet demand

Posted July 6, 2012

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— Both air conditioners and air-conditioning repairmen are working overtime as the Triangle heat wave continues producing high humidity and triple-digit temperatures.

Seven of the past eight days have seen highs of 100 degrees or more. Five daily records at Raleigh-Durham International Airport were broken, and the all-time record of 105 degrees has been tied twice.

At Lowe's home improvement store on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, it's been difficult to keep window air-conditioning units in stock.

"It has been very trying," sales associate Jason Hassell said Friday. "The demand has been very high between our store and the other stores in our area."

Hassell said most of the sales have been from people whose air conditioners are on the fritz.

"Some might just have a window AC unit that's maybe 10 to 15 years old and has finally conked out on them, and they're coming for a replacement," Hassel. "A lot of people are coming in for emergencies because their main HVAC is down."

But, Hassell said, he's also seeing people return units because they aren't powerful enough.

"They will pick an air conditioner that is undersized for their room and undersized for their needs," he said.

Hassell said he recommends customers take into consideration not just price, but room size and square footage needing to be cooled. AC providers, services struggle to meet demand AC providers, services struggle to meet demand

"My rule is to go one size bigger than what you think you need, because you will save a little power because the unit doesn't have to work so hard, the compressor isn't constantly running, and you'll be a little happier because it will cool things quicker for you," he said.

Another tip: Hassell recommends that customers run their air conditioner's fan after it reaches the set temperature. He says it keeps the air circulating in the house and uses less energy than keeping the unit off until it's time to cool again.

"If you leave the fan setting in the "on" position when it's above 85 degrees outside, you have a better ambient temperature in the house, and in the long run, you actually save a little energy," he said.

HVAC technicians are also trying to keep up with the demand of cooling homes and businesses.

"We've definitely been slammed," Lou Rizkallah, general manager for Michael & Sons, said.

The company has been receiving an average of about 50 calls a day for air-conditioning repairs and is working its employees 10 to 12 hours a day.

Still, Rizkallah said, they've only been able to get to about 30 cases daily.

"We’re getting to every customer as fast as we can," he said. "It is definitely difficult, because they’re uncomfortable. We want to get there and bring them comfort as quickly as possible. Sometimes, it just takes a little longer than they want."

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  • micah Jul 10, 2012

    There is so much wrong with this article. The most glaring things are the incorrect quotes from the Lowe's employee. "My rule is to go one size bigger than you will save power because the unit doesn't work so hard". Wrong. It cost a fixed amount to move a certain amount of heat from inside to outside. Say you have a 5,000BTU A/C that runs all the time and can barely maintain 75. A 10,000BTU unit would run half as much, but the amount of power consumed would be the same. You would be much more comfortable with the unit that runs all the time since the humidity would be lowered much more by the long run times. Also, you will not save energy by setting your fan to "on" all the time. Circulating air does make you feel cooler, but leaving the circulating fan on in your A/C when it is not actively cooling just re-evaporates all the moisture that is still on your coil back into your home. Plus, it does absolutely nothing for the ambient temp in the house. It will just raise the humidity.

  • cushioncritter Jul 6, 2012

    Interesting how the 5000 BTU units "you won't be happy with" for $99 just can't stay on the shelves but the "one size larger you'll be so much happier with" 8000 BTU units for $209 are available in abundance.