- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Triple-digit temperatures are sizzling Washington this week. So are sales at local air-conditioning businesses.

“We love 100-degree weather — very good for business,” said Robert Kiddey, president of Rockville’s Academy, which repairs and installs air conditioners. “Washingtonians will not do without air conditioning. It’s going crazy over here.”

Air conditioners need more repairs the more the machines run. With cooling systems operating round-the-clock, it’s only a matter of time when home and business owners have to make that call.

Allan Luke, owner of Jiffy Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, said he has received about 120 service calls a day from “really desperate people” this week.

During last year’s relatively cool summer, about 60 people called a day, he said.

The Hyattsville business hired three more workers to handle the extra business.

“People will take a lack of heat in the winter more than they will take a lack of coolness in the summer. Other than sticking your head in the icebox, there’s no relief in the summer,” he said, adding that repair costs range from $200 to $500 per unit.

The average operating time of air conditioners should be about three to four hours per day, he said. But with extreme heat all day, air conditioners are running all the time.

“You’re getting a lot more run time on the units so you’re accelerating the problem,” Mr. Luke said.

Mr. Kiddey compared an air conditioner’s lifetime, which is usually about 12 to 15 years, to a car’s mileage. Parts such as the motor, wires and fuses need to be replaced more frequently when the unit runs more.

Mike Worch, service manager for Thos. E. Clark Inc., in Silver Spring, said he has seen the wires of a cooling system melt in high heat. The business has received double the amount of service than last summer.

“Our [repairmen] are working longer hours. They work till dark. You can’t work after dark because the units are outside,” Mr. Worch said.

But sometimes service workers can’t do much to cool down houses. Air conditioners were designed to cool air by 22 degrees at most, said Bill Royston, operating manager for All-Pro Services Inc. in Capitol Heights.

“So if it’s 100 degrees and your house is about 77-to-78 degrees, the air conditioner is doing great,” Mr. Royston said. He said he has received about 50-to-80 service calls a day this week.

Linda Rodgerson, co-owner and vice president for Climate Heating Cooling in Springfield, said she responds to current customers first during demanding times.

Her business is so booked that repairmen can’t respond to service calls within a day, she said.

“There is a big need. We’re telling them that we can’t get out there the minute they called — there’s 3,000 people in front of them,” she said.

Repairs are more extensive and pricey if home and business owners do not keep up maintenance on central air systems, such as cleaning air ducts during the spring, said Peter Eftychiou, chief executive officer of Cyprus Air Heating & Cooling in Alexandria.

He is experiencing about five times the amount of business than a 75- to 80-degree day, he said.

“Everybody’s working overtime,” Mr. Eftychiou said. “We like it. We like it when it’s very busy.”

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