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Local HVAC companies try to meet summer demand despite virus

A combination of summer heat and coronavirus-related home comfortability concerns are driving demand for air conditioning services in the Toledo area.

Toledo’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning firms are facing high demand for service work on cooling units this summer, according to several area companies. While early coronavirus precautions limited business, now HVAC companies are working at peak capacity, which is usual for this time of year. Unusual, however, is the number of calls they are receiving, pandemic safety precautions, and stress in their supply chains.

“We are running wide open at the moment. We have been for a little while,” Dan Pienta, president of Fry Heating & Cooling, said. “Whether they are going to work or not, their systems still operate during the day. If they’re home, we’ve seen a little bit more of a desire for UV lights, maybe better air filtration. People that do work at home are a little more sensitive to how well their systems operate so, there might be a little more demand due to that.”

Ultimately, though, the weather drives demand for Fry’s services as cooling units get overworked during long, hot summers, Mr. Pienta said.

Overall, service calls are outnumbering calls regarding installations across the board. Mr. Pienta said that his company actually hired a bigger crew this year in anticipation of a busy summer of service, but even now they are having to turn customers away on occasion. Currently, Fry has 17 employees.

“Last month, June, was an incredible amount of replacements,” Chuck Westenbarger, the general manager of Wojo’s Heating and Air Conditioning, said. “Some of them are brought on by a demand for service that they don’t have air conditioning and a technician will go out and say, ‘Hey, this is a major part that’s bad, your unit is really old. We’ll fix it but you might want to consider looking into it.’ Sometimes people will fix it, sometimes people will replace it. I found that there was quite a bit of replacements this past month, month and a half.”

Mr. Westenbarger said that his company is getting more residential calls than commercial calls so far this summer. However, owner Tom Wojciechowski added that most of the commercial customers of Wojo’s are on permanent maintenance plans that result in fewer problems when the high heat makes its way to Northwest Ohio.

However, Pat Theoborou, owner of Maumee Valley Heating & Air Conditioning, reported that her commercial clients, which make up 25% of the business, are not paying for the maintenance they normally would be at this time. Maumee Valley Heating & AC is also seeing high demand for service in homes though.

Both Mr. Pienta and Mr. Westenbarger said that customers should be maintaining their cooling and heating systems throughout the year much like they care for their vehicles. Regular maintenance would cut down on the number of failures each business sees during the summer months.

In order to meet their high demand safely, local HVAC companies are following the necessary safety guidelines instituted by Gov. Mike Dewine in order to keep customers and employees safe. Both Mr. Pienta and Mr. Westenbarger said they held conversations with their employees to hammer home the importance of safety when working in customers’ homes.

In particular, Wojo’s is allowing customers to guide their safety policies. For example, a couple of customers have asked staff members to wear hazmat suits inside their homes when working on a cooling project, so Mr. Westenbarger made sure to have them available for customers who want such precautions.

Overall, no one has asked not to work for Wojo’s out of concerns for their safety, nor has the company recorded a positive test among its staff. Wojo’s has 35 employees on the payroll, its yearly summer peak.

However, local firms may not be able to satisfy all of the demand due to equipment shortages.

“Some of the manufacturers shut down for a time and, with the extended heatwave that we’ve had, the demand has been greater than what we could get,” Ms. Theoborou said. “So, we’ve run into some issues with that, getting some backorder stock and having to change different equipment to put in for customers.”

Both Mr. Pienta and Mr. Westenbarger echoed that point but added that they had not run into any problems with their supply chains until last week. Mr. Westenbarger believes that is because, nationally, there has been a large heatwave over the past few weeks.

As for when it comes time for local companies to switch over to focusing on meeting the heating needs of customers, the company leaders all indicated that there is always some amount of uncertainty in a seasonal business like HVAC, but did say that preparations were underway to deal with whatever comes next, coronavirus-related or not.


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on July 16, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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