As heat bakes West, A/C fixers stay in hot demand
PHOENIX — Alan Schwandt was rushing to his second job of the day when his phone rang with another desperate Phoenix homeowner calling about a broken air conditioner amid a scorching heat wave.
Dressed in gray shorts and a navy long-sleeve shirt emblazoned with the bright-red logo for “Alan’s Air,” Schwandt toiled in temperatures close to 120 degrees. Residents who had just spent the night in a stifling home rejoiced when his work was done.
The Associated Press spent part of Monday alongside Schwandt to provide a snapshot into the hectic work necessary in a region heavily reliant on air conditioning.
Health officials with Maricopa County, home to the Phoenix area, say most heat-related deaths involve people with non-functioning air conditioners.
“Sometimes you wish the phone would ring for more calls, and sometimes you hope the phone doesn’t ring,” Schwandt said. “This is probably the day you don't want it ringing because there's more work than you can do.”
Schwandt knew early Monday that it was going to be busy. The temperature was expected to peak at 118 degrees— it reached 119 — and calls were already coming in.
Schwandt arrived at a Scottsdale apartment complex at 10:30 a.m. His maintenance truck was among three others at the complex.
The client, Sean Robertson, was relieved to see Schwandt and said that he’d slept on his living room couch Sunday night with a cooling pad on top of his pillow.
Schwandt climbed onto the roof and discovered the unit was too hot to touch because it had been running for 24 hours.
“Turn your unit off if it’s not cooling,” he said. “All it can do is cause more damage to it.”
Schwandt removed several metal panels from the unit’s exterior, climbed down the ladder and retrieved a hose and a bucket. He poured cup after cup of water over the fan as two other air conditioning repairmen worked on a nearby rooftop.
Eventually the machine cooled enough so Schwandt could unscrew it to look inside.
He determined that the unit’s motor needed to be replaced, but he didn't have the part on hand.
Schwandt promised Robertson he would return later to replace the part, leaving tools behind as he moved on to the next customer.
With the sun almost at its zenith, Schwandt reported to a home in Phoenix.
Michelle Franklin's air conditioning unit stopped working months ago, but she knew she needed to get it replaced when she saw the heat wave forecast this week.
Technician Mike Miller brought a new unit, and Schwandt brought in the heavy equipment: a crane.
“It's always hot, but you have a job and have to do your job no matter what it is,” Schwandt said.