Orlando Sentinel

As heat bakes West, A/C fix­ers stay in hot de­mand

- By Clarice Sil­ber and Angie Wang

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.

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