BILLINGS — With the sudden heatwave pushing some air conditioning systems to the limit, calls for service are on the rise in Billings, said John Dawson, owner of R&T Services on Tuesday.
“This (heat) has been the first really big shock to a lot of these systems. The high heat really takes a toll, especially the older ones that were just struggling to get by in the past. Now that they’re really being pressured after going through another season, a lot of them are failing," Dawson said.
Dawson said a typical June day sees one to two calls for air conditioners, but the heatwave has pushed the number of calls up. Normally in June, staff are working on preventative maintenance calls, Dawson said.
“We not only have (the average number of calls), but we also have probably an additional four to eight calls per day of people just needing help trying to figure out what’s going on with their system," Dawson said.
R&T Services has been a locally-owned company since the late 1980s, specializing in HVAC work, living room remodels, custom fireplaces and fire pits, Dawson said.
A functioning AC system is something that people in the area highly value, Dawson said. If someone's heating system is not working in the winter, many customers don't have a problem hunkering down for a night until the repair company has an opening.
That's not the case in the summer, when people are sitting around in a sweltering house, Dawson said.
"When it’s really hot outside, we can’t say that (we're booked up for the day) to customers. We tell them, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. We can’t get to you today. We can’t get to you until tomorrow.’ And some people just have a really big problem with that. People are very much acclimated to the cold weather, not so much the hot weather," Dawson said.
There are some things an AC owner can do to prevent a sweltering situation. Dawson said it's a good idea to keep air filters clean and change them regularly, along with clearing leaves or debris from the vents on the outdoor AC unit.
Another tip to lower the stress on the AC system and draw a bit less electricity is to keep the house consistently cold with the use of a thermostat. Dawson said it's easier for the system to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the day, rather than to try and force it down in one fell swoop.
"That’s going to give you a better experience than, say coming home after work and trying to turn it on when it is 90 degrees inside the house. It will take hours to get that heat outside." Dawson said.
And if your AC system is on its last legs, Dawson said it would be cheaper to get ahead of the problem rather than react to it. The HVAC industry is not immune from global supply chain shortages and is impacted by a shortage of aluminum and steel, Dawson said.
Some HVAC manufacturers have raised their prices by five to eight percent, Dawson said.
“Right now, it’s easy enough to go in and get new equipment or repair parts and things like that. But bear in mind that just like the vehicle industry, we could see a point where a little later on when we get further into the heat that supply line could dry up," Dawson said.
Another perk of getting an AC appointment in early is that you won't be stuck in the heat of the season waiting in line for the technician to get the cold air moving again.
"You don’t want to be in late July and we’re once again having 100 degree temperatures, but your system is broken down and everybody else is back ordered or scheduled out until September," Dawson said.