HVAC companies race to meet demand after brutal cold temperatures

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The combination of historically cold temperatures and the Christmas holiday made for a difficult weekend for residents and local HVAC companies when homes began to lose heat.

The holiday meant HVAC workers wanted to be with their families, but dangerously cold temperatures made heating units a necessity, not just a comfort. Several local heating and air companies rose to the challenge and helped make sure their customers had a warm Christmas.

Dale Jackson, co-owner of Jackson Heating and Air, said many of his staff members worked extra hours over the holiday weekend.

Email newsletter signup

“We had over 10 members of our staff, that included everybody from our CSRs, even our salesmen or service techs that volunteered to come in and work because they wanted to help out our community,” Jackson said.

Jackson said more than 10 employees volunteered just to relieve those that were scheduled to work this weekend. 

“They knew that they were going to end up spending all of Christmas away from their family, so they wanted to come in and help them so that they could get off within a reasonable hour,” Jackson said. “We still had quite a few working late into the night, but for the most part, we had nearly a dozen of our team members come in at some point over the weekend just to help out their own team. I’m really proud of that.”

Jack Webb, the owner of Webb Heating and Air in LaGrange, said they saw similar numbers of calls over the weekend.

“We probably handled about a hundred calls this weekend,” Webb said, “The amount we couldn’t get to is more than what we got to.”

“That’s not going to be on the scale of the bigger companies, but for my company, that’s a lot of calls,” Webb said, “We’re a smaller, affordable company.  That’s a lot for us. That’s on Christmas Eve and [Monday]. We did take Christmas off, so we did about 100 calls in a two-day span. “It was so much. They just kept coming in.”

“The only calls we did on Christmas Day were for the elderly,” Webb said.

Webb said it felt like every call they took was dire.

“Every call was a crisis situation because when it’s 10 degrees outside when the heat goes out, the temperature drops dramatically. Some people’s houses were 40-50 degrees inside. It was an emergency. The only thing we feel bad about is that you just cannot get to everyone,” Webb said.

“You really can’t staff for such a historical, weather event. There’s just no way to staff. We had a few guys that were willing to work, but it was hard to prepare.”

Webb himself had had to step in and assist during the historically cold weekend.

“Even I worked. I haven’t caught service calls for the company in three or four years and had to get out there, pitch in with the guys and get in a work van,” Webb said. 

“I’m not too good to get out there and work. I own the business and I got out there myself and caught calls myself on holidays. I could have been at home with my kids,” he said.

Webb said staffing is always going to be a problem during the holidays due to work-life balance.

“You can’t work everybody. A lot of these guys have young kids. Money is not everything. It’s a balance to serve the community and fix everybody’s heat, but you also want to be home with your family too, because when it’s 10 degrees outside, every situation is an emergency.”

“We all banded together as a company and got it done and ended up having fun in the process,” Webb said.

Jackson reported similar inside temperatures due to the dangerously cold weekend.

“We had one house that was down to like 39 degrees inside,” Jackson said. 

Jackson said for the most part people don’t verify that their heating is working properly until it’s too late.

“They don’t know there’s something wrong with their unit. There is something wrong they don’t get notified until it actually gets cold,” Jackson said. 

“They just don’t know it because it’s been between 65 and 75 for three months.”

Jackson recommends that customers get a maintenance plan for their heating and air units and have maintenance performed twice a year.

Webb said a lot of the issues the saw were with heat pumps, which don’t perform well in extremely low temperatures.

“Heat pumps aren’t really designed to work in below-freezing weather. We try to urge people to have secondary sources for when it’s that cold. Everybody should have a secondary source of heat such as electric heaters or fireplaces. We tried to warn people to prep for this.”

Brian Philpot, owner of Philpott Hearing and Air in Valley, said they just took calls as they came in and didn’t have a lot of trouble.

“Luckily, for a lot of clients, we keep a lot of common parts on hand to where we didn’t have that many issues where we were able to get units back up and running,” Philpott said.

Philpott said they handled about 18 calls over the holiday weekend. He said they didn’t really have any staffing struggles due to the holidays.

Philpott also noted that heat pumps aren’t really the best option for extreme cold weather.

“People have got to understand that heat pumps don’t work in cold, cold weather. You’ve got to use your auxiliary or your emergency heat for those situations,” Philpott said.

Fortunately, temperatures aren’t likely to drop this low again for some time. The last time the temperature dropped to 10 degrees on Christmas was in the early 1980s.

“I don’t think we’ll see this kind of weather in 10 more years,” Webb said.