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Cold Weather Means Long Days For HVAC Crews


Seems like air conditioners break down when they're needed most - when it's hottest - and furnaces give out when it's coldest - when they have to pump out the most heat. What has this fearsome winter been like for a heating repair technician? We turn now to Doug Braford, who works all shifts in Cleveland, where temperatures hit record lows in February. Mr. Braford joins us from the studios of the idea stream, WCPN in Cleveland. Thanks so much for being with us.

DOUG BRAFORD: You're welcome. It's good to be here.

SIMON: So tough few weeks?

BRAFORD: Yeah, it's been a tough season this year. You know, it's definitely been a winter that's held on and really hasn't given us too many breaks.

SIMON: What's it like to work in those kinds of conditions, let's say if you're up on a roof somewhere?

BRAFORD: You know, it can be a little dangerous at times. A lot of times you're setting your ladder in the ice and you're looking for a dry spot to put the ladder. And sometimes you use a van and you try to back the van up or at least get the tire up against the ladder so that you don't have any chance of that ladder skipping out on you. And, you know, in the elements, you get a little hasty sometimes 'cause you're in a hurry. And that's where, you know, you've still got to take your time. At its coldest is when you're at your busiest. I've been out 12, 13, 14-hour days before. You learn to dress for it.

SIMON: How do you dress for a 14-hour day in let's say 25-degree temperatures?

BRAFORD: Well, it can be tricky because there's times you're coming into a warm building, and you're way overdressed, and you begin to sweat. And if you start to sweat, it can be really bad when you go back out in the elements 'cause now you're really cold so you need to bring some dry socks. Usually, I'll wear some thermals. I'll wear multiple layers, and I'll take layers off, put layers back on.

SIMON: What about this method for keeping your hands warm? (Blows on hands).

BRAFORD: Blowing on them?

SIMON: Yeah.

BRAFORD: Well, it depends on how cold it is. You know, that's probably the toughest thing is the fingers. I mean, your fingers get to the point they just don't want to work. I suppose there's electric gloves and there's motorcycle gear. You can buy whole heated suits and stuff and have a battery pack on you. But as long as you're hustling and you're moving, it doesn't seem to affect you as much.

SIMON: So if they make the movie about the heating, ventilation and air conditioner man, who plays the hero?

BRAFORD: Oh, let's see. Who would be a good heating guy out there in the elements? I would say Russell Crowe, maybe.

SIMON: I can see that. I can see that...

BRAFORD: Yeah, I could see him with the big, frozen beard out there bearing the elements or maybe Mel Gibson. Unfortunately, I don't grow that full of a beard so I don't get that much protection, but, you know, you do what you can.

SIMON: You've kept a lot of people warm and safe this year. Thank you.

BRAFORD: You're welcome.

SIMON: Doug Braford of Braford Heating and Cooling, speaking with us from WCPN in Cleveland. Thanks so much.

BRAFORD: Thank you. I appreciate your time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.