After one of the least profitable winters in recent memory, Beaufort County heating and air-conditioning businesses seem to be having a bountiful summer thanks to the recent heat wave.
"Business has definitely spiked with this hot spell," said Jay Dennis of D&S Heating and Cooling in Beaufort. "The weather tends to dictate how we do."
Although business is soaring with the mercury, the weather hasn't always cooperated with Dennis.
This winter, his father, John, reported that unseasonably warm temperatures were responsible for a 50-percent drop in calls from the year before at the family-owned business. In December, their technicians went on only six to eight calls per day, John Dennis estimated.
Today, that number is up to more than 20 a day -- still not enough to offset the losses, but an encouraging step, he said.
"We're finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel," Jay Dennis said.
That light -- and the heat that accompanies it -- is tracked with fervor by employees at Superior Heating and Air in Bluffton, according to service manager Adam Love.
"Every single one of them has apps on their phones, (and) things on their desktop backgrounds predicting the weather," he said. "We keep an eye on the forecast all the time."
Until recently, Love said, those reports were disappointingly mild.
"It's really been pretty slow all year up until the weekend before the Fourth of July," he said. "Then things really jumped into high gear."
Many of the company's service requests are "nuisance calls" from vacationers acclimated to more temperate weather.
"We get a lot of calls from people trying to set their thermostat in the 60s, like they're used to, and the air conditioner just can't keep up," Love said, with a note of exasperation. "In those cases, we have to fix the customer, not the equipment."
Frustrating as such calls might be, the seasonal influx of tourists is appreciated, says Ron Railey of A-1 Heating and Air Conditioning in Bluffton.
"It was pretty rough earlier in the year," he said. "You're trying to keep people on, and spending money that you're not making.
"But now we can't even catch up with the calls we're getting."
He received 34 service calls Thursday alone.
"These past few days," he said, "have been absolutely unreal."
Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.
The winter of local heating contractors' discontent, Dec. 24, 2011