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Heat Wave Shows The Value Of Air Conditioning

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center is not just a refuge from the streets. During the current heat wave, it’s where Bryant Devine finds momentary relief from the heat.

“It’s very hot, very hot,” Devine said. “I am homeless, and I try not to stay down about that.”

The Harbor Light Center keeps its chapel open during daytime hours as a public cooling center, an invitation welcome to anyone seeking escape.

“We provide ice water, to allow people to have a place to be inside out of the elements,” said Harbor Light Center Chief Operating Officer Steve Horsfield.

On Monday, however, there was one complicating element for the ordinarily cool chapel: The Salvation Army’s air conditioner needed a tune up. As it awaits repairs, the Salvation Army keeps the unit cool with a sprinkler, but with the kind of traffic the chapel has been seeing, it needs its air conditioner up and running soon. Horsfield says the shelter saw record overflow Sunday night, housing 109 extra people, the largest number of people in 2011.

Outside the chapel, Minnesotans are having trouble even finding air conditioning units.

At a St. Louis Park Home Depot, the stock of air conditioners disappears with sundown. Store supervisor Will Smith says Twin Cities stores have sold out of nearly 300 units in two days, and a shipment of 600 fans is going fast too. Area stores expect another similar shipment of air conditioners Tuesday.

“Seems to be pretty dire,” Smith said. “As fast as we get them in, we get them out.”

Dave Roberts, the owner of Dave’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Minneapolis, says people are racing to repair their units as well. He says the most common problem across the Twin Cities is that air conditioning units right now are strained by sitting out in the heat and cannot keep up.

“I’ve been seeing this everywhere I go,” Roberts said. “Our trucks have been on the road nonstop – one broke down [Monday] because it hasn’t had a break. It’s really hectic to say the least.”

Roberts also says a common problem is that units need to be cleaned; many are often blocked with grass clippings and debris. Roberts says that problem can be taken care of by clearing out the debris with a garden hose. He also recommends people check their air conditioning filters.

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