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Longtime air conditioning technician still enjoys job despite hot conditions (w/video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Aug. 20, 2014 at 6:06 p.m.

Working on the rooftop of a commercial business, Crossroads Mechanical Inc. refrigeration technicians Devon Walker, kneeling, and Joe Vasquez repair an air-conditioning unit.

Some tips to keep cool

• Change the air filter religiously. It's the easiest thing to do to keep an AC unit running as it should be. The harder it is for the air to get through the unit makes the machinery work harder than usual.

• Clean the coils and the unit once a year. Spring is a good time for maintenance and any repairs. Before the units are working at their max to cool down the house or the business, have a technician look at it and make sure everything is in working order. Or take a hose and clean the coils and make sure there is no debris to stop up the unit.

• Keep a window unit in case of emergencies. If a unit goes out on the weekend, it might be hard to get someone to come and service a broken air-conditioning unit. Have a window unit ready if the unit goes out - it'll help keep you comfortable until the repairs are made.

SOURCE: JOE VASQUEZ

Never tell air-conditioning technicians they don't understand how hot it is when your unit goes out.

They know.

"I understand they're uncomfortable, but I've been there, too," said Joe Vasquez, a technician with Crossroads Mechanical Inc.

As temperatures tiptoe into the triple digits, Vasquez, 56, of Victoria, and other technicians in the Crossroads are trekking into their busiest season of the year.

They're pretty much on-call and busy replacing belts, checking compressors and changing capacitors.

The job might keep Vasquez indoors working in a cool 74 degrees programming thermostats, while other times, it might take him outside on rooftops, where the searing sun can easily make him sweat through his long-sleeved khaki button-up.

Luckily for him, there are days like Tuesday, when there is a little wind and Mother Nature is being kind to his fellow technicians, who also have to work in summer heat.

"If there's a breeze, it's not so bad," he said atop a Rooms To Go.

The air conditioning in his work van, the water and Gatorade packed for the trip, shady spots and big clouds are his best bets for a bit of reprieve from the summer heat. With more than 30 years under Vasquez's belt, temperature is just one of the things he's learned to adapt to.

Cooling and heating technology have followed a similar route as the automobile industry, he said. So many units now run on computer systems, and some even require a technician to use a laptop for setup.

"I see thousands of these systems. I can't remember all of them," he said while programming a digital thermostat at an area dentist office.

He said he's had to learn how the new digital systems work and how to repair them. It's all a part of the industry, which is why he started working in Cuero so long ago.

"I just wanted to learn how (units) worked," Vasquez said. "It's not just the physical labor part of it. It's the technology, too. You always learn something new every day."

Devon Walker, 24, of Victoria, is three years into the business. He went to school at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi to become a service technician because he realized that radiology wasn't the right job for him.

He's been training for the past year with other serviceman in the 13-man operation at Crossroads Mechanical Inc.

"It's always going to be something that is needed," Walker said.

And before he can walk on his own, he's taking direction for veteran technicians such as Vasquez.

"You really gotta love doing it. You have to love it," Vasquez said. "I love the service tech part of it."

The installations are tough, he said. Depending on the system and the problems that come up, he said, jobs can range from 15 minutes to five days.

Aside from the heat, there's the constant waiting for compressors to defrost and parts to be purchased.

"When it's 110 degrees, you don't want to wait that long," he said.

Then there's the heavy equipment to carry up the ladders propped against buildings or parts to pull up by rope. The company also takes Vasquez as far as Uvalde and Kingsville to repair or installation jobs.

"If we only stayed in Victoria, we wouldn't get paid," he said.

After a long day of hard work, he said he returns to a cool 78-degree household. Having spent so much time outside, he said he's acclimated to the heat. Most of the places Vasquez visits for repairs or maintenance set thermostats between 74 and 72 degrees. He said that's freezing.

"If I want to cool down, I'll go as low as 77," he said. "I've just gotten so used to higher temperatures."

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