‘Beat the Heat’ Summer Fan Program
What: Senior residents interested in picking up a free fan are asked to bring a picture ID to confirm their age. If a younger friend or family member is picking up a fan for a senior, they are still asked to bring the senior’s ID. About 100 fans remain available.
Where: Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, 430 Prior St. SE, Gainesville
Use your fans: Fans create a cooling effect (or “wind chill”) and can make a room feel 4 degrees cooler. Turn ceiling fans off when not in the room to conserve energy.
Adjust the drapes: Make sure drapes, curtains and furniture don’t block air vents but do block sunlight, which can heat up a room drastically.
Check your A/C: Have your A/C serviced annually to ensure it’s running efficiently. When doing yardwork, be sure to trim nearby plants and cut grass away from around the A/C units so they can receive proper air flow.
Check doors and windows: Make sure all doors and windows are closed to prevent air conditioning loss. And maintain circulation with ceiling or propeller fans.
Insulation: good ceiling insulation reduces heat gain through the roof.
Cathy Rell’s new apartment in Gainesville didn’t have a working air conditioner when she moved in last year.
But the elderly adult, who gets around in a wheelchair, said she stayed cool with a donated fan until the A/C unit was fixed.
“It really helped,” the New York native said. “Get me the cold and I’m happy.”
Rell received the fan through the “Beat the Heat” Summer Fan Program sponsored by the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center and supported by donations from businesses, churches and private citizens.
Because older adults are prone to heat stroke, said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, the program has operated for more than two decades.
Moss said 60 standard, 20-inch floor fans have already been provided to those in need this summer, and 100 more are still available.
But for many households, getting the A/C running is critical.
The heat and humidity raging throughout the Southeast this summer have some local seniors concerned, and there is no shady, wet respite in sight.
Metro Atlanta, for example, has seen more 90-degree-plus days already this year than the annual average.
The weather forecast for Hall County is calling for high temperatures to remain in the 90s throughout the week, with only a chance of thunderstorms to come Sunday.
That leaves Debbie Lawson Davis, owner of Lawson Air Conditioning and Plumbing in Gainesville, wondering just how busy things will get before fall sets in.
“I don’t think a night’s gone by in the last five weeks that we haven’t had at least one call in the evening or on the weekend,” she said.
Common problems Davis said her customers are experiencing with their A/C include stopped-up condensate lines.
Davis said she wants people to know that there is a safety switch on 90 percent of A/C units that can be flipped to prevent the drain pan from filling up with water. It’s a problem exacerbated by the suffocating humidity this time of year.
“They don’t think about it,” she added.
Moreover, the outside pipe and drainage point for the condensate line can become obstructed with leaves, grass and other vegetation.
And algae can build up in the line as well, which won’t keep the fan from running, but will keep the unit from cooling, Davis said.
Davis also recommended changing filters so that airflow is unrestricted and the cooling effect is not diminished.
“Your equipment is getting a real workout,” Davis said.
And when leaving home, keep the thermostat on but programmed to approximately 78 degrees. It will take less time to cool down when you return than shutting off the A/C entirely, Davis said.
Finally, clearing debris from the outdoor fan is critical. Davis said one of the stranger problems to emerge is that ants sometimes get in the system and disrupt its efficiency.
This advice is something Pam Keith has struggled to deal with.
She said her work orders to get her window unit fixed at her apartment complex in Gainesville have gone unanswered.
The air that still blows isn’t enough to cool her place, and it’s expensive to boot.
Moss said some seniors, who live on fixed incomes, are careful not to run the A/C too long because of its costs.
Keith said it usually stays about 80 degrees in her place on hot summer days, so she often spends afternoons at the Senior Life Center to stay cool.
“(The A/C) is running all the time,” she said.