By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE - The scorching summer heat becomes a distant memory by the time September rolls around, but not in Central Florida.
With 80-degree highs still common even as the kids start a new year of school, it's essential for homeowners to have a working air conditioning unit to keep their residences cool in the Florida heat - although some can't afford the expense.
One local expert hopes to provide some help to homeowners on fixed incomes. He's already helped out one person: a World War II veteran who lives in a manufactured home.
Tom McGuire, chairman of the Volusia Air Conditioning Contractors Association, said he's seeking approval from the association's board of directors to start a fund that would support local homeowners in need of new air conditioning units who cannot afford the expense.
Mr. McGuire, who owns the local air conditioning business Flair Air Conditioning, said the idea came about after he came to the aid of an 88-year-old World War II veteran, George Bumpus, who was living without a working air conditioner.
He sent a service technician out to Mr. Bumpus's residence, and the technician found the veteran's air conditioner had a defective compressor. Because Mr. Bumpus's air conditioner was more than 30 years old, replacing the unit entirely was the most practical solution, but he couldn't afford it.
"I explained to (Mr. Bumpus) we couldn't fix his unit, we had to replace it," Mr. McGuire said. "We quickly realized he didn't have any money to replace the system. He lost his disability pension, and he told me he was on Social Security."
Mr. McGuire contacted fellow VACCA members to see if they had a used unit in good working condition that could be given to Mr. Bumpus, but nothing was available. So instead they donated money to support the purchase and installation of a new air conditioning unit for him.
Because replacing Mr. Bumpus's unit cost less money than what VACCA members pledged, Mr. McGuire is interested in using the leftover funds to help somebody else in a similar position.
"You can't imagine living in a mobile home in Florida without air," Mr. McGuire said. "It's extremely hot."
Temperatures in the Daytona Beach area have reached highs above 80 degrees for most of September, above what the National Weather Service considers normal fall temperatures in the region. Derrick Weitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Melbourne office, said normal temperatures are between 70.4 ad 76.6 degrees.
Mr. Weitlich said the long-term climate outlook for the area in the fall months is "equal chances.""They don't technically have an advanced forecast," he said, although he predicted "slightly high chances of above normal (temperatures) occurring through the end of September."
But with fall temperatures in the area proving to be as hot as summer, Mr. McGuire wants to provide some relief from the heat for those who can't afford it.
As for his first beneficiary, Mr. McGuire said he was proud to step up and support a veteran in his time of need.
"Here's a guy who did so much for the country, now he's struggling to get by," Mr. McGuire said.
Flair Air Conditioning is at 935 Alexander Ave., Port Orange. To learn more about the Volusia Air Conditioning Contractors Association, visit vaccafl.org.