With temperatures rising and New York City still largely shut down by pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders, co-op and condo boards are grappling with ways to install window air conditioners without putting workers or residents at risk.
Regardless of whether an in-house staffer or an outside company is installing the units, general sanitization guidelines should remain in place. Peter Lehr, the director of management at Kaled Management, stresses that any worker entering or leaving an apartment should wear personal protective equipment, a sentiment echoed throughout the industry.
Harold Wissner, the manager of Air-Wave Air Conditioning, says that his workers wear masks, gloves and shoe coverings during every installation. In summers past, the company completed 10 to 12 installations per building per day, but during the pandemic, that’s not guaranteed. “Some buildings are opening, and some are not,” Wissner says. “We take dates for when we can do installations, but it’s at the discretion of the buildings. When it gets hot, people with asthma and breathing problems need to have air conditioners.”
Al Tim, an administrator at Weston Bros. Heating and Cooling, says that not only do the company’s workers wear PPE on every call, but they are instructed to be judicious about what they touch inside apartments and to sanitize their vehicles between calls. But both Weston Bros. and Air-Wave rely on residents to ensure that the area of installation is disinfected prior to the crew’s arrival.
Some boards and their management companies are working with their residents to reduce anxiety, generally through flexible scheduling. “If somebody is not comfortable letting somebody in,” says Adam Stern, the senior vice president at AKAM Associates, “we would have to come back and coordinate.” Many residents in AKAM buildings left the city during the early stages of the shutdown, so the company is taking advantage of the exodus and installing air conditioners while the apartments are empty.