Temperatures in Florida have a tendency to average above the 90s during the daytime in summer months causing discomfort and unease to residents. With humidity rivaling a Brazilian rainforest, summer in Florida can be reduced to the activity of moving from one air-conditioned environment to another.
This is because Florida is within the path of air streams from the Gulf of Mexico, which bring the humidity – and also the summer storms, some of which might be big enough to cause major damage. “Florida’s humid climate is attributed to the fact that no point in the state is more than 60 miles from salt water, and no more than 345 feet above sea level,” writes Dawn Henthorn of GoFlorida.com
Heat related deaths are high in Florida, “In Florida, more people die from excessive heat than from lightning,” Henthon says. “The human body temperature rises dangerously when hot days combine with high relative humidity, because perspiration cannot evaporate and cool the body.”
Relative humidity – the ratio of temperature to moisture in the air – is always high during the summer months. “The warmer the air becomes, the more moisture it can hold,” Henthorn explains. “Therefore, a person can feel the humidity on a warm day with 80 percent humidity than on a cold day with the same humidity.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency forecasts an increase in heat-related health problems. “Higher temperatures and more frequent heat waves will likely increase heat stress, respiratory illnesses, and heat-related deaths” in Florida, according to a study on Climate Change done by the EPA. “High temperatures also correlate with poor air quality and pose a risk to people with respiratory problems.”
Although the weather in Florida is mostly desirable, clearly that is not always the case. Therefore, it is important that property boards and managers ensure comfort by having the most up-to-date cooling systems, as well as maintenance protocols for upkeep.
Turn on the AC
Most condominiums are equipped with central air in South Florida. Once installed, these units operate efficiently, though do require consistent maintenance to work properly. Unit inspection is best done in the winter, before the Florida heat sets in.
“In extreme heat conditions, it is critical to endure that air conditioning/cooling components such as coils and condensate pans are maintained and that insulation is in place and in good condition for all components that need to be insulated against direct heat contact,” Doug Weinstein, director of operations and compliance for AKAM Associates, Inc., which has offices in Florida and in New York City, says. “HVAC systems should be properly balanced so that they operate at maximum efficiency. Daily inspections of the cooling systems should be made in order to detect and remedy leaks and stress fractures. Buildings also can invest in a building information system (BIS) that will allow remote monitoring and early warnings of problems.
For buildings with individual air-conditioning units, it is best that property managers have rooms where residents can bask in cool air – such as a common room, reception area, or lobby. Weinstein suggests keeping a large supply of drinking water available should a situation arise in which residents cannot access water easily during a heat wave.
“Florida’s hot and humid climate can exacerbated stress on, and expedite the deterioration of, mechanical systems that are maintained outdoors, such as rooftop cooling units and elevator housing,” he says. “High temperatures can cause protective coatings to deteriorate, and high humidity can attack unprotected material.”
High temperatures can also stress a building’s exterior, with heat expansions and moisture penetration breaching the integrity of the EIFS (multi-layered exterior insulation and finish systems) of a building and aggravating stucco, Weinstein says.
When high temperatures descend, it is up to the property managers and building engineers to not only perform their duties, but to foster the spirit of cooperation and concern for residents when the temperature reaches uncomfortable highs. The hot summer months can trigger blackouts, aggravate allergies, and make it more difficult for the elderly to get by. This is when property managers can step up to the plate and lend a helping hand – after all, isn’t that what being in a community is all about?