Rafael “Ralph” Almodovar checks out an air conditioning unit. Almodovar is the owner of Roberts & Anderson Air Conditioning Installation and Repair.

The invention of air conditioning gets a lot of credit for making Florida habitable, and it’s professionals like Rafael (known to friends and customers as Ralph) Almodovar and his team at Roberts & Anderson Air Conditioning Installation & Repair who keep the cool air flowing and lots of New Tampa and Wesley Chapel residents comfortable.

With more than thirty summers worth of experience, Almodovar knows that when an air conditioner stops cooling, getting it back online promptly is always the customer’s top priority, whatever the hour.

“A common situation is someone comes home from work after five o’clock and it’s 90 degrees inside their house,” he says. To Almodovar, those “happy hour” calls are additional opportunities to make customers happy.

“They’re going to get some service,” he says. “I take care of the customers.”

Almodovar says that sometimes means he and his team are on the job from 7 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m., as well as handling emergency calls on weekends. He credits this approach to growing his Land O’ Lakes-based business through referrals from satisfied customers, such as Barbara Campbell, whose 11-year old A/C system needed to be replaced.

In Campbell’s case, that meant a complete overhaul, including new ductwork, along with the air conditioner. Making the job even more formidable was that the existing unit’s air handler was relocated from the attic to the main area of the house.

“He moved all of that down into the home, so now they don’t have to get up in the attic anymore where it was hard to get to, and they can service it from downstairs,” says Campbell. When the job was completed, the Campbells found a pleasant surprise on the bill’s bottom line.

“Ralph gave us an initial quote for the job and the actual amount was a little bit lower because when he added up his numbers, the costs were a little bit lower than he expected.”

Campbell adds that there is an ongoing financial return on their investment in a new air conditioning system.

“Our electricity bill was over $300 a month but has gone down to under $200 a month in the summertime, down to about $100 a month in the wintertime,” she says.

Because the work was so extensive and involved an extended disruption of home cooling, Almodovar provided a window unit to help keep the dwelling livable. Campbell says she was so pleased with the work, she recommended Roberts & Anderson A/C to her daughter when she needed air conditioning service, and enthusiastically does so to others.

“Ralph did exactly what he said he would do and he did it in the amount of time he said he would do it in,” says Campbell. “They showed up on time, cleaned up after themselves and didn’t leave a mess.”

Big jobs like Campbell’s generate a great sense of pride and accomplishment for Aldomovar.

“I can go into a house that has ductwork that’s in disrepair and the  people complain they don’t get any airflow or certain rooms are warmer,” he says. “And, I can take out the old duct work and put it back together properly so that when I walk away, the people are very satisfied and happy.”

When it comes to staying cool without interruption, prevention is the key, according to Almodovar, who also provides A/C tune-up services.

“During the winter is when you really need to take care of the A/C system,” he says. “People need to take care of the system so the system can take care of them.”

While earlier, rather than later, is best for preventive maintenance, the tune-up service is available year-round and includes washing the blower wheel inside the air handler, bleaching the drain pan to kill any algae, mold, or mildew that has formed, checking the air handler for mold, and visually inspecting the coil and electrical wiring.

The outside unit will be washed with water, and refrigerant levels, motor bearings and contactor points will be checked for wear. Finally, the entire system, including the thermostat, will be evaluated for cooling efficiency.

The tune-up service usually costs $139, but Almodovar says Neighborhood News readers will receive a 50-percent discount on it.

For homeowner maintenance, Almodovar recommends using good quality air filters and changing them before they become blocked with airborne debris.

“A 40-percent efficient filter is a very good idea to keep your dog hair, cat hair and fibers from your carpet from flowing into your air handler,” he says.

A Little Background…

Almodovar got his start in the air conditioning trade by studying appliance repair at the Technical Institute of Puerto Rico in San Juan. The trade school’s certification program included air conditioner and refrigerator repair, as well as other appliances, such as washing machines. Almodovar says a light went on in his head, which illuminated his sense of entrepreneurship.

“I realized there was great potential because every house had a washer, a refrigerator, and that right there is two appliances for every home, so I decided to pursue the appliance part of it until I discovered the air conditioning side was more profitable.”

He moved from Santurce, P.R., to Tampa and began studying Computer Engineering at Hillsborough Community College when the needs of his growing family (he and his wife have two daughters and a son) motivated him to start his own air conditioning business in 1982. The corporate name, Roberts & Anderson, Inc., is an homage to Almodovar’s late father’s engineering firm, Roberts, Williams & Anderson. It’s also Almodovar’s way of recognizing what the hard work of operating an in-demand, technical business is ultimately all about.

“You’re investing in family,” says Almodovar.

Almodovar has a Class B air conditioning contractor’s license from the State of Florida, which allows him to work on cooling systems up to 25 tons and heating systems up to 500,000 BTUs anywhere in the state. That also means he can support the cooling and heating needs of businesses, as well as homeowners.

Since Almodovar’s skills and expertise includes refrigeration systems, his clients have included stores and restaurants with walk-in and reach-in refrigerators and freezers. He says he’s always ready to respond to their emergency calls.

“Refrigeration doesn’t take a holiday,’’ he says. “They’ve got food in there.”

He says he also has experience working on dry-cleaning heat pumps and related equipment, and that Roberts & Anderson’s territory extends throughout the Tampa Bay region, including Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Polk counties.

“We have to go where the work is,” says Almodovar, who expresses an interest in working with more customers in the Wesley Chapel and New Tampa areas. “Close to home is always better.”

Between the onset of summer and the incoming migration of new residents, Roberts & Anderson, Inc., is looking to hire experienced air conditioning technicians. Almodovar says it is not as simple as putting out a Help Wanted sign or recruiting at a local trade school.

“It’s hard work and they (have to) pay their dues,” he says.

To get a quote or learn more about the services provided by Roberts & Anderson Air Conditioning Installation & Repair, visit Roberts-Anderson.com, call 966-0982 or see the ad on page 45.

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