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Plumbers, HVAC specialists staff up to meet increased demand during cold snap

By Caroline McMillan Portillo
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com

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  • Cold weather tips

    Here are some tips on dealing with the cold weather:

    Pets

    • If your pet normally is outdoors, bring him inside even if it is into a garage or laundry room temporarily until the temperatures rise, especially at night. If there is no alternative, dogs and cats that must stay outside need a dry, draft-free doghouse built of waterproof materials with the door facing away from the wind. It should be elevated and insulated, with bedding of straw or wood shavings.

    • Check your pet’s water frequently to be sure it is not frozen. Use a ceramic or plastic bowl to prevent your dog’s tongue from sticking to a metal surface.

    • Never leave your cat or dog alone in a car during cold weather. Cars hold in the cold, acting like refrigerators, which could cause your animal to freeze to death.

    • Be aware of cats seeking warmth under vehicle hoods. Make a point of knocking on the hood or sounding the horn before starting the engine. This will warn away cats that may be hiding in your car.

    Source: Donna Raga, Humane Society of Charlotte

    Pipes

    • Close doors and vents that lead to crawl spaces.

    • Buy foam protectors to place over an outdoor faucet. They can be found at hardware stores for less than $10. And unplug garden hoses. They can freeze, too.

    • Leave the water dripping inside the house.

    • It may also pay to know what’s inside your walls. Newer homes with plastic pipes fare better in cold weather than older homes with metal pipes.

    Source: Charlotte plumber Eddie Matranga



Plumbers and HVAC specialists were busy Monday as they geared up for an anticipated onslaught of problems from the arctic chill moving through the Charlotte area Tuesday.

“During these cold snaps, we get inundated,” said Jim Bridges, owner of Gastonia-based Plumbing Connection. “We’re not used to these kinds of temperatures.”

So while the coldest temperatures to hit the area in a decade have many people hunkering down, these businesses are staffing up.

Morris Jenkins, a Charlotte-based company that provides air conditioning services and furnace repair, is expecting up to 1,200 calls. That’s three to four times the number they’d normally get on a Tuesday in the winter, said spokeswoman Casey Welch.

Service manager Jonathan Bancroft says Morris Jenkins boosted weekday call center personnel and asked 71 service technicians and 24 installers – nearly all of the weekday and weekend staff – to be ready to work Tuesday.

Customers’ cold-weather grievances run the gamut, from clogged filters to burst pipes, frozen drain lines to malfunctioning furnaces. The bottom line, many service providers say, is that Charlotte residents, accustomed to mild winters and light jackets, aren’t well-acquainted with the preventive tactics.

For example, plumbers recommend that when temperatures fall below freezing, you should close crawl space doors tightly, open cabinets underneath sinks to let heated air touch the pipes, and keep faucets dripping at night to help prevent the pipes from freezing. And they all say routine maintenance is important.

“They wait for it to break, and then our phones ring off the hook,” says Scott Shelton, owner of Charlotte Comfort Systems.

On Tuesday, Shelton says all five of his technicians will be working, as he expects at least three to four dozen calls – significantly more than the six to 12 calls he gets on a normal winter day.

Most calls will be emergency-oriented, he said, but some will be for regular maintenance. A service call is $90, Shelton said, and the repair cost could run from less than $100 to $1,000.

Local plumber Brian Long, who currently works solo, said he’s spent the last month looking for another plumber to hire. Cold snaps often make for downed power lines, so in addition to the maintenance calls “I spend a lot of time installing gas logs, so people have some kind of heat source,” Long said.

McMillan Portillo: 704-358-6045 On Twitter: @cbmcmillan
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