The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 9, 2014

Weather brings local HVAC specialists and plumbers out in full force

By Lora Scripps

— While many were hunkering down, HVAC specialists and plumbers were out in full force and hustling to take care of a number of problems brought on by the recent cold snap and record-breaking temperatures.

Bobby Terry Company, a family-owned, Athens-based business, is one local business to receive numerous calls for both heating and plumbing issues.

Darrell Colvett, Bobby Terry Company manager, said calls have doubled since Monday.

The business, which specializes in plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, gas, homebuilding and remodeling, has been averaging 18 to 30 heating calls a day.

Colvett said many of the issues they have seen run from malfunctioning breakers and relays, to heat strips going bad. He added a heat pump is efficient until temperatures hit 17 degrees at which point strip heating kicks in. If heat strips are not working the house will be cold.

Experts recommend that homeowners service heating and cooling units before a cold snap or even a heat wave. Most agree that issues typically arise at the worst times.

When temperatures began to rise Wednesday, Bobby Terry Company started receiving more plumbing-related calls — the dreaded burst pipes.

Colvett said when it comes to waterlines it is best to keep the house as warm as possible. A lot of people cut their thermostats down at night to save energy, but he believes when it comes to temperatures like those seen in the recent cold snap it’s not advisable to turn thermostats down at night.

“When it gets that cold it’s hard to prevent,” he said. “The temperatures were abnormal for too long a period of time.”

Lesia Tate of Lesia Tate Plumbing in Athens also started getting calls for burst water pipes Wednesday. Her call volume has doubled as well. “Everything has just started thawing out,” she said. “I can’t fix pipes when they are frozen. I have to wait until they thaw out.”

Tate, who said she is a one-woman show, was working on one house Wednesday and had four or five customers waiting.

She has been in the business since age 15 and said when temperatures fall to degrees the area hasn’t seen in 20 years a lot of people realize they are unprepared.

For homes that have a crawl space, Tate recommends putting lights and heat lamps under the home. “That’s what I did at my house,” she said.

She also recommends putting black plastic on the ground under the house to create a moisture barrier, and to let faucets drip a little.

“In minus 3 winds, you can do everything you can, but sometimes it is still not enough,” she said. “Always take precautions.

“Fixing busted pipes is an expensive mess for the customer.”

She admits that the job is not only a mess for the customer, but a mess for her as well. “It’s bad either way,” she said.

Her advice is to pay a little extra on the light bill by using heat lamps. “You’ll be spending a little money, but saving a lot,” she said.

Some plumbers advise those who encounter a burst pipe to turn off the main water valve immediately. Then, make sure all faucets in the residence are shut off. Only open the lowest hot and cold water faucets in the home so water will drain from the location.

Call a plumber and be sure to check homeowner and renters insurance policies. Many standard homeowner and renter polices will provide coverage for burst pipes.