AUSTIN (KXAN) — Icy conditions took over Central Texas roads Friday and it’s only expected to get worse. That’s a concern for plumbers and HVAC technicians across the area.
On Thursday morning, Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning’s longtime master plumber Preston Nichols and HVAC technician Rick Foust made some house calls. They started at northeast Austin homeowner Will King’s home. King had initially called for a routine maintenance service but decided to take some preventative measures after watching the KXAN weather forecast Wednesday night.
“I heard Jim at KXAN talking about how he’s never seen it this cold for so long in decades,” he said. “I just learned that I haven’t been dripping my faucets correctly, so that’s good to hear that now I’ll get it done right.”
Officials believe it’s these types of preventative calls that can make all the difference when freezing temperatures hit. However, those at Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning understand it doesn’t always happen that way.
“It’s just a whole bunch of emergency calls,” Brad Casebier, the company’s CEO said. “When this happened last time we probably had about 10 times the call volume of a normal day.”
That’s about 1,000 calls or more — daily. He said the calls can range from no heat to busted pipes flooding homes.
“That’s just such a bummer for people because we can fix that but then they have issues that carry on and on after we’re gone,” Casebier said.
He has crews ready to go throughout the holiday weekend. He added they will also have crews on standby to respond to any emergency day or night.
“We are getting ready for a lot of calls, this hasn’t happened in quite a few years but when we find that temperatures do not come out of freezing for more than 24 hours and then drops into the teens it’s really destructive to plumbing,” Casebier said. “The systems that we do in Austin are not really designed for that kind of weather.”
Protecting your plumbing
Another plumbing company, ABC Home & Commercial Services, provided the below tips to help protect your plumbing during these severe conditions.
BEFORE the event:
- Check your pipes: If they are exposed, which is common for homes in Central Texas, make sure they are insulated properly especially if they are in a crawl space or attic.
- Check your hose bibs: Experts recommend looking over your spigot to make sure there are no leaks. This will help prevent freezing and cracking. You can also cover your hose bibs to help protect them.
DURING the event:
- Open the cabinets under sinks/near plumbing: This will help pipes receive more exposure to the heat inside your home to prevent freezing.
- Watch your inside temperature: Do not turn your heat temperature too low at night or when you are leaving your home, otherwise it prevents your pipes from benefitting from that heat.
- Drip several faucets throughout the inside of your house: You don’t have to do all of them, but while you’re not using any fixtures with an outside wall on one side, allow them to drip from both the cold and hot water. A constant drip is preferable, especially when temperatures stay at 20 degrees or lower for long periods of time. DO NOT drip the hose spigots on any outside fixtures.
AFTER the event:
- If no water comes out when you turn the water on, that could indicate some freezing, but don’t panic, that doesn’t mean anything is broken. Have it checked out by a plumber to be sure.
- Check for anything that sounds like it’s running, even when you don’t have anything on. That could mean there’s a problem.
- If you don’t have proper insulation for your pipes, keep that in mind for after this weather event and make it a point to get that done to prepare for the next time.
If you are renting, guidance from the City of Austin says you could be held responsible for property damage if a pipe breaks during severe weather conditions. Residents should contact property management, their landlord or maintenance personnel to find the property’s cut-off valve ahead of time to try to avoid any issues.
In the event of an emergency, call Austin Water’s 24-Hour Emergency Hotline at (512) 972-1000, and press Option 1.