As temperature drops, furnace and plumbing biz heats up
BY KAREN CAFFARINI Post-Tribune correspondent January 7, 2014 4:54PM
Updated: February 9, 2014 6:34AM
The arctic blast hitting the region has kicked up a brisk business for area plumbers and furnace companies, who’ve been working steadily to repair frozen pipes and keep houses warm.
“We’re double- and triple-booked,” said an employee of Reichelt Plumbing in Schererville on Tuesday.
She said frozen pipes and sewer backups are the main problems the company is addressing.
Mary Kleine, an owner of Kleine Heating & Cooling in Crown Point, said the company has been especially busy the past couple of days, although she said furnaces should be running at their peak efficiency at this time.
“It’s not that cold weather causes problems with furnaces; they usually run OK. The problem is when something breaks down and the weather is so extreme, we need to get to the people within hours. Pipes could freeze and people panic,” Kleine said.
Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning, which services the Northwest Indiana and Chicago area, has also been getting a lot of calls from homeowners needing help with both frozen pipes and their furnaces, which aren’t getting the house warm enough.
“Insulation and windows can affect how adequately a home is heated. We can recommend insulation and do a lot of repairs on older windows,” said Mark Strauss, a spokesman for the Chicago-based company.
Here are tips from the experts on how to prevent, and possibly solve, both freezing pipe and heating problems.
Dan Flores, owner of Dflo Plumbing in Portage, recommends keeping water running at a trickle to prevent frozen pipes, especially if the pipe is close to outside walls, isn’t insulated or is near a draft.
Robert Alm, project manager for St. John Plumbing in St. John, said wind and small cracks in houses also can cause problems with pipes. He said heat trace taping can be applied and a space heater can be used to keep the pipe from freezing.
Flores said you should never use any open flame to thaw a frozen pipe. It’s safer, he said, is to use a hair dryer. “It won’t be super fast, but it’s safer,” Flores said.
Close doors, not vents, in rooms you seldom use to save money. Strauss said closing vents makes the furnace less efficient. “The air still needs to travel to the vent. I recommend closing the door to the room instead and leaving the vent open.”
Keep the furnace filter clean. Kleine recommends changing the filter at least four times a year, unless you have a whole-house filter, which she said can stay in for six months to a year. A dirty filter puts more strain on the furnace and reduces its longevity, and an especially dirty filter will shut down the furnace altogether for safety reasons.
Have the furnace serviced by a registered, licensed and bonded technician at least every two years.