Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

January 8, 2014

Cold rough on heating, pipes

TRAVERSE CITY — Chuck Ohlfs received an unexpected, anxious call from a couple who returned to their Glen Arbor home at Christmas and expected everything to be as they’d left it in October.

To their dismay, the sinks were frozen and toilets had popped into porcelain pieces all over the floor. The unwelcome home party came courtesy of northern Michigan’s abnormally cold December.

“People get up here expecting everything to be happy,” said Ohlfs, who owns Chuck Ohlfs Total Maintenance Inc., and knows better from years of experience.

Some good news for those already weary of bitter cold. A respite is on the way, with temperatures lifting to the teens today and into the 30’s Friday through Sunday, Nick Schwartz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gaylord, said.

But prolonged periods of cold weather, incessant snow and winds overall have punched homes hard this winter, and many in the maintenance industry said they’re getting many more calls now than they usually do this time of year.

“It just seems like December was more like our traditional January or February when you get the bitter cold,” said Bill Hemming, owner of Walters & Hemming, Inc., a Traverse City company that provides plumbing, heating and air conditioning services. “We’ve experienced a lot of no-heat calls where furnaces and boilers are working harder. It seems like we’ve had double the problems with no heat and probably double frozen pipes, too.”

Constant cold can create heating system failures and frozen pipes, maintenance experts say.

Frozen water pipes can burst and then leak. A common fix is splicing new copper pipe with the old, split one.

Heating systems are working overtime this year in an effort to keep homes warm in single-digit weather. Most of the problems with furnaces and boilers are preventable if they’re checked before winter sets in, those in the trade said.

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