Deadly cold weather recently made headlines in Texas, where wintry conditions knocked out power to around 4.5 million homes at one point. Power outages, combined with freezing conditions, sent Texans scrambling for home heating alternatives, such as generators and fireplaces, and to seek shelter in powered warming centers or businesses. Some resorted to living in running cars.
Snow, ice and extreme cold have been widespread this year in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States, too. At one point, 78 million Americans were under a winter weather alert, and more than 27 million were under a hard-freeze warning. More than 2,500 new records were set for lowest high temperatures. At least 38 people nationwide died from winter storms or frigid conditions.
Additional Challenges for HVAC Industry
For HVAC companies, the cold weather means more business, and additional challenges to serve their customers' needs. Local TV stations often turn to HVAC installers to provide commentary and insights about their surge in business brought on by Mother Nature.Sub-zero weather translated into below-freezing indoor temperatures for some HVAC customers
In Lincoln, Neb., for example, sub-zero weather translated into below-freezing indoor temperatures for some HVAC customers whose furnaces were not running. Many of the systems had been badly maintained, operated inefficiently, and/or were beyond their life expectancy.
“We’ve had some guys that have houses that their furnaces aren’t running, we’ve had some houses at 31 degrees, 34 degrees,” said John Henry’s HVAC Service Technician, Thaddeus Bertsch, interviewed by 10/11 KOLN News.
Issues with Frozen Pipes
"As [cold weather] goes on, we are starting to get more calls for frozen pipes," adds Keith Jackson with Jackson Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling, Decatur, Ala. "People have no water," he told WZDX Fox News. HVAC technicians stay extra busy working in the snow and dropping temperaturesAlso, outdoor heating and AC units were shutting down. The units were freezing up, and frozen rain and ice affected the operation of the outside condensers. The company had crews out trying to help people with frozen pipes across Decatur and beyond.
HVAC technicians stay extra busy working in the snow and dropping temperatures. For instance, business tripled for Jarboe’s Heating, Plumbing and Cooling in Louisville, Ky. Field technicians were working longer hours because of heaters going out, reported WDRB News in Louisville.
"As soon as the phones are open, they’re ringing"
For two days in February, by nine o’clock in the morning, J.E. Shekell Inc. in Evanstan, Ind., already had received over 30 service calls. "As soon as the phones are open, they’re ringing,” said Jim Poag of J.E. Shekell Inc. A report by WFIE 14 News in EvanstanFrigid temperatures cause furnaces to work extra hard to keep houses warm highlighted how frigid temperatures cause furnaces to work extra hard to keep houses warm. Depending on how well they are maintained, and how old the machine is, it can sometimes be too much.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls, several, you lose count after a while, just trying to help as many people as we can right now. It’s probably about my seventh call of the day so, we’re out trying to help as many people as we can,” said John Hambleton of Lyerla Heating & Air, Joplin, Mo.
Dangerous temperatures and winds
Lyerla Heating and Air received 300 service calls in just two days on Feb. 15-16. Like many of the local media reports, KSN News in Wichita, Kan., emphasized the need to prevent untimely breakdowns by getting units serviced before dangerous temperatures and wind chills set in.
Staff at Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating, Eau Claire, Wis., says service calls had risen roughly 25% when the cold rolled in. Staff worked extended hours to fix broken heaters and frozen home exhausts.
"Over the last week and a half, we've experienced an increase in calls obviously because of the cold," said Christina Wiersgalla, VP of operations for Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating, Eau Claire, Wis., in a report by WQOW 18 News.
Among the consequences of brutal winter weather are a greater appreciation of the work of HVAC companies and an opportunity to shine a spotlight on how they keep customers comfortable in their homes and businesses.