Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 25, 2014

Below-normal winter temperatures keeping plumbers on the go

CUMBERLAND — Plumbing and heating professionals are reporting working nearly around the clock, even having to turn callers away, as the number or residents contending with malfunctioning furnaces and frozen pipes continues to rise in this latest round of below-normal temperatures.

“We are getting double the calls over a typical winter. I hate to do it, but you have to turn business away,” said Joe Smith, owner of Joseph Smith Plumbing and Heating.

Smith was out on Friday repairing busted pipes that had frozen under a porch.

AccuWeather is calling for below-normal temperatures to continue this week. Sunday is expected to reach 27 degrees and Monday’s high at 33. However, Tuesday the mercury is only expected to reach 11, with Wednesday’s high being just 18 degrees.

“We are getting all kinds of calls. No heat, frozen pipes, blowers are out, you name it.,” said Debbie Widdows, officer manager with Carl G. Valentine & Son Inc.

“We are having to fight our battles. We are not doing regular plumbing work,” said Widdows.

Bill Raymond of William Raymond Plumbing and Heating said it’s the worst he’s seen since the winter of 1983.

“We are swamped. We’re working 16- to 20-hour days,” said Raymond.

“A frozen pipe could wait a bit, but when people have no heat, it has to be taken care of immediately,” said Raymond.

Raymond said they are getting furnaces broken, boilers shutting down, frozen pipes inside and outside and even frozen sewer lines.

“It’s been a real nightmare,” said Raymond.

The plumbers say problems are occurring because furnaces are having to run constantly to heat homes that weren’t constructed for these types of temperatures.

“We haven’t seen a freeze like this in quite a while,” said Raymond.

Raymond said he had been working on a house recently that was vacant and the boilers stopped working. With no one keeping regular watch on the home, the freeze damaged pipes, radiators, washer lines, faucets and the toilet.

Raymond remembers the winter of 1983 all too well.

“We were working 24/7. There was like negative windchills, like minus 20, and it went on for around 30 days,” said Raymond.

Raymond said street after street was frozen up.

“We couldn’t get off one street to get to the next,” he said.

Professional plumbers agree that leaving the cold water faucet run at a trickle is important when the mercury dips below freezing for long periods.

“Moving water is far less likely to freeze. It’s cheaper to run the water in a little stream than to get a plumber’s bill,” said Raymond.

The plumbers say that it really pays to have your plumbing and heating system checked in the fall.

“They (the plumber) can inspect it for potential problems. It’s far less expensive and aggravating to take care of potential problems early,” said Widdows.

Although many plumbers stress getting some heat source into unheated basements, they are also concerned about people misusing heaters.

“They need to use heavy duty extension chords and keep them in the center of the room away from things,” said Widdows.

Widdows said they should never be left running unattended.

The plumbers also warn against using kerosene and “open-flame” style heaters indoors. The danger of fumes or igniting a fire is too high.

Greg Larry can be contacted at

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