WESTERLY — As the mercury plunges lower, calls to plumbing professionals like Ron Zanella increase.
Zanella, the owner of Zanella Plumbing and Heating on Oak Street, said he’s been inundated with calls from customers who say their pipes have frozen during the current bitter cold snap.
“This weekend was really bad. We worked straight through the weekend,” he said.
Temperatures struggled to reach 20 degrees for a high during the weekend. Lows were in the single digits.
Zanella estimates that when it gets colder, with temperatures in the single digits, he and his five-person crew respond to between 25 and 30 calls for service each day.
Even piping that’s indoors but exposed to a dwelling’s exterior walls could suffer when the wind chill is factored in, Zanella said.
“Another problem is when there’s a loss of heat in the home,” such as from a power loss, he said. “We have lots of seasonal customers, and if a home’s not checked periodically to make sure it has heat, it can take as little as eight hours for pipes to freeze up.”
Plumbing companies such as Zanella’s and nearby Ceil Plumbing and Heating in Stonington can employ an electric thawing machine for copper pipes, Zanella said.
The process of thawing pipes takes 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how frozen they are, he said.
“It sends a current along the pipes and heats them up,” he said.
Local fire departments also responded Tuesday to calls of water emergencies, which typically are pipes that freeze, burst and flood basements, Ceil Plumbing owner Debbie Ceil said.
“Most of our calls are for frozen pipes, but we do get a few that have burst when peoples’ heat isn’t working,” she said.
By Tuesday afternoon, Ceil had responded to eight calls for frozen pipes, and received an additional 10 voice messages for similar problems. The company dispatches two trucks, each with a crew of two and its own thawing machine.
Over the holiday weekend, Ceil Plumbing and Heating responded to emergency calls both Sunday and Monday.
Preventive maintenance goes a long way to avoiding situations where pipes could freeze or burst, plumbers said.
“Having your heating system serviced in the spring or fall can head off a lot of issues,” Ceil said.
Zanella recommended leaving both hot and cold faucets open slightly, to keep a minimal trickle of water flowing through pipes to prevent freezing.