The Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning phone kept ringing for days. This week, the Austin-based company has about 1,000 calls flowing into it every day.
Founder and CEO Brad Casebier says his company’s phone system has received the same outbound message for as long as he can remember: boilerplate information thanking people for calling and asking them to keep it short. That changed this week.
The Austin-based company received about a 500% increase in calls this week, leading to a new message. Customers are asked not to call back for information on their job specifications (all will be called 24 hours prior to their assigned appointment) and they are thanked for their “patience and grace in dealing with this disaster together.”
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The calls regarding frozen and broken pipes were confirmed this week as many of the beaming plumbers were excluded from the treacherous weather conditions. Customer service representatives worked in a triage function, taking customer information and creating a schedule for when work actually started. When the few trucks that could make service calls hit the road earlier in the week, Casebier said the neighbors would turn to his plumbers with inquiries.
“Everyone has a problem right now,” said Casebier. “It’s really stressful and so frustrating not to be able to help, but we’re really excited to be full on Friday.”
Casebier said he planned to use the entire team on Friday to fix burst pipes, along with extra hands usually working on plumbing and drains, after a storm he says will cause unprecedented damage. Customers with the most pressing needs would be given priority. He said Thursday that appointments were scheduled in about three weeks and that he expected the delays to increase.
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“That could take a month. Friday is going to be terrible, ”said Casebier, adding that some issues take hours and others a full day. “If we made 100 calls on Friday, I would be very excited.”
Radiant used their plumbers for virtual calls earlier in the week and charged $ 20 for 15 minutes of phone or video chat time to guide clients through their problems. However, the demand was so overwhelming that they discontinued the service.
How To Tell If You Have Frozen, Broken Water Lines
If temperatures are finally above freezing for a long period of time, Casebier says many homeowners will discover burst pipes and fear the worst for tankless water heaters that are likely to be damaged.
If people suspect they have frozen pipes, Casebier suggests that they turn their water off at the source near the road so they can control when to turn the water back on as the pipes thaw and the water flows , and monitor where there may be leaks. Even after turning off the water, homeowners should open the taps to relieve the pressure in the pipes.
Casebier says cracked pipes cause a potentially noticeable hiss, and water spray or leakage is also an obvious indicator.
What if you have a water leak or flood?
Once customers realize they definitely have a leak, they should turn off their water and wait for the plumber to make repairs. Due to the huge delays in service calls, homeowners could solve problems like minor cracks by installing small faucets from companies like SharkBIte as a stopgap before getting professional help.
If someone had a leak or flood after turning off the water, Casebier said the customer should focus on drying the affected area.
“This is super important: if you have water in your home, it’s very important to get every drop you can,” said Casebier. “Trapped moisture causes mold. You can pull up your baseboards and even cut a little bit of the sheetrock and let the wall breathe. Putting fans in is helpful, but you want to be very targeted. “
Why do water pipes burst anyway?
Some have wondered why areas in other parts of the country that are regularly exposed to severe weather don’t suffer the same damage that we see in Austin.
“We just have different building standards because this only happens every 100 years. We don’t have to go to great lengths to isolate it, ”said Casebier.
Austin homes only have to bury their water pipes a foot under the dirt. Cities with much colder climates have regulations that require pipes to be laid 6 to 8 feet underground. Casebier said the breakage and loss statistics will be released in the coming weeks and may require a reassessment of Austin plumbing and plumbing regulations.
“I think we should definitely consider improving some of these standards,” said Casebier.