Many plumbing and heating companies are keenly aware they are about to get extra busy with the unseasonably cold weather across the Prairies.
According to Ted Knight, owner of Calgary’s Day and Knight Plumbing and Heating, cold weather can cause extra strain on things like furnaces, hot water tanks and even older toilets.
“Toilet tanks that hold water can get waterlogged because water sits in them for years,” he said. “That water will eventually saturate into the porcelain, which isn’t such an obvious problem when it is warm outside.”
Knight said those aging toilets face an additional challenge when the temperatures start to get 10°C to 20°C below zero because the groundwater that enters our homes will also be colder.
“Groundwater coming into our houses can be as cold as one or two degrees Celsius, but the water in our tanks is usually closer to room temperature. That difference in temperature can actually crack the tank when a toilet gets flushed and the new, colder water fills the tank.”
He likened it to what happens when you take a glass out of the dishwasher that is still hot and pour cold water into it.
A similar problem can happen to an older hot water tank after someone has a bath or shower and drops the water level in the system.
“Over time, the inside of the tank will start to erode and weak areas just can’t handle that shock as well as they used to.”
The first day of a cold snap and then again about the third day into a cold snap, Knight said he sees an increase in calls about furnaces that are not working.
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In newer furnaces, the problem can be a simple solution; furnace filters that have not been changed, a dirty flame sensor, or an automatic lockout.
“A furnace will try three times to light and if it doesn’t light, it goes into lockout mode. Essentially the furnace will stop trying to fire up until the computer gets reset.”
Knight said changing your furnace filter regularly plays a key role in avoiding those emergency phone calls during cold spells.
However, cold weather can also just cause furnaces to finally die, since there are so many moving parts that have to work extra hard for a longer period of time.