Heating things up can be a struggle during cold snap
A frigid air mass has north central Kansas locked in its grip, with near-record low temperatures and a wind-chill factor that is downright frightening.
Concordia is on the verge of seeing its sixth straight day of temperatures below 0.
A weakened polar vortex allowed Arctic weather extremes and bone-chilling temperatures to flood south from the North Pole, and it's wreaking havoc on the heating systems and plumbing of homes and businesses.
The phones at Hood Heating Air Plumbing & Electric have been ringing off the hook.
"It really started once the temperature hit single digits," said Luke Hood, the Vice President of Operations.
"It becomes a much worse problem when the cold just lingers like this," added John Hood, the owner of the company.
John explained that most heaters in Kansas use a design criteria based on BTU loss or gain in a temperature range of 95 degrees to zero degrees.
A BTU - or British Thermal Unit - is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
"Your location in the United States determines what is considered a normal summer and winter range for your system," John said. "In North Dakota, the bottom is probably -20. Here in Kansas the bottom range is zero, and when it drops to -14, heating systems have a hard time compensating for that extra 14 degrees of temperature against the designed criteria."
In a nutshell: when it gets this cold your furnace struggles to keep up.
With a second office in Manhattan, Hood Heating and Air covers a wide swath of Kansas and southern Nebraska. "A week ago Sunday is when it started to hit," Luke said. "Our Manhattan office had 25 calls that day. Here in Concordia, we had about 15 calls."
Hood has technicians on call 24/7, but sometimes it's not as easy as replacing a loose wire or restarting the pilot light. "A lot of times we have to wait on a part," Luke said, "and with the way deliveries are now it can be frustrating for a customer."
Like most all heating and plumbing companies, Hood Heating & Air is dealing with a two-fold problem compounded by the frigid weather. "Parts manufacturers were shut down or forced to slow production at their factories because of COVID-19 and the lockdown," John explained. "So now we have a shortage of parts. With this weather, there's an even higher demand for a fewer number of parts, so it's kind of a double-whammy."
With temperatures in north central Kansas plummeting to frigid numbers usually seen in Alaska or Siberia, plumbing is taking the worst beating.
City crews have already been dealing with leaks and breaks in water mains. Worse still, water lines to homes and businesses are freezing up.
"Once the main water line or sewer line going to your house freezes," John said, "you're pretty much at the mercy of Mother Nature. You need it to warm up. Unfortunately, as long as this cold hangs around, the problem is just going to get worse."
Standard preventive measures do help in times like this: let your faucets run a little, and open up the cupboards under sinks to let the warm air in there.
Until the current freezing weather departs, residents must hunker down and ride it out, pray their pipes don't freeze, and brace themselves for a sharp increase in their next heating bill.