DFW Goes Plumb Crazy During COVID-19 Crisis

You think COVID-19 is scary? Try a Texas summer without a working air conditioner.
You think COVID-19 is scary? Try a Texas summer without a working air conditioner.
H Padleckas / Wikimedia Commons
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Advice from DFW plumbers during the COVID-19 crisis: stop flushing weird stuff down the toilet.

Because of our bizarre, virus-fueled run on toilet paper, many area residents are being forced to resort to alternative options. Kleenex. Wet wipes. Paper towels. Napkins. No reports yet of leaves or corn cobs, but we’re only in Day 5 of “shelter in place,” so stay tuned.

Reminder: There is no viable substitute for toilet paper.

“Some of those things may be biodegradable, but they don’t break down as well as toilet paper when immersed in water,” says Berkeys Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical president Jamie Wooldridge.

Adds Baker Brothers president Jimmie Dale, “We’re getting about twice as many calls (for clogged toilets) as usual.”

COVID-19’s gnarly tentacles are presenting “essential” businesses with a variety of quandaries.

As temperatures flirt with 90 degrees Thursday, HVAC service repair experts are the first responders to air-conditioning units being kicked on for the first time after winter hibernation. Those service calls are being made to potentially dangerous environments contaminated with coronavirus.

Along with adhering to the CDC’s guidelines of wearing protective masks/shields and gloves and remaining 6 feet apart during calls to homes and businesses, companies are taking extra measures to disinfect equipment between jobs and implement touchless transactions.

“When possible, we’re having customers simply read us the credit card number,” Wooldridge says. “Instead of passing the card back and forth between hands.”

Wooldridge says that if a customer tells Berkeys that they’re under quarantine or exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19, they’re asked to reschedule. Still, even without warning there is risk upon entering homes or businesses and touching multiple shared spaces with strangers.

“The fact is that the techs cannot only become infected, but also spread it to other places and other people,” Dale says. “That’s the part that really scares them and scares us. That’s why we’re being extra cautious and vigilant.”

Not surprisingly — in light of the airborne virus — there is also an uptick in inquiries regarding air purification systems.

Industry experts tout the Captura HEPA, which is advertised to trap viruses, germs, bacteria and allergens with a 99.7% efficiency, and the REME HALO, which claims to successfully defend staph (MRSA), SARS and E. coli by eliminating “sneeze germs” up to 3 feet.

Neither system has been tested specifically against COVID-19.

“But we haven’t come across anything that it can’t handle,” says Rene Luna, a representative of The Partners Group HVAC, which distributes to a four-state area including Texas. “We represent 16 other products, but this is the one people are asking for.”

Luna says demand for HALOs has risen “one thousand percent” in the last two weeks.

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