Help! I’ve Got Critters In My Pipes!

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Forget lions and tigers and bears. When it comes to plumbing problems, you should really be thinking about frogs and snakes and squirrels. Oh my!

Believe it or not, some critters can crawl, creep or wriggle their way into your pipes, causing clogs of a truly surprising variety. Animal invasion may be an unlikely plumbing problem, but if it happens, it will probably start with a baffling flood and only end when you grab a broom and frantically sweep the poor offending creature out the door.

HOW DO CRITTERS GET INTO MY PLUMBING?

It all starts with the sewer. Waste water leaves your house and heads to the sewer (or your septic tank) through your plumbing pipes. But most of the time, those pipes are dry, and sewer gases can travel back up them into your home. How do you solve that problem? With something called a stack pipe. This fixture allows sewer gases that may build up in your waste pipes to vent out of the top of your home, ensuring that less-than-pleasant smells don’t make their way back in. Pipes from each of your drains also have traps, or curves, that perform the same function.

Basically, what this means is that you have an open line from the top of your house into your plumbing system. A truly determined (or just confused!) critter can make its way into your pipes from the roof. If it tries hard enough, it can navigate the traps in one of your pipes, making its disoriented egress into your toilet or your kitchen sink.

HOW DO I KEEP THEM OUT?

There’s a simple way to avoid this problem: put either a DIY mesh screen or a store-bought protector on your stack pipes. Fixed!

OH NO! SOMETHING CRAWLED OUT OF MY TOILET!

If you investigate your overflowing toilet and discover something with eyes, you need to know how to handle the critter in question. Read on for a rundown of the most common offenders and how to deal with them.

1. Possums

Believe it or not, a baby possum can easily fit through a stack pipe. If you head to the bathroom and get stopped by your favorite marsupial, don’t try to pick it up! Possums are known for carrying rabies, and they’re biters, to boot. Leave the possum in the potty (and close the lid!), call animal control, and ask the neighbors to borrow their facilities until a professional can deal with the problem.

2. Lizards

If you’re having a particularly dry summer, the lizard population in your yard may be looking for water wherever they can find it — including your plumbing. Most lizards are completely harmless, but they’re fast, and you’ll have a hard time getting your hands on the little guys. Don’t worry. He doesn’t want to be dealing with you any more than you want to be dealing with him! If you give him half a chance, he’ll head for the hills. Just open the back door and sweep him on out.

3. Frogs and Toads

Ribbit! Everyone’s favorite amphibian will likely have a hard time making it to your roof — unless it’s a tree frog, which are prevalent across the southeast, and make their raucous presence known every summer evening. There are six families of frogs in North Carolina, and none of them is harmful, so catch him if you can!

Toads, on the other hand, are potentially poisonous. The invasive cane toad, while rarely deadly, will cause an unpleasant reaction if you touch him and will make your pets sick if ingested. If your jumper is brown and warty, try to catch him with gloves on, trap him inside a bowl, or just get him to jump to the floor so you can sweep him outside.

4. Snakes

This one probably goes without saying, but unless you’re certain that you’re dealing with a harmless species, don’t catch a snake with your bare hands. There are many snake species native to North Carolina, and while some are harmless — the rat snake, for instance — some, like the famous copperhead, are truly deadly. Watch out, in particular, for any snake with variegated color or a triangular head — it’s more likely to be venomous.

GET HELP FAST WITH NEWCOMB AND COMPANY

While we can’t remove your critter, Newcomb and Company can fix your plumbing problem! We even have a 24/7 emergency line for plumbing crises. Whether you need to discuss animal dangers or just schedule regular service,we’ll be glad to hear from you.

Need help? Call now.


The Durham Bulls and Newcomb & Company: Two Triangle Traditions

iStock_000057139416_SmallWhat are some of your favorite thoughts about summer?

If you’re like Newcomb and Company, one of them goes like this:

The sun is shining, the grass glows green, you’ve got a Coke and a hot dog, and there’s a batter up — it’s a perfect day at the ballpark. The Durham Bulls, the Triangle’s well-loved minor league baseball team, are playing. Maybe you’re here because America’s favorite pastime is your favorite, too. Maybe you’ve seen Bull Durham, the 1988 Kevin Costner movie based on the Bulls, and decided to see the action for yourself. Whatever the reason, you sit back as the dust flies on the diamond and think, yup … life’s pretty good.

TWO TRIANGLE TRADITIONS

Newcomb and Company loves the Bulls too, and believe it or not, we have a lot in common. We’re both Triangle institutions; the team that became the Bulls started back in 1902 as the Durham Tobacconists, and they’ve been entertaining Triangle residents in their current form since 1913. That’s more than 100 years of rich history, and you’re a part of it every time you take a seat.

Newcomb and Company’s history doesn’t date back quite that far — but then again, neither does air conditioning! 40 years after the inception of the Bulls, in 1954, Newcomb and Company opened its doors to the newly heated and cooled public. We’ve been the Triangle’s most trusted A/C service company ever since. For those counting, that’s 60 years of innovation and integrity in our field and unparalleled service to residential and commercial customers.

THE TIMES, THEY ARE A’CHANGIN’

Just like the Durham Bulls, Newcomb and Company has changed with the times. The Bulls built a bigger, better ballpark, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, in 1998; a few years later, in 2013, DBAP hosted the largest baseball fan crowd that has ever gathered in our state. Likewise, Newcomb and Company has expanded. We’ve set up shop in Wilmington, and we offer plumbing services to complement our A/C offerings.

So if you wake up in the middle of night to find that your kitchen is wetter than a rainy day on the diamond, give us a call; we provide 24/7 emergency plumbing repairs! And if you get home from the game to find that the heat of the day has followed you into your house, we can help get you back to comfort.

Get an estimate, schedule a service, or give us a call at (919) 862-3000 in Raleigh or (919) 392-2030 in Wilmington. As a full-service repair and maintenance company, Newcomb and Company is here to help you keep what matters most running at its best. After all — you can’t fully enjoy a day with your local sports heroes if you’re worried about home repairs, can you?

Need help? Call now.


How To Prepare For A Hurricane

NewCo-Hurricane_v3-01We live in the South, so come September, we know that hurricane season is around the corner — and it’s not just about hockey! While North Carolina often stays out of the path of the worst of the damage, we’re not always so lucky. Some hurricanes head right for us, and some have been known to turn at the last minute, catching us unaware. (Remember Hurricane Fran? We sure do.)

So it’s a smart move to get and stay prepared for hurricane season. All households should follow hurricane preparedness guidelines that can help them weather the worst of the storms. You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can do as much as possible to minimize your risk of damage or injury.

PREPARING BEFORE A HURRICANE

1) Have an evacuation plan.

If you have time before a hurricane makes landfall and it’s recommended that you evacuate — then do! Everything will run smoothly if you have an evacuation plan in place beforehand. Each family member should know exactly what he or she is responsible for bringing. If you have many children, teach the older ones to get the younger ones ready.

You should also think about where you can go. Do you have out-of-state relatives? Is there a favorite inn out of the storm’s path? Evacuation doesn’t have to be chaos; a little forethought goes a long way.

2) Have an emergency plan.

Sometimes there’s just not time to evacuate. If that’s the case, everyone in your family needs to know what to do. Find a place on the ground floor of your house, or in your basement if you have one. Make sure the location is as far as possible from any windows — hall bathrooms or master bedroom closets are often ideal. Know the location of flashlights, candles, and matches, and take them with you when you get into your emergency location. You should bring any necessary supplies or medications because leaving the shelter while the storm is going on is not a good idea.

If the storm is expected to be particularly bad, you may want to have a mattress nearby. If it looks like your roof is going to be damaged or destroyed, get under the mattress for protection from debris.

3) Keep your trees well trimmed.

It’s easy to let calling the arborist slip off your to-do list again and again, because those sagging tree limbs don’t do you much harm for most of the year. But if a hurricane happens upon your house, you’ll regret your ragged foliage. It’s far too easy for overhanging limbs to snap and fall straight on — or through — your roof or onto cars in the driveway. This can cause tremendous damage to your property, and if you’re still in your home during the storm, it puts every person in your home at risk.

4) Get a portable generator and stock supplies.

If your family is affected by a hurricane, your whole area may be without power, water, or telephone service for quite some time. Public service personnel work hard after natural disasters to get everything up and running, but it can take some time. If you have a portable generator you can power your house enough to keep food from spoiling and to cook for your family — and your neighbors! Stocking gallons of water and lots of canned goods ensures that you’ll have enough food to last you through the disaster if it becomes impossible to leave your neighborhood. Think ahead.

PREPARING FOR AN IMMINENT HURRICANE

5) Cover your windows with storm shutters or plywood.

What’s the most vulnerable point of entry in your home? Your windows. Glass often doesn’t stand a chance against hurricane-strength winds or flying objects, and once your windows are open to the elements, water damage to your floors and drywall is almost certain. Flying glass is also a danger to your family if you’re still in your home during the storm, as are any projectiles that happen through them. And, worst of all, the pressure change inside your homecan lift your roof off or collapse your walls.

If you don’t have storm shutters, nail or screw sheets of plywood to the outside of your house (not your window frames!). Use thick plywood (⅝” should do the trick) and secure the boards to an area several inches wider than your windows on all sides. If you know you live in storm country, it’s a good idea to have pre-drilled holes and correctly sized sheets of plywood on hand at all times. No one wants to be stuck racing to the hardware store the day before a hurricane makes landfall.

6) Secure loose shingles, gutters, downspouts, and the garage door.

The more you can do to secure potential flying objects before a bad storm, the better. Hurricane winds are at least 75 miles per hour, and depending on the severity of the storm can reach as more than 150 miles per hour. Shingles, tree branches, stray yard toys, loose gutters, and even your garage door could become weaponized in winds of that speed, shattering windows and doing tremendous damage to your home. Worse, the breach of an attached garage will cause air pressure changes that can blow your roof off or create cracks in your siding. Nail down or collect any loose objects, on your roof or otherwise, and secure garage doors.

Garage doors in storm-prone areas are required to meet building code requirements in order to stand up to most hurricanes. However, you also need to make sure your mounting area and track are secure with heavy-gauge brackets. If your garage door isn’t up to snuff, secure it with a bracing system — you’ll be able to find a good one at your local hardware store. Likewise, make sure your gutters and downspouts are attached to the house properly.

7) Fill your gas tank.

If a hurricane is headed your way, you may need to get out of town quickly. In the flurry of other preparations, it’s easy to forget that you’ll need gas to get there! Though it’s a good idea in general to keep your gas tank above the halfway-full line, it’s especially important before a storm to top off the tank. Make a stop at the gas station a priority as soon as you hear that a bad storm is on its way.

8) Keep a (paper!) map in your car.

We know — it’s the digital age. Who needs maps when we’ve got smartphones? But in a hurricane, you never know what public utilities may be down. If cell phone towers are offline and you’re trying to get out of town in a hurry, especially if you’re driving to shelter in another state, you need a good old-fashioned paper map in your glovebox.

YOU CAN COUNT ON NEWCOMB AND COMPANY

Once the dust has settled and the trees are cleared off the roads, remember: you can contact Newcomb and Company for help with any damage to your A/C and heating system or your plumbing. In the more than 60 years we’ve been in operation in North Carolina, Newcomb and Company has seen our fair share of bad hurricanes. We know what it takes to get your home back up and running, and we’ll work hard to do it — not just because you’re our customers, but because you’re our neighbors.

In a disaster, a community needs to pull together and get each other through. Newcomb and Company takes our commitment to our community seriously. After the storm ends, our work begins.

Need help? Call now.


Heating & Furnace Maintenace: How Do I Keep My Home From Losing Heat?

NewCo-Fall-IG_V4-1Although it may be hard to imagine while humidity levels are still high, crackling leaves and plummeting temperatures are just around the corner. Think back to years past: have you had problems keeping your house comfortable as the mercury drops? Have you ever felt like you’re spending more energy on trying to save energy than you do on enjoying the vibrant autumn leaves or the onset of football season? If any of this sounds like you, then it’s time for a fall maintenance check-in on how to keep your home from losing heat.

STEP 1: CAULK.

Your home may be your castle, but it’s probably not a fortress. All sorts of external cracks and crannies conspire in the fall to let warm air out and cold air in. The solution to almost all of them? Caulk.

Caulk is a waterproof filler used between two adjoining materials to seal them together. It’s both powerful and cost-effective. There are various kinds of caulk, but you’ll probably want 100% silicone; it’s permanently waterproof, it’s flexible, and it doesn’t shrink or crack. On your next free Saturday, head to the hardware store, grab some caulk (and a caulk gun — trust us on this), and get to work.

Where should you caulk? Basically, wherever you can see sunlight or feel an air draft with your bare hand. Caulk between masonry and siding, at the ingress of pipes or wires to the house, and around window and door frames. (While you’re at it, you might even get around to that tub-sealing project on your honey-do list!)

One more benefit to caulking external cracks in your home: it will prevent further cracking. In the fall and winter, water can get into small spaces and freeze there, creating more damage. So caulk is a solution to both your current and your future weatherproofing problems.

STEP 2: WEATHER STRIP.

The number one cause of energy loss in a home is cracks around the doors and windows. You can solve this problem by weatherstripping.

There are many different kinds of weatherstripping, and your choice will depend on the crevice you’re trying to close. If you can see daylight under your front door, install a door sweep; if the door jambs just aren’t flush, try felt. Secure window sashes with foam tape. Be watchful as the weather cools, and weatherstrip any point of entry at which you feel a draft.

STEP 3: SWITCH YOUR CEILING FANS.

Believe it or not, this simple fix can save you money. Change the direction of your ceiling fans to create an upward draft that redistributes warm air. You’ll feel a little more cozy, which will keep you away from that thermostat.Maintaining one (preferably low) temperature setting all season long will prevent unnecessary overuse of your system — and overbilling of your bank account.

STEP 4: CLEAN YOUR HVAC SYSTEM.

This home maintenance staple is important all year long, but many people don’t get to it until they make their seasonal sweep. If you have forced-air heat, then you rely on your HVAC system to keep your home toasty. A dirty system will have to work harder, reducing energy efficiency.

So if you haven’t taken the time to get into your HVAC system recently and give it a good once-over, make it a priority this fall. You can clean the entire system, not just its machinery; start by changing your air filters and inspecting your ducts for blockages. Then you can move on to checking other system component parts, like heat exchangersor heat pump coils.

Not sure how to do it on your own? Then schedule a maintenance service with Newcomb and Company. It’s an inexpensive way to save yourself a bundle in the long run. Newcomb and Company has been the Triangle’s most trusted provider of home heating services since 1954. When the State Fair rolls around and the Friday night football lights come on, make scheduling your service with us another fall staple!

Need help? Call now.


How Do I Know if My Air Conditioner is Broken or Breaking

Summer has arrived in the Triangle and on the coast! There’s nothing like a warm sunny day in North Carolina to recharge yourself. It’s also nice to be able to come back to a nice cool house and relax after a hot day at the beach or pool.

If you’ve ever had an air conditioning system break in the middle of summer, you know how horrible and uncomfortable it can be. Taking a shower is useless and sleeping comfortably is almost impossible.

You want to head off this trouble before it happens. Each home varies depending on the actual insulation values, ductwork conditions, location of the home with respect to sun exposure, individual user operations, current system design, age, and efficiency of the equipment. Taking all of that into consideration, here are some ways you can determine if your air conditioner may be on its way out.

The Tell-Tale Signs

  • Your digital thermostat’s display is blank or has lost power
  • You hear unusual noises coming from your equipment
  • Water is leaking from your indoor unit (Attic units can leak and cause water stains on the ceiling)

Are you still having trouble? There are some other things you can do to quickly determine if your air conditioning unit isn’t working properly.

Check the Temperature

newcomb-company-residential-air-conditioning1Does it feel hot in your house? Make sure your thermostat is set to Air Conditioning Mode. If it’s two or more degrees warmer in your home than your thermostat setting, the air conditioner should be working. If it’s not, you may have a problem. Sometimes air conditioners can have trouble keeping up if it’s hotter than 93 degrees outside, but most of the time it should be able to maintain your home within a couple of degrees of your setting.

Feel the Air

If you still think something may be wrong with your system, check the air coming out of the supply vents. If the outdoor unit is running and the thermostat is in Air Conditioning Mode, you should feel cold air. If there is considerably less air than normal coming out of the vents, or if the air is warm, there may be an issue. If the outdoor unit is running and there is no air coming out of the vents, this is also a problem.

If this happens, your evaporator coils may be iced over. Be sure to cut off the unit so that it can thaw before a technician arrives.

Change Your Filters

Before you decide to call a technician, check your air filters. Dirty air filters can cause all sorts of problems. Replacing a dirty air filter may fix the issue. Change your filters regularly and keep your system well maintained to extend its life.

Call Newcomb and Company

If you notice one of the problems mentioned above, and changing the air filters doesn’t help, it’s time to call for backup. Newcomb and Company technicians are highly trained professionals, dedicated to finding the most cost-effective and energy efficient options to meet your needs. Contact us today!

Need help? Call now.


Newcomb Was Family: A Trip through Newcomb’s History with Helen Mangum

 

Old-Newcomb-Office-1When Helen Mangum says there’s no better company than Newcomb and Company, she’s passionate. She sits forward in her chair as she talks about her more than 50 years with the business, bright-eyed and spry, reliving the experience as if it were the most fun of her life. And it was.

Helen was the lifelong executive assistant (or, as she points out, “…secretary — we just called them secretaries back then!”) to Charles Allen “Bo” Newcomb, Newcomb and Company’s founder and father of the current president, Robert Newcomb. She saw every bit of the company’s growth from an 11-person team in one cinder block room to a thriving business employing hundreds of people across the state. To her, Newcomb is family.

In January of 1956, just two years after Bo returned to Raleigh with an electrical engineering degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey and got his fledgling company off the ground, Helen walked in Newcomb and Company’s doors for the first time. Air conditioning was a very new technology, and it was rare in Raleigh homes. “In fact,” she explains, “for the first four or five years, most of our business was just heating.”

But in a move that would become characteristic of our innovation, Newcomb took a gamble. Bo Newcomb bet that the thriving new trend would win over the sweltering South … and won. “By the early 1960s, A/C took off. Everybody wanted their house air conditioned,” Helen says, grinning. “In fact, I’ve often said that it was much easier to satisfy a cold customer than a hot customer. People who hadn’t had air conditioning for 50 years would have it for two weeks, and if something went wrong, they wanted someone to come fix it immediately. Right now! They just couldn’t wait!”

And Newcomb “was just as excited as our customers were,” she continues. “We were just so excited to say, ‘We’re installing air in so-and-so’s house today! It was fun!’”

Back then, Helen was a one-woman (and only-woman!) show, fielding every call from every customer, dispatching service providers, keeping the books, scheduling, and in general making sure the business grew in an orderly fashion.

That great pride in her work and in her company still shows. “There was nothing any prettier than a balance sheet in my handwriting. That was pretty work,” she says. “A full year’s work in one sheet, but countless hours getting it onto that sheet. That was pretty work.”

Time brought her new assistants, and the advent of technology turned her balance sheets digital. Newcomb was growing, and Raleigh with it — in the 60 years of Newcomb’s existence, Raleigh has grown from around 65,000 people to more than 400,000. And as Helen says, “we worked hard” to get there. But as the decades have progressed, we’ve kept the small-town values that made us a success in the first place: dedication to good, honest work. Work that people like Helen can continue to be truly proud of.

“There’s no one better,” she says. “Loyalty, pride in our work, and just [doing] a good job. Just a good job” made Newcomb the Triangle’s, and now Wilmington’s, most trusted home service company.

Helen retired in 2009 (do that math — that’s 53 years!), but she’ll tell you that her years at Newcomb meant the world to her. That Newcomb was “protective — like a family.” That Bo Newcomb and every Newcomb employee were “superb.”

At Newcomb today, we strive to make every customer feel about our service the same way Helen feels about her long career with us. We want you to experience superb service from a company dedicated to doing the right thing by every person we encounter, customer and employee alike. We want you to find out what’s kept Newcomb growing and thriving for more than 60 years: employees like Helen, good home service advice, expertise in our industry, and values that matter.

“We were one big happy family,” says Helen. We still are. And we’ll treat you like family, too. If you need home services, give us a call today, and be a part of our history.

Need help? Call now.


Warning Signs Your AC is Getting Ready to Go Out

newcomb-consultationIt’s that time of year again — residents of the sunny South take refuge in their living rooms in the hottest part of the day, thanking their lucky stars for the invention of air conditioning. During the summer, A/C units work overtime, trying to keep homes a comfortable twenty degrees or so cooler than the temperature outside. Is yours working too hard? If you pay attention to these six warning signs, you might catch minor problems before they become heated issues.

1) No cool air.

Let’s start with the obvious: if the air blowing through your vents isn’t cool, you’ve got an issue. Turn off the A/C until you can get a repairman to your house. You may have a refrigerant leak, which could have several root causes, including blockages in your refrigerant lines that will become more severe if your system keeps operating.

2) Poor airflow.

If your airflow feels weaker than usual, it’s probably not just your imagination. Call a repairman and get it checked out. The problem could lie with your unit’s blower fan, or there could be more malignant issues like blockages in your ducts.

3) Water leaks.

In an A/C unit, condensation is simply part of the process. This moisture forms inside your air conditioner, and a drain tube shunts it away. If that tube is damaged or blocked, the water has nowhere to go, and pools will form next to your unit. (If your unit is located on the roof, the first you’ll hear of this may be a leaky ceiling, so double-check your A/C unit occasionally during the hot season to avoid those costly roof repairs!)

4) Bumps and bangs.

If you have to explain to your kids that the scary noise they hear is simply the A/C turning on, you should probably call in the pros. Loose parts or a bad motor could be causing those spooky sounds, and either way, you need to address the problem before it gets worse and interferes with the operation of your A/C unit.

5) Bad smells.

Wondering about that musty scent permeating your living room? Mold or other growth inside your air ducts may be to blame. If your air smells unpleasant, it’s probably not healthy to inhale, so call in reinforcements to diagnose the problem. (If you smell something even more unpleasant, like burning metal, it’s wise to turn off your A/C and call a repairman immediately!)

6) Inaccurate thermostat.

The problem with your A/C might not lie with your A/C. If your thermostat isn’t communicating correctly with your unit, it’ll be hard for even the most industrious blower to stabilize the temperature in your home.

Newcomb and Company has been the Triangle’s most trusted A/C experts for more than 60 years. If your A/C’s acting up, we’ll cool you down. Schedule a service today because your comfort is our business!

Need help? Call now.