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Furnaces cause grief in Whitehorse homes

In Whitehorse, home furnaces and heating stoves are often not up to snuff.In 2007, Yukon housing inspectors found widespread problems with the…

In Whitehorse, home furnaces and heating stoves are often not up to snuff.

In 2007, Yukon housing inspectors found widespread problems with the installation and maintenance work on home furnaces and stoves.

“It’s no big surprise really to most people,” said Energy Solutions Centre technical consultant Doug MacLean.

“The results of our survey really are showing that there’s a problem.”

The centre visually inspected the furnaces and heating stoves of 124 Whitehorse houses, beginning last winter.

In the spring, many complaints about malfunctioning fuel pumps were sent to the media, to fuel suppliers and to the government.

This caused Energy Solutions staff to examine the problem more closely.

Almost every house had a problem, said MacLean.

So they doubled the size of the investigation.

“It would be more impressive — or more effective — that way,” said MacLean.

Last winter, a number of Yukoners reported a slew of malfunctioning furnace fuel pumps and clogged or clicking Toyo stoves and Monitor portable heaters.

Initially, low-sulphur fuel was blamed, especially after a CBC report in January about furnace problems in Hay River and Yellowknife.

In June, several heating contractors noted that one popular brand and model of fuel pump — Suntec pumps used on Beckett heating systems — were failing at above-acceptable rates.

“If we went through we could probably find the same thing (that Suntec pumps specifically are failing), but we weren’t looking specifically for that,” said MacLean.

Several  contractors and homeowners also suspected that low-sulphur fuel was either creating or exacerbating furnace and stove troubles.

However, Energy Solutions staff believe the introduction of low-sulphur fuel is a scapegoat, blaming shoddy workmanship and improper maintenance on the systems instead.

Homeowners should seek the services of a government inspector if they are concerned about their furnaces, said MacLean.

He would not recommend or condemn any specific contractor.

MacLean was aware of the survey’s initial findings in June, and was considering releasing the information.

The final survey report will not be released until October, leaving homeowners with little time to act on its recommendations.

“That’s getting into the heating season and people are going to want to know,” said MacLean.