Perplexing problems plague northern furnaces

A report on heating-oil system problems in the North conducted by the Yukon government has been completed but not released.

A report on heating-oil system problems in the North conducted by the Yukon government has been completed but not released.

The report was supposed to be public in October.

This leaves many Yukoners, who continue to experience problems with their furnaces, out in the cold.

Matt Wilkie’s Toyo stove had to be repaired three times in one week.

“The fuel pump had failed,” he said.

“It got gummed up with this brown/black gunk that was not captured by any of the filtres.”

The stove broke down during last month’s cold snap.

“It’s not the only source of heat that we have so our house didn’t freeze,” he said.

“But with our back-up heat at 40 below it only keeps it barely above freezing.”

Wilkie and his family had to move into town to live with friends and relatives during the time it took to fix the stove.

“There’s something going on, something has changed in the last 18 to 24 months,” said Wilkie.

“There are more furnaces and Toyo stoves failing or having problems than there were previously, but the reason why is up in the air.”

The Energy Solution Centre’s commissioned a study to examine the problems.

The finished report has not been released.

“No, it wasn’t released and I was quite glad actually that I wasn’t getting calls about it,” said Doug MacLean, a technical consultant with Energy Solution Centre.

“But that doesn’t mean that it has been forgotten — it will be released — we’re just getting organized on how to approach that.”

The consultant isn’t available, explained MacLean.

“The earliest we can get a hold of him is six weeks from now,” said MacLean.

“It’s pretty important to have the person that wrote the report here to answer questions and that sort of thing.”

The only significant change in the last two years, when problems began to occur, is the switch to low-sulphur fuel.

“We’re 99.9 per cent sure that that’s the problem,” said Scott Zaccarelli from Alberta Fuel Distributors.

“The problem was never here before that.”

All the fuel companies are required to sell low-sulphur fuel as the result of a federal law that came into force in September 2006.

Last year, Alberta Fuel received seven complaints about furnace problems.

“From what we’ve seen, the Toyo stove seems to be the one that doesn’t like this new stuff,” said Zaccarelli.

“No one, including the fuel companies, has been able to tell us why it’s happening.”

When Matt Wilkie contacted his fuel distributor, North 60 Petro, they told him that it wasn’t their problem.

There are a few servicemen who habitually blame fuel companies for problems people are having with their stoves, North 60’s customer service told Wilkie.

There were so many complaints that the Energy Solution Centre had to probe the problem.

According to North 60 Petro, the report exonerated the fuel companies and said the problems were actually due to poor stove maintenance.

North 60 Petro did not return calls from the News before press time.

Wilkie’s five-year-old stove had been serviced in October and the previous spring.

This January, was the third time the stove had been serviced 12 months, but it hadn’t been serviced at all previously.

“I heard from the repair technicians that they had encountered similar things in different locations, but they couldn’t say why,” said Wilkie.

“All I know for sure is that there’s something going on.”