Spotty service leaves widow in the cold

When her new oil-burning furnace quit at minus 45 Celsius, Colleen Tyrner wasn’t surprised. The thing had been working intermittently since…

When her new oil-burning furnace quit at minus 45 Celsius, Colleen Tyrner wasn’t surprised.

The thing had been working intermittently since day one.

Tyrner’s kids bought their mom the new furnace in August.

“I am living in this 1975 trailer and the furnace was 35 years old,” said the 64-year-old widow.

“The kids bought me a new one because I don’t have enough money.”

The $3,500 furnace was purchased from Griffiths Heating and Sheet Metal LTD. at a trade fair.

A couple weeks later, Griffiths showed up with the furnace and installed it.

It didn’t work.

“They came back the next day and got it going,” said Tyrner.

But it kept on quitting.

For the next three days, Griffiths came by to work on the furnace every time Tyrner phoned.

On the fifth day, Griffiths didn’t return her calls, she said.

At a loss, Tyrner called Northland Trailer Park manager Don Brewster, who recommended she call the city inspector.

The inspector came out the same day.

“He said the furnace wouldn’t pass the inspection,” said Tyrner.

Brewster recommended Lance Couch from Certified Heating and Services.

He came out the same day, took one look at the copper piping, nine small segments fitted together with valves, and replaced it with one solid piece.

“He was worried about an airlock,” said Tyrner.

“It looked like someone was just trying to use up scrap pipe.”

With her furnace working, Tyrner decided not to buy the new tank she’d ordered from Griffiths and used Certified instead.

Certified also replaced the oil line that runs from the tank to the house.

“After Lance made all these repairs, he called the inspector, who came and inspected it,” said Tyrner.

It passed and things ran relatively smoothly until the cold snap in February, when the furnace quit again.

“I took the top of the furnace off and started pushing the manual button to make it come on again,” said Tyrner.

Certified checked “the sparker,” she said.

It didn’t fix the problem.

So, they called Great Northern Oil to make sure there was no water in the tank or lines.

“We did go and dip the tank for water and there was no water at that time,” said Great Northern manager Don Foster.

“(Great Northern) was great,” said Tyrner.

“They said if they found water they’d cover all my bills.”

But water wasn’t the problem.

A new pump got the furnace going, but two weeks later it quit again, and Tyrner woke up cold.

“It was 3 a.m. and I was freezing my butt off,” she said.

“I got up, pushed the button, called Lance (Couch) and I was just crying so hard I could hardly tell him it wasn’t working.”

Couch came at 6:30 a.m., set the furnace and put in a new thermostat and “a new flicker thing,” she said.

The problems continued but Couch was on holiday, so Fireweed Plumbing and Heating came and put in a new sensor.

Following her warranty instructions, Tyrner took the old pump to Griffiths.

“The guy at the counter said that owner Terry Atkins ‘will never pay you a cent for that,’” said Tyrner.

But Atkins took the pump, and told Tyrner it would be sent to the manufacturer to be processed.

That was more than two months ago, she said.

“And he has never once called me.”

If Griffiths had said it wouldn’t pay, Tyrner could have taken Atkins to small claims court and explained it all to a judge, she said.

“Or I could have sent the pump to the manufacturer myself and said, ‘Can you please pay for this because Griffiths is not honouring the warranty.’”

“As it is, I’m never going to get paid,” she said.

Tyrner, who’s spent over $1,100 dollars on repairs since Griffiths installed the furnace, doesn’t expect to see the money again.

“I have no faith I’ll ever get my money back and I will have to sell the trailer before the pipes burst.”

Unable to retire because of unpaid bills accrued following the sudden death of her husband of 41 years, Tyrner is a single mom trying to help four of her five children get through university.

She can’t afford the furnace repairs, she said.

At wits end, Tyrner phoned the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, to see if there was the equivalent of a better business bureau in town.

But consumers are on their own, she said.

“There’s no better business bureau, no business affiliation or facility,” she said.

“There’s nothing like the Yukon Medical Association, for example, where you can go and gripe about a doctor, and if there’s something to it, they’ll investigate that doctor.”

Tyrner is speaking out because she feels she’s not alone, she said.

“I had a leaky hot-water faucet,” said Tyrner.

“And the plumber quoted me $700 to fix it.”

The trailer park manager came by and fixed it for 50 cents, said Tyrner.

“I feel there are a lot of stories like this,” she said.

The furnace didn’t work because there was water in her fuel, said Atkins, Griffiths’ owner, on Tuesday.

The fuel tank was old and buried underground, he said.

“We put a new furnace in, but we hooked it to her existing fuel tank and lines, and it was a buried tank that had been in for years, and there was quite a bit of water in it.”

The furnace worked the first day, said Atkins.

“I think the second day it was installed it went out,” he said.

“We went back, tightened up the line, fired it up and everything worked fine.

“The following day, I believe, it went down again.

“She called us — I’m not sure the exact dates and times — but for some reason she didn’t get through to us right away, and after that she went and hired somebody else.”

So, Tyrner is out of luck, said Atkins.

“She never did come back to us ever again, so unfortunately for her, because she didn’t contact us, she hired somebody else, they came out and found the tank was full of water, her lines had lots of joints in it — nothing to do with us.”

Once she got a new tank, everything worked fine, he added.

“But her old fuel was pumped into the new tank and it had water in it,” said Atkins.

The water rusted out the fuel pump, said Atkins.

“It didn’t have anything to do with us, because she went somewhere else.

“Originally, if she had just called us, it wouldn’t have cost her a dime — well, until we found water in the tank.”

She’s claiming she’s not getting warranty, but she had water in her fuel tank, which voids the warranty, said Atkins.

When he learned Great Northern inspected it, Akins denied it.

“Great Northern wouldn’t have inspected it,” he said.

“And don’t take anything they said for granted.”

Griffiths sent the pump back to the manufacturer.

“And once they take it apart on their test bench and it’s all rusty, you can’t get rust from fuel, it’s from water,” said Atkins.

“So it’s not that we wouldn’t look after her; we sent the pump to the factory for her, and once they saw water/rust, they denied her warranty.”

And did Atkins call Tyrner and tell her this?

“She just called on Monday, and now she’s had some other problem, but same thing, she hasn’t asked us to come back. “And the warranty item she’s talking about is not covered under warranty because she had water in her fuel.”

Great Northern’s manager had never heard of such a thing.

“Never have I heard a furnace has lost its life due to water in the fuel,” he said, adding that although he doesn’t deal in furnaces, he hears a lot about them.

“All water usually does is damage the nozzle — that costs $10 to replace,” he said.

Although Whitehorse doesn’t have a better business bureau, there is consumer affairs, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

“Our mandate is to educate and advise consumers and businesses on the rights and obligations under the Consumer Protection Act,” said Community Services consumer relations officer Roberta Allen.

“We have offices here and we assist when problems occur in regard to purchases, sales and services.

“We can help resolve disputes and if we can’t, we’ll advise the customer of the avenues of recourse and help them in any way we can.”

A recent Yukon government-sponsored investigation of oil-burning furnaces discovered significant problems with the units throughout Whitehorse.

Of 124 inspections conducted, “a large percentage” are not properly installed or maintained “in accordance with the minimum standards established in the B139 Installation Code for Oil-burning Equipment.”

Not one of the 124 sites completely complied with the code.

“The average number of code infractions per site was 5.5 and the number of significant infractions that either posed an imminent hazard (12 cases) or could reasonably be expected to develop into a hazard in the future was three per site.”

It found a “very low percentage of installers or service technicians are trained and certified as oil burner mechanics.”

The government lacks regulations forcing technicians to hold such a certificate, said the report.

And there’s no government enforcement agency or permit process that requires technicians to be certified, said the report, which was done by NRG Resources Inc.

It cited a lack of government regulations forcing technicians to hold such a certificate as a reason they don’t.

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

A draft plan has been released by the Dawson Regional Use Planning commission on June 15. Julien Gignac/Yukon News
Draft plan released by the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission

Dawson Regional Land Use Commission releases draft plan, Government of Yukon withdraws additional lands from mineral staking in the planning region

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Let them live in trailers

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read