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Homeowner’s furnace vent freezes, shutting off heat; issue deemed not a defect

The furnace vent travels up from Milan Sengupta's basement, to the back of his home above the detached garage, nearly 12 feet off the ground. He says during December's cold snap, ice built up inside the pipe, leading to the furnace turning off and to the freezing of his windows and front door. The furnace vent travels up from Milan Sengupta's basement, to the back of his home above the detached garage, nearly 12 feet off the ground. He says during December's cold snap, ice built up inside the pipe, leading to the furnace turning off and to the freezing of his windows and front door.

A Calgary man says his furnace vent constantly freezes up when temperatures dip below -20 C, which then shuts off power to his furnace.

"The homeowner has to come out and climb on a ladder and get to that pipe and try to clean it inside and sometimes it takes more than 30 minutes to clean that," Milan Sengupta said.

"The risk of falling and having an injury, or even death for that matter, is very high."

Sengupta purchased his brand-new townhome in the community of Crestmont in 2021.

The furnace vent travels up from his basement, to the back of his home above the detached garage, nearly 12 feet off the ground.

He says during December's cold snap, ice built up inside the pipe, leading to the furnace turning off and to the freezing of his windows and front door.

He was tasked with de-icing the pipe, on a slippery, sloped back alley.

"To avoid this, one has to apparently (clear the pipe) every two to three days," Sengupta said.

"So my point is, even if I'm able to do it, what about somebody who's a senior citizen or somebody who has a disability? I mean, how does that make any sense?"

The furnace vent travels up from Milan Sengupta's basement, to the back of his home above the detached garage, nearly 12 feet off the ground. He says during December's cold snap, ice built up inside the pipe, leading to the furnace turning off and to the freezing of his windows and front door.

In a statement, the builder, Trico Homes, says they have investigated the issue, finding no defects with the vent.

"During periods of extreme cold temperatures, ice build-up from condensation on the exterior venting outlets can occur," said Glenda Schwartz, director of marketing.

"It is suggested that homeowners check this venting to ensure that it stays clear of ice and debris and is considered part of a homeowner’s winter maintenance.

"In April 2022, the homeowner filed a claim with the Alberta New Home Warranty Program. An assessment was completed, and in June 2022 a claims assessment report was filed advising both Trico and the homeowner that no defect was found, and no action was required."

Alberta's New Home Warranty Program says it is familiar with Sengupta's claim but cannot provide specific details to the case, for privacy reasons.

"A thorough on-site inspection was completed and a Claims Assessment Report containing our decision was sent to the homeowner," said Byron Moore, vice-president of operations.

"As detailed in the report, from the inspection it was determined that no repair was required as there was no defect as defined in the Home Warranty Insurance Policy, Alberta’s Construction Performance Guide and applicable legislation."

Moore adds there are strict guidelines the warranty program follows.

"We understand that the rules and regulations we base our decisions on may not meet all homeowners' expectations for quality of construction or for issues that are excluded or exempt from coverage."

Moore says Sengupta can proceed with the next level of the dispute resolution process under section 519 ("DRP") of Alberta's Insurance Act and the Home Warranty Insurance Policy.

Sengupta says he’s frustrated this is an issue on a newly built home.

"I understand it's built to code, but there is also something called common sense, which I would imagine, the authorities and the builder would have applied," he said. 

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