Homeowners find green heating units can't take the cold
During February's bitter chill, some Chapel Hill homeowners found that the homes they bought with the environment in mind could not keep up. Their brand-new heating systems suddenly stopped working when it got too cold!Posted — Updated
At first the complaints were a trickle, but 5 On Your Side discovered the problem could end up affecting thousands of homeowners.
After 5 On Your Side raised questions, the builder, manufacturer, installer and building inspectors all amped up the search for a solution for some irate homeowners.
Carolyn Carlo thought her move to Briar Chapel would yield a trouble-free and environmentally responsible retirement. Then, during the winter of 2014, her heating system failed. Condensation on her furnace froze the unit.
Carlo's neighbor, Eugene Stern said his indoor temperature dropped to 51 degrees.
Just as ridiculous, they say, was the solution that builder MI Homes offered for Carlo and Stern.
"Go outside of the house, and take a bucket of hot water, and, umm, pour it on the pipe," Stern described.
He didn't dare. "I couldn't walk here with a cane," he said.
MI Homes spokesmen told Carlo to wrap her exterior pipes.
"I got a big beach towel and I wrapped the pipe with tape and everything," she said. "Why should I be doing that in the blizzard weather?"
Both Carlo and Stern called MI Homes and the furnace installer, Yellow Dot, several times. The companies were responsive, but their solutions were confusing.
Stern said workers did something with hair dryers, while at Carlo's home, an MI Homes representative installed a pipe in her garage for drainage, then asked her to empty it multiple times a day.
Even after the fixes, the heating unit still froze.
Worse, Chatham County Chief Building Inspector Tim Sawyer said the added pipe is not up to code.
"If something happens, you're gonna dump it in the garage. You can't do that. So that's totally wrong," he said.
5 On Your Side contacted all the companies involved.
The local president of MI Homes, Ed Kristensen, said, "It's a painful admission we failed to do the right thing. We now acknowledge we have a problem. We're going step up and correct it."
Kristensen said it was 5 On Your Side that really drove the company to investigate their installation requirements.
Carrier, the maker of the furnaces, was unaware of the problems in Briar Chapel. A spokesman there said they'd work with YellowDot, the installer, on a solution.
MI's Kristensen and Chatham County inspectors agreed that connecting the furnace drain to an interior drain, such as in a bathroom or laundry area, could solve the problem and keep houses in code compliance.
"It's unconscionable that we have been going through this for two years," Carlo said.
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