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Earlier this year, HRAI’s furnace manufacturers adopted a position to prohibit the use of their furnaces by homebuilders for heating during the construction process prior to occupancy by the homebuyer.  The decision addressed a longstanding concern for these manufacturers and the contractors who install and service furnaces in new homes about the wear and tear on the appliance that occurs during this process and the insufficiency of measures designed to mitigate those effects. A position paper was produced and released to the industry on February 1st.

The manufacturers’ position attracted predictable criticism from homebuilders about the impact the change in policy would have on their construction costs and planning process.  After some consideration of the concerns raised by homebuilders, the manufacturers agreed at a follow-up meeting to postpone the implementation date from September 1, 2016, to May 1, 2017.  They also agreed to some standardized wording that will be included in their manufacturers’ instructions.

Though pleased with the postponement of the effective date, homebuilders still had some outstanding concerns.  On September 20th, HRAI met with representatives of the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) and the Ontario Home Builders Association (OHBA) to address these concerns.  Representing HRAI were: Rick Ellul, HRAI Chair; Dave McPherson, Chair, HRAI Manufacturers Division; Warren Heeley, HRAI President; and Martin Luymes, HRAI Director, Programs and Relations.  Representing the homebuilders were: Bob Finnigan, CHBA President; Neil Rodgers, OHBA President; Eric DenOuden, CHBA 1st Vice President; Rick Martins, OHBA 1st Vice President; Jackie Caille, OHBA Board member; Peter DeBasio, OHBA Board member; and Joe Vaccaro, CEO, OHBA.

Though there were clearly some unresolved issues for the home builders, the meeting was constructive and yielded a better understanding on both sides of remaining concerns and potential solutions.

The homebuilders initially professed ignorance about the furnace performance problems reported by manufacturers that result from their use during the construction process.  They asked for concrete evidence of problems, in the form of data on failure rates, product returns, warranty claims, etc.   HRAI representatives dismissed the request for data on the grounds that furnace manufacturers had taken their decision only after careful consideration of their own internal data.  It was agreed, however, to prepare a more detailed description of the specific effects of construction debris (dust) on system performance, if only to help aid their understanding of the problem.

The only remaining issue for the homebuilders now is the need to have clarity around the definition of when the construction process in a home is deemed to be substantially completed in advance of occupancy.  Among other things, they raised legitimate concerns about the need to circulate air through the home once the home is insulated and sealed, in order to prevent mold development, and they noted that this might need to occur well in advance of occupancy. 

To come to some agreement on the question of when precisely to allow furnace activation, the group agreed to strike a small joint sub-committee of builders and manufacturers and contractors to discuss the matter further with a goal of establishing some guidelines for manufacturers to use in revamping their installation instructions.  The sub-committee will meet in the next month or so.

For more information, contact Martin Luymes at 1-800-267-2231 ext. 235 or email mluymes@hrai.ca.