Furnace Rental, Asbestos, Pipes


Dear David,
Our natural gas supplier offered to rent us a new furnace. It sounds like a good deal, what do you think? – Warm & Toasty

DEAR W&T: My concerns with choosing to rent a furnace are the possible complications when you decide to sell your home. In my experience, potential buyers are often taken aback by the discovery of a rental furnace. Because the furnace is a component that tends to be included with the purchase of a home in our area, buyers have generally come to expect that the unit will be owned. Historically speaking, if you are put in a position where you need to buy out a rental furnace as part of the sale, the terms are rarely equitable. You may find the cost to be excessive, so check out the terms before signing up.

If paying for a new furnace is not affordable for you right now, it may be better for you to finance the expense over a few years, rather than choosing to rent. A number of furnace retailers have excellent financing options. If you have a line of credit on your home, using it for this purpose is another low-interest option. We would be happy to recommend someone to help you explore this option.

Dear David,
What is vermiculite insulation? I heard it has asbestos in it. — Concerned

DEAR CONCERNED: Vermiculite is a lightweight, fireproof and odourless granular insulation that was widely used from the 1940s through the 1980s, but has not been available in Canada for over a decade. The vermiculite sold in North America was generally produced by two mines, one of which (Libby Mine in Montana) was discovered to have asbestos contamination. If you have vermiculite insulation in your home, there is a possibility it could contain asbestos.

If left undisturbed, vermiculite is rarely seen as a safety issue. Even if it contains asbestos, the fibres only become dangerous once they are airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs. If you discover vermiculite in your home, don’t touch it. There are number of reputable remediation companies in our area that can manage testing, and if necessary, vermiculite removal. I would be happy to recommend one to you.

Dear David,
We have some galvanized pipes in our house, what’s the problem with them? – Unsure

DEAR UNSURE: Before copper water pipes became popular, galvanized pipes were the norm. Made of steel with a protective zinc coating, they were meant to prevent corrosion and rust. If your residential water supply is acidic, it can have the opposite effect: water with low pH can corrode galvanized pipes from the inside and cause them to clog and potentially leak…or even burst.

It’s often impossible to tell if there are issues with galvanized pipes by looking at them from the outside. Symptoms of corrosion include rust around the pipe joints, lower-than-usual water pressure, and brownish-coloured water if taps have not been run for some time.