Furnace repair crews getting a boost in business during bitter cold snap 

Some furnaces, pushed to their limits by days of extremely cold temperatures gripping Alberta, are refusing to choke to life, leaving homeowners to rely on tiny electric heaters to stave off the cold.

Brutal temperatures are killing furnaces, leaving some Albertans in the cold

Cold temperatures, hot demand. The demands for furnace repairs has surged during the cold snap. (Wallis Snowdon/CBC)

Some furnaces, pushed to their limits by days of extremely cold temperatures gripping Alberta, are refusing to choke to life, leaving homeowners to rely on tiny electric heaters to stave off the cold.

A blast of Arctic air plunged the province into a deep freeze over the holiday weekend and the stubborn mass of low pressure refuses to budge.

Keven Lackey, who owns Acclaimed Heating Cooling and Furnace Cleaning in Edmonton, said his crews are working overtime this week to meet a surging demand for furnace repairs.

'The phones are hopping'

"The phones are hopping, all of our guys are hopping, everyone is chipping in where they can," Lackey told CBC News.

He said his business has been fielding more than 100 calls a day since the deep freeze took hold and "it's all hands on deck" to ensure the most urgent repairs are dealt with.

"I think we have issued about 200 space heaters [for] people that don't have heat and are waiting for parts that are sometimes hard to come by these days."

Homeowners should regularly check their exterior vents to ensure they are not blocked by frost, and replace their furnace filters, Lackey said.

Regular maintenance can help prevent cold-snap problems before they start, he said. 

Lackey also recommends people invest in a few space heaters to keep on hand as an emergency heat supply if their furnace quits.

While curling around one for days on end isn't ideal, it's better than watching your pipes freeze, Lackey said.

He said most homes need at least five of them, strategically placed, to do the job while the furnace is out. 

"Space heaters, space heaters, space heaters," he said.  "They are really advantageous to have there on a rainy day."

A brief reprieve?

As of Wednesday morning, the entire province is once again under an extreme cold warning and Albertans are advised to stay inside or risk frostbite within minutes. 

Extremely cold wind chill values between –40 and –45 will continue Wednesday morning throughout Alberta, Environment Canada said.

"Western regions of the province will see a brief reprieve from these conditions later today. However, most areas of Alberta will experience extreme cold conditions for much of this week." 

But that reprieve will be brief, and possibly not much of a break at all. 

The forecast in communities along the western edge of the province calls for daily highs today ranging from in –12 C to –22 C, with biting wind.

Most communities won't get a break until Saturday. Temperatures will become relatively balmy over the weekend before plunging again on Monday.

Environment Canada urges drivers to keep an emergency kit in their vehicle, stocked with warm blankets, winter clothes and jumper cables.

Drivers contending with batteries killed by the cold could be waiting a long time for assistance.

The Alberta Motor Association says there is at least a 40-hour wait for battery boosts in Edmonton, and closer to 50 hours in Calgary. Drivers could be waiting up to 76 hours to get towed by the AMA, depending on location.

The AMA received 7,500 calls for roadside assistance across the province on Monday, and call volumes are up 800 per cent over regular levels.

With files from Emily Fitzpatrick


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