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Connecticut BBB Offers 5 Tips to Avoid Getting Burned by Furnace Fraud

A malfunctioning heating system can be potentially dangerous, though some furnace repair businesses – including oil companies – may say a furnace is leaking carbon monoxide when it isn’t.

 Get a Second Opinion to Avoid Losing Thousands of Dollars

Connecticut Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers about tactics used to trick property owners into spending thousands of dollars for unnecessary furnace repairs or replacement.

While most furnace repair and oil company furnace maintenance services are honest, reputable and fair, others use fraud and scare tactics to get consumers to pay for new heating systems, even when they are functioning properly.

“Consumers should not allow themselves to be rushed into making a decision to replace their furnace based on the opinion of one service call assessment,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti. 

A malfunctioning heating system can be potentially dangerous, though some furnace repair businesses – including oil companies – may say a furnace is leaking carbon monoxide when it isn’t.  A reputable serviceman will use a meter to measure emissions and airflow to verify the safety of a unit.

BBB offers the following tips to ensure you don’t get fleeced by disreputable operators:

  • Always get a second or third opinion as to whether repairs or replacement are needed.  All bids should be in writing and provide a full description of services provided and materials used.
  •  When considering a bid, compare more than cost. Check the size and efficiency rating of the equipment each bidder proposes, and then ask how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system. If you are told your furnace must be replaced because it is too small, think back to whether it has ever failed to properly heat your home.  If you do buy a furnace, don’t waste money on a unit that is unnecessarily large for the size of your home.
  • Check the warranty on your heating system. Many of them come with long-term warranties.  If you determine repairs or replacement is necessary, select a contractor with a solid reputation for dependable, reasonably-priced work.

 Ask friends, neighbors and family members for recommendations, and check out any company you’d like to hire at www.bbb.org for a business review.

In some cases, a serviceman may claim that your furnace has cracks inside, or is leaking dangerous fumes, and may write a report or estimate that stipulates “System unfit for safe operation. Unit shut off and left off.”

If you or family members have been suffering headaches or dizziness since you turned on your heating system, those symptoms may indeed indicate reason for concern, in which case, leave the furnace off until it can be properly inspected.

Soot on surfaces, on carpets and around air inlets is an indication of a malfunctioning unit, but may be caused by an old gasket rather than cracks in the furnace itself.

Do not hesitate to call your local fire department or public utility if you heat with natural gas, and ask a serviceman to inspect your system.  If you believe you are in physical danger, leave your home until your heating system is checked out.

 

-Submitted by Howard Schwartz Executive Communications Director Connecticut Better Business Bureau

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Daniella Ruiz October 24, 2012 at 02:28 PM
darned right i get a headache every time i turn my #2 oil fired furnace on! just thinking about how much i'm going to have to fork over for that smelly, red colored liquid gives me one! and the opportunity to have some 20 ish dude in overalls charge me $150 to run his vacuum and take out the soot, squirt a little grease here and there, swap out my yarn wound oil filter, eyeball the spark gap, and shove his automatic probe into my stack to measure my emissions, that also gives me a headache! way overpriced, i can tighten my belt and push my reset button just fine!
Harry October 24, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Oil fired furnace, don't skip the maintenance, you don't want to fall asleep one night and never wake up. Find someone you can trust. I used to use Town Line Oil out of Wethersfield before moving to a home with Natural Gas. Never had any issues with them, service was great, techs honest. If the price is too high, ever think about asking them to do it for less? Please don't skip the service on your furnace, it will save your life, pets family etc..
Jim G. October 24, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Not to mention money. A poorly maintained furnace/boiler and heating system will burn a considerable amount of unnecessary fuel. The point of the article is good - there are many seamy companies in the business and "duct cleaning" is a 99% scam. But none of that is any argument against regular professional maintenance and checkup on your heating system.
Daniella Ruiz October 27, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Its good to have CO (Carbon Monoxide) detector/monitors located in both the furnace area as well as the living spaces, as i do indeed. also, a yearly inspection of 'air leaks' around stacks, accessible brick chimneys, and plenums is desirable. having a positive ventilation path that always pulls enough combustion air from outside, rather than from inside (creating a negative pressure), prevents any errant leaking combustion products from being drawn back into the home is important. an air tight home is not always the best, as it prevents naturally occurring humid air from escaping, thus causing other problems. humans emit natural water in the form of exhaled air, and from cooking, clothes washing, hot showers, and other water sources.

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