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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.

Leslie Yager October 22, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I love the tactic "The special price is only good today." To make a $6,000 decision on the spot like that is crazy.
Amelia Bonacorso October 23, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Thank you for writing about this subject. My experience with using our local utility company to check and service a gas furnace is a very affordable and comes with the advantage of having a well known trustworthy company that will stand behind their service.

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