It’s cold outside and your heat cuts off! It’s a problem most of use will probably encounter at some point in time. Don’t get burned when it comes to having a furnace doctor make a house call to your home. Your local Better Business Bureau has some tips to assist you in avoiding being ripped off or overspending when it comes to furnace repair and maintenance.
· Check Before You Call
Before you call a repairman, there are a few things to look at that you may be able to fix yourself before spending money on a service call.
First off, be sure that your pilot light is on; if it’s gone off for some reason, you’ll have instructions likely pasted on the side of your furnace for lighting the pilot light. Be sure, too, that your thermostat is clean and is reading the temperature correctly, as a faulty thermostat could fool you into thinking there’s something wrong with the furnace. Also make sure that your furnace’s air filters don’t need to be changed. Sometimes the fix is as simple as buying and inserting a new air filter. Check your owner’s manual for details on other routine maintenance you may be able to perform yourself.
· Call a Professional
Once you’ve checked all that basic stuff, don’t attempt to do anything further on your own. You’re likely to further damage your furnace trying to fix it yourself, which will end up costing you more in the end. You could also potentially injure yourself very seriously, as furnaces run on very flammable elements.
Contact the Better Business Bureau to check out a business before you invite them to your home. Look for a BBB Accredited Business on our online directory. BBB Accredited Businesses must meet and abide by the Better Business Bureau’s standards and agree to participate in the BBB’s dispute resolution program if a problem arises with a customer.
Any reputable heating and cooling contractor will be licensed by the State of Michigan and carry identification with them when making a house call. Never allow anyone making a service call to your home inside without providing the proper credentials.
Make sure that you understand if your furnace’s warranty mandates specific requirements for selecting a contractor who conducts repairs to ensure that who you select does not void your warranty or charge you for service that should otherwise be covered by another company.
· Beware High Pressure Sales Pitches
Keep in mind that while most furnace companies are reputable, competent, and fair; others may tell you that your furnace needs to be repaired or replaced when it really does not. Some may use high pressure tactics, such as telling you that your system is leaking dangerous gases that could explode or poison those inside the home.
Don’t be scared into buying a new furnace or authorizing unneeded expensive repairs to your existing heating system. If you have questions about the safety of your home, call your local utility and ask them to inspect the situation. DTE/MichCon customers should call 800-947-5000. Consumers Energy customers should call 800-477-5050. If you believe you may be in physical danger do to a furnace malfunction or gas leak, leave your home until the situation is fully checked out.
If you are told that your furnace needs to be replaced because it is too small, think back to the last time it failed to properly heat your house. When purchasing a furnace, you should base its size on the demands of your household and the square footage of your home. Don’t waste money on a furnace that is more powerful, and more expensive, than you actually need. Research the size and efficiency of the equipment and ask the contractor to explain specifically why they are recommending a particular sized furnace.
Also be wary of offers for “free” furnace inspections. Often times these will lead to recommendations of other work that needs to be done, sometimes necessary and sometimes not.
The most important first step when it comes to furnace repairs is not to panic. Be sure to check the warranty on your system to see whether any repairs or replacements are covered. Remember that many heating systems come with long-term warranties. Check your warranty to review what it covers, for how long, and who will honor it.
· Get Multiple Estimates
Always try and get at least two estimates before you authorize work to be done to your heating system or purchase a new furnace. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. If a new furnace is being installed, the estimate should include a full description of additional work required for the installation of ducts, registers, electrical wiring, and the repair of adjacent surfaces. Compare more than costs, also evaluate the quality of the equipment and the value of any warranties offered. Note that not every warranty is the same so it is important to understand the terms and conditions when doing your pricing comparisons.
Remember to also check out the businesses with the Better Business Bureau and compare the customer service histories and ratings listed in their BBB Reliability Reports.
· Get It In Writing
Always get a contract before authorizing work on your furnace. Read the contract thoroughly and understand it before signing it. The contractor you choose should provide at least one call back service free of charge after repairs or installation to check the work. Make sure that this is written into the Agreement. Also make sure any warranties on the work are referred to in the contract. You may also want to see if you can purchase a service contract that will provide you with an annual furnace inspection and additional future maintenance.
The best way to avoid disputes over what is or isn’t expected from a home improvement job is to write out the details in a contract. Remember the more thorough the contract is, the better protected you are in the case a complaint or a dispute arises with the furnace doctor you have selected.
For more advice and consumer tips from your Better Business Bureau, visit us at www.facebook.com/myBBB.