State Offers Tips on Avoiding Furnace Fraud

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Furnace salesman Tom Williams does a lot of things in the winter to drum up business for A-1 Mechanical.

"We send out mailings, we run adds in print," said Williams.

But Williams won't be ringing your doorbell anytime soon.

"We don't go door to door," said Williams.

"If someone shows up at your door offering mechanical contracting services you should me suspicious," said Irvin Poke, director of Michigan's Bureau of Construction Codes (BCC).

Poke knows there are some bad contractors out there.

"Instead of addressing the problem, they want to sell you more than you need," said Poke.

That's why the BCC has a few helpful tips this winter to keep you from getting scammed. They recommend getting three independent written estimates, asking a lot of questions, being aware of door-to-door contractors and always checking the contractor's license.

It's not enough to just make sure that the license is valid though. There are 15 classifications of licenses, so making sure your chosen contractor has the right one is critical.

"If somebody is performing heating duct cleaning, they need to have a heating service license," said Kevin Kalakay, Chief of the BCC's Mechanical Division.

Speaking of cleaning heating ducts, the BCC also says you should never hire anyone who tries to clean them with a Shop-Vac vacuum. Contractors WILX spoke to say that cleaning ducts takes much larger equipment, generally a trailer or truck with a high volume vacuum system.

"What they're going to do with a Shop-Vac is they're cleaning out the registers," said Poke. "You can do that with a regular vacuum cleaner yourself."

Regardless of your heating needs this winter, Poke says a healthy skepticism is your best friend when it comes to avoiding furnace fraud.

"Just be a smart consumer," said Poke. "If it doesn't feel right, it doesn't sound right, it probably isn't right. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

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