Don't get burned by door-to-door heating contractors
September 14, 2010

Fall is just around the corner, which means that cooler weather is on the way and now is the ideal time to have your furnace serviced or upgraded before the busy winter season starts. The Better Business Bureau warns the public to be cautious about misleading heating contractors who may use scare tactics to convince homeowners to buy a new furnace or authorize expensive, but unneeded, repairs to their existing heating system.

“Every fall we see an increase in consumer inquiries about heating contractors showing up offering everything from duct cleaning to furnace inspections,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “While most furnace companies are reputable, competent, and fair, there are con artists that may try to frighten you into unnecessary installations or repairs using fear as their main tactic.”

Last fall, the BBB received reports of fraudulent heating contractors who tried to frighten consumers into purchasing a new heating system with warnings that their current system was leaking dangerous gases that could explode or poison those inside the house.

From August to September of this year, the BBB has received 3,795 consumer inquiries for heating contractors, compared to 2,907 inquiries from last year. While this has not resulted in a higher number of complaints in the industry, the BBB has noticed consumers reporting that heating contractors are showing up selling door-to-door in B.C. communities. Consumers have also reported receiving calls from heating contractors who offer inexpensive, even free, cleaning services, only to show up with inadequate equipment and recommendations for expensive and unnecessary upgrades.

Before you choose a heating contractor consider the following tips:

Start with the BBB. You can find out helpful information like owners, company addresses, and customer service information by visiting the company’s reliability report at: www.mbc.bbb.org.

Hire heating contractors who:

· Are licensed with the BC Safety Authority; call 1.866.566 SAFE (7233)

· Are or employ certified gas fitters

· Are bonded and insured for liability and property damage

· Can provide you a copy of the gas permit authorizing the company to work on your heating system

· Offer warranties that cover equipment, materials and labour

· Offer maintenance and service after installation and after warranties have expired

· Provide customer references

Get at least two estimates for the work. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.

Compare more than just cost. Check the size and rated efficiency of the equipment each contractor recommends. Ask each contractor how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system. Check the warranty offered and make certain you understand it.

Report misleading door-to-door sales practices. Consumer Protection BC can help with allegations of misleading door-to-door sales practices. For complaints, contact the Consumer Protection BC at 1.888.564.9963 or go to: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca