Property owners Be wary of furnace scams

September 25, 2011
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The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is reminding property owners that any heating-related repairs or services for the fall and winter should be performed by certified professionals from a reputable company.

“Most mechanical contractors are reputable, competent and fair,” said Steven Hilfinger, director of LARA. “Unfortunately, at this time of year we see more activity from furnace ‘scam artists’ who try and take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners, especially senior citizens, by scaring them into unnecessary repairs or replacement, and scamming them out of a lot of money. We want to alert consumers to avoid becoming victims of this fraudulent and unscrupulous practice.”

The Bureau of Construction Codes in LARA offers the following tips to help consumers:

  • Maintain your furnace by cleaning air returns with a household vacuum cleaner. Check the filter once a month and replace if necessary. This will maintain efficiency and prolong the life of the furnace.

  • Get your heating system thoroughly cleaned by a reputable, licensed, local mechanical contractor a minimum of every two years.

  • Check the warranty on your system to see whether any repairs or replacements are covered. Many heating systems come with long-term warranties.

  • Get at least three independent written estimates from Michigan-licensed mechanical contractors if a furnace replacement is recommended. If you subsequently sign a contract for work, make sure it stipulates that final payment is not due until the mandatory inspection by the mechanical code enforcing agency is approved.

  • Ask to see the Michigan mechanical contractor’s license and write down the contractor and license number listed on it.

  • Verify that the license is valid and issued for the proper classifications for the type of work being performed. You can check this information by visiting the bureau’s website at or by calling the bureau’s Mechanical Division at (517) 241-9325.

  • Don’t fall for telephone solicitations that offer “low-cost” or “free” furnace cleaning. Once in the dwelling, the worker may tell the homeowners their heating system has serious problems that require immediate attention. Get a written description of the suggested work and seek additional opinions from other licensed mechanical contractors.

  • Don’t sign a contract just because the worker says you face possible illness or death if the furnace isn’t replaced immediately. If told your furnace threatens your health, ask for a written copy of the test results and call your local utility company to inspect your system.

  • Don’t hire someone who comes to your door with a “shop-vac type” of vacuum offering to clean your heating ducts. It will not do the job. A proper cleaning requires a high-volume vacuum system and maybe even a steam process.

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