Avoid Local Furnace Repair Scams in South Jersey
Winter is the time for a lot of things. And, unfortunately, one of them is local furnace repair scams.
When the weather gets cold, and heaters are more prone to breakdowns, con artists or dishonest contractors get to work.
This heating season, don’t get left out in the cold in South Jersey by getting ripped off an HVAC repair or replacement job.
In this post, we’ll outline common furnace repair scams, how to spot them, and how to avoid them.
Three Common Furnace Repair Scams
It’s often difficult to spot a furnace repair scam because they’re often based on legitimate services and problems. But, here are three common ones to watch for:
- Cracked Heat Exchanger
- Tune-Up Bait-and-Switch
- Offering to Install a Used Part
Let’s take a closer look at these.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
A cracked heat exchanger is a legitimate, and costly, HVAC problem. Unfortunately, it’s also very easy to fake.
In a nutshell, the heat exchanger is a part inside the furnace. If it cracks, carbon monoxide can leak into your home.
Because of that, an HVAC tech must red-tag a unit with a cracked heat exchanger. That means we shut it off, and you need to replace it.
The problem, however, is that you can’t see this damage. The way we find it is mostly by checking carbon monoxide levels.
That means, unfortunately, it’s easy enough to trick someone into thinking they’ve got this problem. A scammer can show you some readings and explain the “problem.”
This scam tends to get on our nerves. It can be difficult to explain to people why a regular tune-up is important for your HVAC system without having people using it to rip off customers.
Here’s how this grift goes: You get a random call from an HVAC company saying that you’re either due for your regular maintenance. Or, they’re offering a free tune-up if you’d like one.
Once they’re in the house, they conveniently find all sorts of problems. Sometimes, these are bald-faced lies.
In other, more devious instances, they’ll break something or show you a broken part that they brought in themselves.
Offering to Install a Used Part
This one is a step away from the old “fell off the truck” routine. Here, the scammer offers to save you money by installing a used part on your heater that he happens to have in the truck.
It’ll cost you less than ordering a new one. And they can install it right away!
As often the case with things that seem too good to be true, it isn’t.
Want to know why that used part is hanging out in the truck? Because it’s broken or worn-down. They took it off another unit and should have trashed it already.
Instead, they’ll pass it off to you and pocket a few bucks. Then, you’re left holding the bag when your system falls again.
How to Spot a Furnace Repair Scam
Now that we’ve put a scare into you about the kinds of furnace repair ripoffs, you can encounter, let’s look at how to spot a scammer.
High-Pressure Sales Tactics
A good HVAC tech knows they’re asking you to pay a lot of money for something you may not completely understand. So, a good contractor will take the time to explain what’s going on and answer all your questions.
A scammer? Not so much.
If the tech is talking fast, not answering questions, and pressuring you to agree to the job, something’s up.
They’re trying to overwhelm and intimidate you. Eventually, they figure, you won’t want to admit you still don’t understand what’s going on. Or, you’ll break down and agree to the work.
Bad Review or No Online Presence
Bad reviews are an obvious red flag. But, how about no reviews?
That’s usually just as bad.
A reputable HVAC company will have a physical location, licenses, and insurance, and, yes, a website, BBB rating, and online reviews.
If the guy in your house can’t show you any of these, then show him the door.
While you’re at it, take a look at their truck: Are the company name and contact information permanently installed on it? Or, does it have a magnet, or otherwise removable, decals?
If the latter, it’s most likely a fly-by-night operation. Once the “contractor” gets your money, they’ll toss those decals and put on new ones tomorrow. You’ll never find them again.
Four Ways to Avoid Furnace Repair Scams
Here are three easy ways to avoid getting caught with a furnace repair scam:
- Do Your Research
- Get Everything in Writing
- Get a Second Opinion
Here’s how to use these to your advantage.
Do Your Research
This tip pertains to the repairs themselves and the company offering them. We mentioned what to look for in an HVAC company.
Along with that, ask if they’ll show you any damaged parts. And, ask for references.
Get Everything in Writing
Make sure you get a written, itemized estimate before agreeing to any work. This document gives them less wiggle room once they’re done to say they did something they didn’t.
And, there’s another advantage to this.
Get a Second Opinion
If someone’s saying you need a big-ticket repair or replacement, do your due diligence: Get another estimate from another company.
And, of course, be sure to do your research on that contractor, too.
This is where the written estimates come in handy again: You can compare your two bids to see if one group is saying they’ll do something the other isn’t.
If you’re unsure that the HVAC company you’re dealing with is on the level, call Bovio. We have an A+ BBB rating, plenty of positive online reviews, and decades of experience serving Sicklerville, Medford, and other South Jersey towns.