How to avoid a furnace scam

Tell me if you’ve ever heard of this before: Someone you know has problems with their furnace. A company comes out, looks it over and then tells them the furnace can’t be repaired because it has cracks in the heat exchanger and is putting carbon monoxide into the air.

    Sound familiar?

    Well, this can actually happen, but it can also be a furnace scam.

    If you or someone you know is confronted with just such a situation, here are some good things to know. Having a furnace with cracks in the heat exchanger can be very dangerous, but then again, cracks are very hard to see, unless you use sophisticated equipment or completely remove the entire back of the furnace. Most companies will do neither.

    If a technician can see a crack, make sure you ask to see it also. If they can’t show you or if there is any doubt, get another opinion. On the last two furnaces I went to see with that heat exchangers diagnosed by local companies as cracked, the exchangers were not cracked at all. Sometimes it’s just a company’s way to drum up extra furnace sales — a very bad way.

    To get a very clear picture of your furnace’s health, you may want to choose a company with a video camera inspection system. It has a video display with a camera on the end of a flexible wand. It’s able to travel inside the heat exchanger of the furnace and seek out exactly any problem areas, visible for everyone to see clearly in the liquid crystal display monitor.

    Sometimes it just makes good sense to replace an older furnace, for gas savings and dependability. But I’ll never agree with replacing a furnace based upon fear and deception.

    Be cautious and know the facts, and you’ll keep yourself healthy and safe.

 Joel Wensley is a licensed mechanical contractor in the state of Michigan, a WJBK-TV Fox2 Detroit news contributor and president of Mechanical Heating & Cooling in Dearborn Heights.