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Avoid heater danger with licensed pros

December 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The cold and rainy weather means it's time to turn on the heater. But first, you should be certain the furnace is in good working order. And if it needs repair or replacement, hire the right person to do the job.By not hiring someone who specializes in heater and air-conditioning installation and repair -- even if they are a licensed contractor -- you could be putting yourself and your family at risk.

During the summer Donna Harwood of Irvine had trouble with her air-conditioning, but when she had it checked, she then found out her heater had an even bigger problem.

"I didn't realize the repair was going to be that extensive. And then I started getting estimates for the work, and it was shocking," said Harwood."

Shocking not only because of the repair cost, but according to Paul Delvaglio, a certified heating and cooling specialist, the way the heater had been installed created a very dangerous situation.

"The furnace itself was designed to be installed on its side. In the instructions, installation manual, it says 'Do not set furnace on its back.' This is a fire hazard. You can have flame rollout. If some of the safety sensor fail, the flame will just come right out and torch the ceiling or the roof. In this case, we're right over the homeowner's bedroom," said Delvaglio.

And not only was the heater now a fire hazard, but the vent had been installed incorrectly too, leaving the potential for carbon-monoxide poisoning.

"In an attic application, you're required to have double-wall vent that's sealed. This, they just took some tape and taped it together. They shoved the vent up inside, and it could just fall off and then into the attic, and then you get carbon monoxide into the home," said Delvaglio.

The heater, now being fixed, had been installed by a licensed contractor but he was not certified to handle heating and air-conditioning systems, a very important consideration when you need to hire someone to repair your heater or A/C.

  • Make sure the contractor is licensed by the state.
  • Look for an HVAC certified contractor.
  • Ask how long they've been in business.
  • Get references.
  • Verify they are insured and bonded.
Donna did that when she hired this crew, but she adds: "It would be a good idea once a year to have somebody come out and inspect your system, and change your filters and somebody who knows what to look for," said Donna Harwood.

If you do have to repair or replace your furnace, make sure you check with your electric company and the gas company because you may be entitled to a rebate from the utility company.


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