Possible furnace scam? Please judge for me

yytpJanuary 15, 2014

I just did my regular furnace service and this is the first time I use this company. The heat exchanger has been doing ok, although the furnace is a little old. In the last inspection, no cracks was reported. This time, however, the furnace guy used a digital device and stuck it on the housing of the furnace and told me there's a slight crack. Prior to showing me this, I saw that he was hammering something. Does furnace cleaning and inspection involve hammer at all? Is it possible that he hammered on the weaker, rusty area on the heat exchanger to create some slight crack?

Also, after he left, and I'm not sure for how long, the furnace stopped working (or maybe it didn't work when he left, I don't know because it was kind of warm that day so I was unaware if the furnace kicked in) During that night, I was already suspecting the furnace was not kicking in but I didn't spend time on finding it out. And the next morning, it was very sure that the furnace stopped working because temperature dropped to 55 and there's no heat. I called the company again, they sent out the same guy. That guy probably spent 5 minutes on it and told me that the low volt wire outside the furnace was broken. He didn't show me ANY broken wire, nor showed me anything "fixed". In the report, he mentioned that "wire required", I'm assuming he meant new wire required. And I checked over the wires and I didn't see any signs that any wire has been newly replaced or taped. The wires just looked as they were before. That guy ended up charged me $50 for this 5-minute work and claimed that it's because of broken wire that he has to charge me.

Few questions came to my mind after he left:
1) why didn't he tell me it's broken wire until everything is "fixed"? He could say whatever it was and made me pay for it?
2) why didn't he show me any "residue" or evidence of the broken wire?
3) why did he write 1.5 hours of work on the report while the work, whatever it actually was, took him only 5 minutes?
4) why I'm not seeing any new or taped wire?
5) why a short never happened if the wire was broken?

I do not know anything about electrics, not to mention furnace. Please forgive me if I sound stupid in any way. But I'm feeling very uncomfortable about what this furnace guy has done and I'd really appreciate any input before I take any action.

Thank you so much!!

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When I read the first paragraph about the heat exchanger crack, I thought this was going to be the classic scare tactic for replacing a furnace. You could have a small crack, but it seems the tech was not concerned about it.

It is difficult to say what happened with the wire. The description of events sounds like the setting for a scam. But the strange thing is he only charged $50 to return to your house. You are not going to get any HVAC tech to come to your house to do a repair for $50.

I think one of the wires on the control board either broke of became disconnected while he was inspecting your furnace. The wires are very thin and held by a screw. It is possible if you brush up against one of them then could become loose or break. The wires usually are longer than they need to be, so it is easy to either reattach it, or cut off the broken piece, strip back the insulation and reattach it to the screw. It is takes a minute once you figure out the problem.

I have no idea why he would write down 1.5 hours. Maybe he did not want go get in trouble with his boss for causing the problem in the first place. You could have insisted he caused the problem, but it is difficult to prove. You are fortunate he only asked for $50.

Things like this happen, but his big mistake was not verifying the furnace was working before he left your house. For this reason I would have second thoughts about using him again.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:00PM
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Yes, I agree with Mike on the possible scenarios. You will never know. I am suspicious though. The possible crack in the heat exchanger is troublesome. If not getting a 2nd opinion, make sure you have an operating quality CO detector.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:24PM
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I agree with Mike and tiger.
If it were possible to know for certain,I wager he forgot to turn the electric switch back on when he finished. In any event,it sounds like he failed to test run the furnace when finished. Not good at all. Have I ever forgot to perform a step or overlooked somthing? You bet, Did I bill for my oversite? Never !

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:23PM
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Thank you all for the input! I really appreciate it! I actually have another guy (the one who did it the year before) came in to have a check on the furnace and asked for his opinions on the "crack" and "fixed wires". He also agreed with what you guys said and even more ridiculously, he found out the air filter was the old one that he put in in 2012 because there's a date written on it, and the air filter is certainly not new because it's covered with dust. So this shady furnace guy didn't even replace my filter for what he charged.
I'm shocked with all these because I have a terribly busy schedule these days and I thought I'd go for something more reliable even if they are more expensive, so that I can have a peace of mind. They have A+ rating on BBB and that's one of the reasons I chose them!! :(

This post was edited by yytp on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 18:04

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 5:59PM
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I trust you'll include filing a complaint with the BBB with whatever other action you take to get at least part of your money back... you should help the next guy thinking of using them based on a BBB Rating.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 8:36PM
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I recommend no one put any reliance on information from the BBB.

I like experiences of friends and neighbors (taken with skepticism, of course) and, to a less extent, Yelp.

Otherwise, it's every man/woman for themselves and the luck of the draw. Not all tradespeople are honest, and not all are crooked, it's just so hard to tell one from the other.

One of the worst HVAC contractors in my area has been "in business" for 60 years. Only thing is, the business has been sold and sold and is currently on its fifth owner in that time.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 9:19PM
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