Having a working heater is a necessity in the dead of winter. When you find out that yours isn’t working, there’s no time to waste getting it fixed. That makes emergency furnace repair an easy target for scammers.
In particular, we’re talking about the “cracked heat exchanger” scam. It’s a ruse that can end up costing you thousands of dollars. And part of what makes it so tricky is that it’s rooted in truth.
In this article, we’ll go through:
- What it means
- Why it’s such a big problem
- How the scam plays out
- How to avoid getting cheated
What Is The Cracked Heat Exchanger Scam?
It’s important to remember that cracked heat exchangers are real but easily exploited. A dishonest HVAC tech will tell you the heat exchanger in your furnace is broken and leaking carbon monoxide into your home.
What Is A Cracked Heat Exchanger?
A cracked heat exchanger is a critical break in one of your furnace’s most essential components. The heat exchanger is a ceramic housing. Inside it, your heater’s fuel — natural gas or oil — gets burned to create heat.
This process naturally releases carbon monoxide, which is poisonous and all but impossible to detect on your own. It’s colorless and odorless, which is why we have detectors for it in the house.
The carbon monoxide should exit safely through the exhaust. But, if the part cracks, it seeps out of the system and into your house.
Of course, it takes a lot to crack a heat exchanger. It usually happens when there’s an unnatural amount of stress on your system. And, you’ll notice those signs well before this happens.
Why Can’t You Fix A Cracked Heat Exchanger?
You can’t fix a heat exchanger because it’s nearly impossible to patch a crack in the ceramic piece. And, the stakes are high: if the fix doesn’t hold, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning. Meanwhile, the part is deep within the furnace. By the time you add up the labor cost to take apart and reassemble the heater, it’s usually not worth it.
All these factors make this legitimate HVAC problem a perfect storm for scammers: You can’t see the problem — it’s on a part buried inside your heater. And, you can’t sense carbon monoxide in the house — you’re relying on their instruments and readings.
Finally, they have the authority to red-tag your furnace. Now, you’re without heat and pressured to spend thousands of dollars or risk a cold home, freezing pipes, and other problems.
But, as tricky as this all sounds, you can avoid getting scammed.
How To Avoid Getting Scammed
You can avoid this scam by:
- Researching The Company You Hired
- Getting A Second Opinion
- Asking To See the Damage
Researching The Company You Hired
First, be wary of any HVAC company that cold-called you with an offer for a free or discounted tune-up. Yes, you should keep your system maintained. But, always go with a licensed, certified company with a physical address and history of work in the area.
On the flip side, anyone can start calling around until they find someone willing to let them in the house. After that, it’s easy to fake the problem with false readings or other methods. Then, they’ll push you to buy a new furnace since yours is now shut down.
And unfortunately, even a “real” company can pull this off from time to time. It’s an attractive ploy because it’s a quick sell and relatively easy job.
Getting A Second Opinion
Even if they shut off your furnace, don’t panic! Instead, call a second company and have them verify the situation. And, don’t let them strongarm you into skipping this step. You’re about to spend thousands of dollars, and you owe it to yourself — and your wallet — to make sure it’s absolutely necessary.
At this point, they may back right off, “recheck” their readings, and slip away. Or, you’ll have to wait a day or so until another company checks it out.
Either way, make sure that another company confirms the problem.
Asking To See the Damage
We said before that you can’t see the heat exchanger, and that’s true — while the furnace is still in one piece. If you think you have to go ahead with replacing the furnace, you can ask to see the damage once they’ve taken out the old one.
Before you sign on for any work, tell them you’d like to see the broken part once they’ve taken out the furnace. And, if it’s not broken, ask them to reinstall the furnace free of charge since they made a mistake.
A reputable company stands by their work and do the right thing if they were wrong. A scammer is more likely to take off at that point — they’re looking for an easy mark, and that’s not you.
Emergency Furnace Repair In Havertown, PA
You can feel secure calling John Cipollone, Inc for emergency furnace repair. We’ve served Havertown, PA, and nearby towns in DelCo and Montgomery County for more than half a century. We have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, an outstanding reputation in the area, and plenty of five-star reviews confirm it.
John Cipollone, Inc has been the trusted name for furnace replacement in Wynnewood, PA and across the Main Line since 1953. If you have a cracked heat ex changer, or your system has broken down for good, we’ll get your home warm again as quickly as possible. And, we’ll do the installation right the first time. Click below or call us at 610-446-7877.