Beware The Hot-Air Heater Guy

I was fortunate enough to learn a valuable lesson early on in my home-ownership journey.

Buyer beware!

This lesson cost me $454.44.  I hope by writing about it, I might save you some money.

In order to fully appreciate this story, you’ll need to go back and read my post about getting your home inspected.

When you get your home inspected you need to watch closely.  Home inspectors are human and they might overlook something important.  Mine missed two things.  1. The natural-gas furnace exhaust pipe was warped and not securely fastened to the stack on the ceiling.  2.  There was no carbon monoxide detector in the home, but rather two smoke detectors.  These two issues set me up to be a victim.

Shortly after moving into the house, I noticed that the furnace had not been serviced or cleaned since the late 1990s.   I figured it would be prudent to have someone look at it.  So I called Bernie Allard of Allard Enterprises.  I should have asked around first or looked at Allard’s record with the Better Business Bureau.  There had recently been a reported issue.

Allard did not complete the job as requested.  I asked that my furnace be cleaned and serviced.  Between Allard and one of his employees, they spent more than three hours working on my furnace.  Each time they scheduled time to work on the furnace they were late or didn’t show at all, wasting hours of my time.  Yet I gave Allard the benefit of the doubt and let him complete the job.

In the end, all that was completed was a cleaned electronic air filter and a small elbow pipe replacement.  It might have taken me an hour to do the work myself.  The furnace blower was never cleaned as requested.  And although the furnace was supposedly inspected, I was only told repeatedly that I needed a new furnace immediately because the furnace had “distortion” that would lead to a cracked heater exchanger.  Myth?

However, Allard never provided a carbon monoxide reading.  He simply said that he was sensitive to the fumes and got a headache from being in my house for an hour or two.  He told me to leave my doors and windows open for three hours a day for three days in the middle of winter.  I didn’t.  He used scare tactics to try to convince me that I was putting my daughter and myself in extreme danger.  Then he gave me the over-inflated bill, charging me $120 an hour for shitty service, and left.

The next day I bought a carbon monoxide detector.  Guess what?  It has never gone off.  It seems Allard was the only one filled with gas fumes.  I’ve since researched the heating and air industry and have discovered that Allard’s behavior is a common strategy to sell new units, and often a scam.  I also talked with someone who had previously worked with Allard who said, “Bernie Allard is the biggest bullshitter in town.”  I’d called the wrong guy.

See these articles for more info on heater scams:

Cool Ray: Don’t fall for the furnace maintenance scam 

Truth, Home, Sense: Beware of high efficiency furnace scammers

eHow: Furnace repair scams

Granted, my furnace is old, and does not burn perfectly clean, but it also does not produce “dangerous” levels of carbon monoxide as Allard tried to convince me.  I’ll probably need to replace the furnace within a few years, but I won’t be calling Allard Enterprises.

So what did I learn?  When you need professional work done around your house, don’t call the first guy in the yellow pages.  Get referrals from family and friends in the area.  Do your research.  And if you don’t like how the job is getting done, don’t be afraid to fire the contractor and call someone else.

Have you ever been victim to a furnace scam?  What other kinds of scams should new homeowners be aware of?

Next post: A Dirty Do-It-Yourself Job

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Dan Erickson

Dan Erikson is the passionate voice behind Hip Diggs, where he explores the art of living simply and intentionally. With a keen eye for minimalism and its profound impact on our lives, Dan delves into topics ranging from decluttering spaces to decluttering the mind. Drawing from personal experiences and a deep appreciation for the minimalist ethos, he offers readers practical insights and actionable steps to embrace a more meaningful, clutter-free life. When he's not penning down his thoughts on Hip Diggs, Dan enjoys the serenity of nature, reading, and exploring the nuances of simple living in a complex world.

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