Kelvin Collins

Kelvin Collins

Fall is about to be in full swing which means that cooler weather and the heating season are not that far away. The Better Business Bureau recommends that consumers consider having central heating systems, any wood heating appliances and components inspected before they are fired up for daily use in cooler weather. The Consumer Product and Safety Commission recommends that a qualified heating contractor should inspect home heating systems annually, and now might be the perfect time to have the inspection completed without a long wait.

Equipment that should be inspected includes: the furnace or boiler, its electrical and mechanical components, thermostat controls and automatic safety switches. Chimney, flues and venting systems should also be checked for possible blockage. Birds’ nests and loose mortar are materials commonly found clogging passages. Make sure that your flue, all joints and connectors fit together tightly and are rust or crack free to prevent a back-up of toxic gases. Rust and cracks can cause leakage of toxic fumes into your home which could also result in carbon monoxide poisoning.

A chimney sweep should clean the chimney if the inspection reveals an accumulation of soot on chimney walls. Chimneys should be checked and cleaned, if necessary, on an annual basis. Homeowners converting to gas from oil should have their chimney inspected at the time of the conversion and then yearly thereafter. Your BBB reminds consumers that it’s always a good idea to check out a chimney sweep before hiring one.

If you are using a wood stove this season, be sure that your stove and stovepipe was installed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and local codes. If there is any doubt, a building inspector or fire official can determine whether it has been properly vented and installed an appropriate distance away from any combustible surfaces. Always operate your appliance within the manufacturer’s recommended temperature limits. Too low a temperature increases creosote buildup which could cause a chimney fire. Too high a temperature may eventually cause damage to the chimney and may also result in a fire.

If work needs to be done on your present heating system or chimney, be certain to hire a contractor with a good reputation for dependable, reasonably priced work. Obtain a listing of BBB Accredited Businesses, ask friends, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations and always check out any company being considered at BBB.org.

Obtain at least two estimates for the work. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. Ensure that all companies provide enough detail to adequately compare services.

Many heating and air companies offer annual service contracts where they provide system checks and emergency maintenance each year at a lower cost to you. Check to see if your company offers any discounts or incentives or log on to BBB.org to find a list of BBB Accredited heating and air companies in your area.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy (www.energy.gov) also offers a free home energy checklist of home heating tips and other energy related measures that can be taken to improve efficiency that may also help you save money.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 77 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB by phone at 800-763-4222, online at bbb.org or email info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.