Heating safety tips and preventing technician scams

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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - The chill is back in the air, which means it's time to fire up those furnaces. Here are a few tips to stay safe this season and how to prevent technician scams.

Operations Manager James Olesen from Home Comfort Experts says it's better to turn your furnace on now to make sure it works than later when it's really cold out.

"Even if you're not turning it on for good, run it for 5, 10, 15 minutes just to make sure it works," Olesen said. "If it doesn't work, know you need to call now instead of waiting another few days and it's colder and colder."

Olesen said it's also important to have it serviced once a year because 80 percent of breakdowns are dirt-related. That also means changing your air filters regularly.

"If you starve that heating system of air, it's going to work the parts of the furnace harder, cause more breakdowns, work that furnace and just cause it to run less efficient," Olesen said.

Olesen said Home Comfort Experts was notified of a scam that happened on Thursday. They said a man targeted a couple in Niles, pretending to be one of their technicians to do annual maintenance on their furnace.

They said he went into the basement, messed around with a few things on the furnace, put everything back together then asked to be paid. The couple got suspicious and called the police and Home Comfort Experts to be sure it was a scam.

"This was scary for us and a new one for us of having a guy going door to door, knocking customers' houses, saying, 'I'm here to service your furnace,'" Olesen said.

Home Comfort Experts said service people should give you a heads up they're coming and should be in a marked car with logoed clothing.

As heating season comes up, Olesen said it's important to have smoke and other hazard detectors.

"If you don't have those detectors, please go out and get them," Olesen said. "It's such a small price to pay for what could be huge consequences."

Firefighters also want to warn you about the dangers of space heaters.

"We usually get a few calls every year from a space heater and it's a little bit different causes," Clay Fire Deputy Fire Marshal Ron Melser said. "Some of it is that things are too close to them, others are that they're improperly plugged in."

A general rule of thumb is to keep them in the middle of the room with at least three feet of space around them.

"With three feet, you're still going to feel the heat," Melser said. "It's going to warm up a room."

Be sure to plug space heaters into a wall outlet, not a power strip.