So you know a guy — let’s call him Kevin — who can install or service your furnace for a lot less than what it would cost to hire a professional company to do the work. Maybe Kevin has even worked at one or more of the local HVAC companies as a licensed technician in the past and now does this work on the side. You may also have heard great things from your friends and neighbours about how much money Kevin saved them. And he’s such a nice guy too! Before you go with Kevin, there are a few things you should know.
Why a licensed technician matters
After your home itself, your furnace will likely be the most expensive investment you’ll make in that home. The only time we think about the furnace is when we’re feeling chilled during our famous (infamous?) Ottawa winters. With a quick push of a button on the thermostat, the furnace “just works” exactly the way we expect. This is is because furnaces are built by professionals and installed by professionals. You can’t have one without the other. The most efficient, top-of-the-line furnace is useless without a qualified technician who knows how to install it correctly (aside: conversely, the world’s greatest technician can’t solve your heating problems with a sub-standard furnace).
A cautionary tale about the dangers of unlicensed work
Your gas furnace consumes natural gas and produces byproducts that include carbon monoxide. Not only for the comfort — but for the safety — of you and your family, all of this must be handled by trained technicians.
Qualified HVAC licensed technicians are like qualified drivers. They need to possess a proper license proving that they have the required certification. And just like a driver’s license, within HVAC licensing standards there are several levels of certification. In Ontario, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) is the provincial government’s public safety regulator that requires that all technicians must complete the proper training and possess a valid TSSA certification.
Also remember that just like other licenses, the requirements and standards change often over time. This is especially true in the HVAC industry where furnace technology has improved rapidly. Even if Kevin used to be a fully licensed technician, his certification could easily be out of date. That’s not a risk you want to take.
Not too long ago, a failure by a local HVAC company in suburban Toronto to obtain proper certification for performing work as a gas technician had tragic results for one family who simply needed maintenance for their gas boiler.
The lesson here is one that countless homeowners before you already know. You have invested in your home for the comfort and well-being for your family. This is an investment that can last up to 20 years. Work with the right professionals — in this case a licensed technician — and you will be rewarded with peace of mind for the life of your furnace. Use short cuts at your own risk.