DEAR BARRY: My home has continuous problems with the forced-air heating system. Each time we pay for repairs, it runs for a few days or a few weeks and then quits. One heating contractor said the system was not installed correctly because the return air opening is too small. But I spoke with the contractor who installed the system, and he insists that everything is installed properly. How can I get the original installer to acknowledge the mistake and make the system right? –Tom

DEAR TOM: In debates of this kind, the contractor has the advantage because he is an expert in his field and you are not. If he says the return air opening is large enough, who are you to argue with the expert? To get a leg up in this dispute, you need some solid evidence to support your position. For example, a copy of the manufacturer’s installation manual for the furnace, showing the required dimensions for the return air opening, would settle the argument decisively. You should contact the manufacturer by phone or online to get a copy of those specifications.

An undersized air return can cause a furnace to overheat, and this can lead to damage, failed performance and ongoing repairs. In some cases, an overheated burner chamber can crack, and this can produce deadly carbon monoxide.

Once you have proof that the furnace is not properly installed, you can insist that the installer correct the problem. On the other hand, you may not feel comfortable having someone with compromised skills and questionable reliability working on your heating system. In that case, you should insist that the installer cover your costs for repairs made by another heating contractor. Unfortunately, this will probably lead to another dispute. If that occurs, you can file a complaint with the state agency that licenses heating contractors.

DEAR BARRY: About eight months ago, a buyer made an offer to purchase my home. He hired a home inspector and then backed out of the deal. Now the property is back on the market, and I’ve got a disclosure problem. Basically, I do not want to disclose to the next buyer that a past home inspection was done. Is that OK? –Lou

DEAR LOU: Withholding a previous home inspection report is definitely not OK. Disclosure laws and common ethics demand that you conceal no information that would be of concern to a buyer. If someone were to buy your home and then learn that you had hidden a home inspection report, they could take legal action against you. At the very least, it is essential that you inform buyers of all the defects listed in that report, regardless of whether you provide a copy of the report itself.

In the world of business and real estate, liability is a prime consideration. Information that you conceal exposes you to serious consequences. If this does not convince you, then keep in mind the ethical side of the matter. Think how you would feel if a seller hid that kind of information from you.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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