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Time for heater maintenance. Is it safe?

Fall is the best time to have a service tech visit your home to check your heating system before it gets cold outside. But is it safe to invite a stranger into your home during the pandemic?

It might seem OK to skip this year’s HVAC maintenance if your system was in fine shape last winter. But the preseason checkup is important to prevent an unexpected breakdown that might require emergency repairs—or new equipment—when it’s really cold outside.

The emergency, of course, would require a tech to visit your home anyway.

Still, experts say homeowners should weigh the pros and cons of having outsiders in your safe space when it’s not an emergency.

If someone in your family is older or has a health condition and is at greater risk of getting sick if exposed to coronavirus, it might be prudent to put off a maintenance visit until health experts give the OK to mingle with strangers. Likewise, if anyone in your household is quarantining because of exposure to the virus, it’s not safe for the service tech to be in your house and risk being exposed.

If you decide that maintenance or repairs are necessary, experts have this advice for how to keep yourself and your tech safe during a home visit:

  • Ask questions. When you make your appointment, ask about the precautions the company’s technicians take when they visit a home. Are they strict enough for you?
  • Request any additional accommodations that will make you feel comfortable. For example, ask if you can pay for the service over the phone and skip the exchange of pens and paperwork when the tech is at your home.
  • Leave the door to your home open so the tech can let himself in. You can greet him on the porch from six feet away and stay outside while he works indoors. Or, if you prefer to be inside while a stranger is in your home, station yourself in a room where he will not be working.
  • Ask other family members to go for a walk or a drive so they will  not be exposed to the tech at all.
  • Scrub the work area before the tech arrives, using a disinfectant. Lay out a clean towel for the worker to lay his tools so they don’t touch any surfaces in your home. Then, soak the towel in soapy water once he leaves.
  • Wear a mask and insist that the tech wear one, too. That way, you can protect each other.
  • Ask the tech to disinfect anything he touches. Then, carefully clean the area once he leaves, wearing a mask and gloves.
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