Some questions we get regarding whether a home warranty is worth the time and money for your home heating and air conditioning system:
- Is a home warranty worth considering for your home heating and air conditioning system?
- What are the benefits and what are the inside secrets so we don’t get taken advantage of?
- If I get a home warranty plan for my heating and air conditioning system what’s covered and what’s not?
- Are there any requirements for maintaining the home warranty plan for my HVAC system?
It is very common for an older system to break within the first year of moving in to your new home. The heating and air conditioning system goes through a major change in it’s routine operation and starts throwing a fit, literally.
So don’t be blindsided when trying to get your home warranty company to cover your HVAC repair or replacement. We wrote this article to help you be better equipped to move your home and HVAC repairs forward.
While I do not intend to recommend one home warranty company over another in this article, I intend to share my experience with you. Over the 10+ years I have been in the field, sales, and operations of a heating and air conditioning company, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly as it pertains to home warranty companies. I intend to share all of my experiences here for you to take and digest.
If at the end of this article you have questions regarding your particular situation, please feel free to drop us a comment- we check our comments often enough and should be ready to respond within 48 hours.
Additionally, please let us know if there is anything unique about your HVAC home warranty experience, we would love to add it here for others benefit.
Also, I do not intend to recommend against or for a home warranty, in general. In the end, it is your responsibility to make a decision that best suits your needs, as a whole. I cannot speak to other industries or other needs in your home. Just simply provide an insider perspective with my experiences.
At the end of my article I will make some recommendations, beyond a home warranty company. Read these to be ahead of the curve and avoid any unexpected system issues.
If we get high interest for other areas of your home, we may consider providing some additional insight across our broader scope of experiences.
My experience with a home warranty company as a service technician
As a service technician, it is my job to facilitate service for both the homeowner but also for the home warranty company. This means that I have to proceed with my diagnostics and findings and relay all pertinent information to a company, usually a call center in some other state takes my call and gathers all information that they need to process any warranty information.
The home warranty company then either authorizes or declines the claim based on the information provided and based on the level of coverage their customer (the homeowner) has.
Level of coverage- some plans offer extended or more comprehensive coverage based on the fees and monthly payments. I have seen some basic plans just cover the major appliances in the home while other plans will offer coverage on garbage disposals and water softeners.
Information provided- the warranty is active once purchased but there are a few more steps or requirements before repairs are authorized. The home warranty company needs to know the make and model of equipment and the model and serial numbers. Some home warranty companies will see if the system is covered under some type existing manufacture warranty.
In other instances we have seen, they will sometimes spot that the system has been repaired within the last 1-3 years with another
facilitating service for both parties sometimes puts me at odds with the homeowners when I have to tell them that their service won’t cover the needed repair.
In our experience:
- Most home warranty companies are seeking the service of a cut rate contractor. A “cut rate contractor” will have cheaper prices for several reasons. This can be seen in their response time. It can be seen in outdated diagnostic capabilities; meaning they only look at the most immediate issue instead of researching and diagnosing all systems and providing an assessment of the larger picture.
- Processing a home warranty claim for your heating and air conditioning system usually takes 10 days. In the busier summer months, I have seen processing times in excess of 3 weeks. Yep, 3 weeks without air conditioning!
- Home warranty servicing companies usually have insufficient resources to take care of calls in a timely and efficient manner. And in some cases, the heating and air conditioning contractor would simply forget to even schedule the customer!
- Long processing times is also a result of home warranty companies seeking a 2nd or a 3rd opinion on the repair. These instances are the most challenging, for the homeowner, because they are being led along to believe that their work will be covered. But often the home warranty company is looking for the cheapest route and even looking for a service contractor that is simply inadequate – either in size or in operational capabilities – to let them know that they will not cover the repairs.
- Most cut rate contractors will not put in the time to become an advocate for the homeowner. Part of the reason you hire a professional is to get the problem fixed right the first time. Often, an issue shows up because of a failure or lack of maintenance in another part of the heating and air system.
- Home warranty companies only repair the most immediate fix. Many times I am on the phone telling the rep that such part needs to be replaced also so this issue doesn’t show up again and the additional work is declined. The additional repairs are often deemed as preemptive and therefore not needed.
“The main objective of the home warranty company is to restore operation with as little risk and cost as possible.”
- Extensive phone time. Calling into a call center in another state is hard enough let alone during peak demand times with other air conditioning and heating systems failing across the country. A 45 minute wait time was not abnormal on most cases. This really drags down efficiency and can even cause a repair to be authorized past 5 PM which at that point our vendors are closed.
- Many of the older systems that I would come across would be better off replaced instead of fixed. Usually 10+ years or older. These older systems are often better remedied with a replacement instead of fixing. This is due to banned refrigerant and obsolete parts and inefficient or bare minimum efficiency equipment. Is the system needed to be replaced and the home warranty company authorized the expense, the cheapest system was all the homeowner would be eligible for. Many homeowners wanted to tackle additional concerns or hot and cold spots throughout their home but were at the mercy of what the home warranty company decided was going to happen.
Most air conditioning and heating systems are repairable but often inefficiency, lack of current code compliance, and the peace of mind that comes from a new system usually make common sense.
- Off brand parts. When a repair was authorized for the heating or air conditioning system, the parts were coming from a cheaper manufacture. This would mean that we could not install a factory authorized part but would have to use universal parts. Universal parts do not last as long but also negatively affect the performance and efficiency of the system. Many of the parts I installed were not parts I would not install in my own system.
- And the worse part- sometimes a claim would be denied! Yep. Wait for 10+ days only to find out that the air conditioning or heating system isn’t covered. Those are the worst calls for me!
My experience on the operations side of our company
- Extremely resource intensive work- many times we would have to wait for the home warranty company to send us their parts. This meant scheduling a second or third visit. And also required that we kept in close communication with a homeowner waiting for the arrival of the parts.
- “Average ticket”- this was the term that many home warranty companies would refer to. This meant that whoever had the lowest average ticket in our area would get future work. The authorization was not made off the quality of work but off whoever could cut the most corners to cut their expenses out the most. This usually results in lower quality work and bad experience for the homeowners. Home warranty companies are also looking for a company that they can push around. A cut rate contractor that will take no for an answer and not advocate on the behalf of the customer.
- With low profitability and customer complaints, we would have to rush through our work to try and be profitable. As a company, we quickly realized we didn’t want to cut corners and have our name associated with this type of work all while leaving our other existing customers suffering. To grow our business, we need to operate at a profit instead of losing money.
- Declining payment. One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with a home warranty company was jumping through all the necessary steps to facilitate service and make the repair happen and then receive a phone call with what was going to paid. The majority of the calls that we ran were pre authorized at a determined rate, from the home warranty company, but then when we would invoice the company we were told what they would pay and this was usually not the agreed upon price. Many times, the payment would actually be lower than our labor costs and we would take a major loss to service this. It was then up to us to negotiate these terms in hopes that we were talking with the right person and the right department to make those decisions.
Over my 10+ years of experience, both in the field and in the management part of our business many of those customers expressed dissatisfaction with their home warranty company.
If you are buying your home warranty plan while purchasing a home, we strongly advise to have a licensed heating and air conditioning company perform an inspection on your HVAC system prior to purchasing. And don’t hesitate to ask for copies of all prior repair work performed. This can give you great insight into the health and reliability of the system you’ll be inheriting.
And make sure that the seller of your home warranty plan provides more than the simple pamphlet. You will want a copy of the fine print in the event you ever need to call your home warranty company for any heating or air conditioning repairs.
It can be easy to get caught up in the thrill and excitement of buying a new home while missing some key details. Which are usually buried in a brochure or some website.
If the system is older than 10 years, I would strongly recommend against foregoing the expense of a home warranty company and instead invest in 2 things- saving for a new system and routine maintenance.
Over the last 10 years and my extent of dealing with home warranty companies for HVAC repairs and replacement, I would say that close to 80% of our customers have been dissatisfied with their plan and/or their warranty company.
There are some home warranty companies that will extend coverage to any company you wish to hire, they just need to go through the authorization steps of facilitating service and coverage. While we have seen customers win with this type of plan (not offered by all home warranty companies), the heating and air conditioning company usually is the suffering party.
There is a better option than wishing for your heating and air conditioning system to be replaced and the home warranty company to fork over the cash. Fingers crossed! We understand that in today’s increasingly fast and busy culture, saving for maintenance and repairs are tough.
Routine maintenance and periodic cleaning will prevent systems from failing and also put you ahead of the game in the event a repair needs to happen.
Our technicians will provide a detailed report of things that need to get addressed and a timeline to address things without any sales pressure. And when the time comes to address replacing the system with something more energy efficient and reliable, we can provide estimates and options that will meet your budget and needs.
Doesn’t the saying go – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Making an investment into maintaining your system is easy- choose a maintenance plan that fits your budget! Most of our customers enjoy the monthly payment instead of having to pay for maintenance all at once. Call in and take advantage of this benefit.
When the time comes for replacing your system, you’ll be able to get the features and benefits you want, instead of being at the mercy of an outside company deciding to put in the cheapest unit possible.