Learn what you need to know about and expect from your HVAC system's manufacturer's warranty.
As I see it, warranties are all about expectations. When you purchase or receive a warranty with a product or service, what do you expect that warranty will do in the event you need to call upon it?
From my years of experience in the field, most homeowners, including myself, expect that a warranty on their new furnace, air conditioner or thermostat means that if anything goes wrong, we (the contractor) or a manufacturer’s representative will come to their home as soon as possible to fix or replace it. This is absolutely not the case.
Parts warranties won't cover labor
When we purchase equipment from a distributor (who purchased it from the manufacturer), it comes with a manufacturer’s parts-only warranty. The manufacturer does not reimburse us labor cost to diagnose and repair. They simply give us the part, after some paperwork of course.
Let’s say you have a bad compressor two years after your air conditioning system is installed. Getting a free compressor is nice, but as a homeowner, what are you going to do with a compressor?
The technical skill, tools, gas, truck payment, insurance, licensing, advertising, electric, phone bill, uniforms, continuing education, or what is known as overhead costs associated with installation of the part, is very expensive. So even under a manufacturer’s warranty, you can be stuck with a hefty bill from the company that installs the part.
If we install a new air conditioning system and it fails two weeks after we install it, it is on us to repair it, even if it failed due to a manufacturers defect. Yikes!
Tips on how to judge warranties
So, as a consumer, what should you do?
1. Read contractor reviews. Hire a good, state-licensed contractor who will stand behind their work. Get the “full coverage, no cost” warranty in writing. I omitted that the contractor be “bonded and insured” because you must be bonded and insured to be state-licensed, so to check that out isn’t required.
2. Ask to see the manufacturer’s warranty. Also, have the contractor explain what it covers or send a copy of it to your attorney.
3. Use common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.
Have you ever had to deal with a manufacturer's warranty? How did it turn out? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted March 12, 2014.
As of Aug. 4, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.