The short answer is – yes. Your home warranty will likely cover your 20-year old air conditioning system. You may even get a replacement.
Unfortunately, it’s not always the case. While most home warranty agreements state that the cover applies to the entire AC life (and the lives of most other HVAC systems), the warranty provider may refuse to pay for repairs and replacements for older heating and cooling systems.
It’s a somewhat confusing situation because you never really know if the appliance will be covered and when the cover stops.
For instance, there was a story recently about Corey Kessell, who ran into a few issues with her 25-year old central air system.
“One day, I woke up, and the AC line was hot,” she says. “There was no moisture or condensation on it. I had never experienced something like that before.”
Kessell and his wife Kristi had purchased a $400 warranty from one of the popular warranty providers in the US, who promised that they would take care of the AC. “If we can’t fix it, we’ll replace it,” the warranty provider’s slogan says.
But, when they contacted the provider about the issue, they denied the claim and refused to replace it or even fix it. Instead, according to Kessell, the company argued that they hadn’t taken good care of the AC, allowing corrosion to build up around the sensors.
“They were handing it back to us,” he narrates. “They were saying it’s our problem, and we must fix it on our own.” They also said something that caught Kessell’s attention – “It’s too old, and we can’t replace it.”
There have been many similar stories as frustrated consumers, at their biggest hour of need, discover that the home warranty provider they hoped would help out didn’t mean what they promised. But is it a breach of contract, or do home warranty laws allow them to back out when the AC, or any other HVAC appliance for that matter, is deemed too old?
Understanding Home Warranties
The best place to start is to understand what home warranties are and how they work. A home warranty is an insurance policy covering specific areas of the home that the typical homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover.
Typically, a homeowner’s policy covers the home’s main structure, the roof, walls, and flooring. A home warranty focuses on high-investment components that don’t form part of the home’s main structure. It covers items such as plumbing, appliances, electrical systems, and HVAC systems.
It’s an incredibly beneficial cover and a great way to shield yourself from significant, unexpected expenses such as appliance damage or malfunction.
It’s important to understand that home warranties aren’t the same as manufacturer warranties. While manufacture warranties are funded by the manufacturers of specific products and appliances, home warranties are backed by commercial warranty providers.
Also, home warranties are purchased separately after you purchase a home or during your ownership of the home, while manufacture warranties apply automatically when you purchase the appliance. So you can have both greater peace of mind.
The exact list of covered items tends to vary depending on the warranty company. However, in most cases, home warranties cover the following appliances and systems;
- Garage door openers
- Trash compactors
- Built-in microwaves
- Cloth washers
- Ovens, stoves, and ranges
- Built-in food centers
- Air conditioning systems
- Heating systems
- Electrical systems
- Instant water dispensers
- Ceiling fans
- Central vacuum
- Water heater
- Plumbing system
- Smoke detectors
What’s not covered?
This is the big question and the leading cause of disputes and misunderstandings between consumers and warranty providers. It could be the reason the warranty provider turns you away when you need help fixing your 20-year old AC.
- Weather-related repairs
If there’s adverse weather in town, such as widespread flooding, that causes massive damage to a covered HVAC system, a home warranty will likely not cover it. The same applies if a windstorm falls a tree that ultimately damages your AC. Again, the warranty provider will likely not cover the damages, irrespective of the appliance’s age.
- Poorly maintained items
Warranty providers are very clear about maintenance conditions that must be met to cover any appliance or system. Primarily, the warranties cover damages caused by wear and tear. So, for example, it will cover the AC if there’s a mechanical failure but only if you’re consistently taken good care of the system. Otherwise, your claim may be declined.
- Failure to use a recommended contractor
Sometimes the home warranty provider recommends specific professionals and technicians to handle all repairs and general maintenance. However, suppose somewhere along the road, you went out and hired a different technician (outside their recommendations) to handle your repairs/maintenance. In that case, the company may refuse to honor your warranty claim.
- The system or appliance is too old
Finally, the warranty may not cover your appliance if it’s too old. However, we have to be clear that “too old” means different things to different warranty companies. For some companies, a 10-year old appliance is too old, while for others, 30-year old refrigerators are still undercover. It’s your job to read the fine print to find out.
Tips to Keep in Mind
Whether you’re shopping for a new home warranty or already dealing with a situation like Kessell’s, the following tips can help in the long run;
- A home warranty is good for you: Although some companies unnecessarily complicate the claims process, a home warranty is a worthy investment that can save you from tough situations.
- Choose a good warranty provider: If you want a company covering 20-year old air conditioners, research until you find such a company. Always compare services before picking a provider.
- Read reviews and check the BBB website: Some home warranty providers are notoriously a problematic lot. They will find every excuse not to cover your 20-year old AC even when their policy says they should. Reading online reviews and complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau can help you identify untrustworthy companies.
- Read and re-read the fine print: You can easily report a warranty provider who won’t honor their agreement. The Better Business Bureau takes such complaints very seriously. However, you can only lodge a valid complaint if you’ve read and understood every point in the warranty agreement. If you don’t understand something, call the warranty company and request clarification.
Yes, a home warranty will likely cover your 20-year old air conditioner. However, it may also decline your claim depending on several factors such as poor maintenance and failure to use a recommended tradesman.
Reading and understanding the warranty agreement can help avoid misunderstandings. It’s also easier to file a complaint with BBB if you’re confident that the provider has breached the warranty agreement.