Contracting with a home warranty company can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is tremendous peace of mind to know that when an appliance or home system fails, the repair will only cost you the designated co-pay you have contracted for with the home warranty company. On the other hand, warranty insurance for the full replacement of big ticket-items, like the replacement of your home’s HVAC system, may fail you in the end. Home warranty contracts often have small print in place that may leave you holding the bag for the entire replacement—and often, you don’t see that contract until you’ve signed up for your plan. A questionable practice and a bait-n-switch, of sorts, as the online plans you are able to read through when selecting a company are mere outlines of the actual plan you will be buying into. There is currently a sizable class action suit in progress, spearheaded in one place by the Attorney General’s Office of Arizona, against a high-profile home warranty company for regularly evading the replacement of spent appliances and home systems by using contractual loopholes and technicalities to evade their commitment to their insured homeowners. In researching the suit for this maintenance article, it was learned that even the top-rated home warranty company in the country has only a B- rating with the Better Business Bureau. In comparison with the other companies out there, however, it shines. Not very encouraging, making it all too likely that the peace of mind you are paying for will fail you in the end. And the letdown will be a sizable hit to your pocket. The cost to replace an HVAC system, on average, is $7,000, with a range between $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of your system and where your home is located.
So, what is a homeowner’s option? Well, regular maintenance of your HVAC system to give it the longest life possible may buy you the time you need to bank those home warranty premiums so the replacement cost is at hand and under your own control when the inevitable happens. A simple checklist, followed faithfully every year and pared with diligent saving, may be the best solution to this home warranty dilemma.
Change Your Filters
Changing your air filters every 1-3 months is an easy task and a tremendous aid in keeping your HVAC system performing at its optimum level. If you have allergies or pets in your home, you may consider replacing your filters more often. A filter rated MERV 7-11 is recommended. A filter offering more resistance will reduce airflow and put unnecessary strain on your system, negatively affecting its efficiency. Filters to an air purification system should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and ductless systems require their filters be cleaned or changed, as well.
Clean Your Condensing Unit
Most air conditioners have an outdoor condensing unit/heat pump sitting outside with a fan on top to disperse heat in the summer. The metal fins on the condensing unit frequently get clogged with dirt, pollen, and yard debris. Once each season, spray the outside of the unit with a water hose to clean it. Pressure washing is not advised as it will permanently damage your unit.
Create Clearance Around Your Outdoor Unit
Clear away all build-up of leaves and vegetation that will interfere with the air flow of your outdoor unit. Trim bushes or trees around your unit, giving the unit a clearance of 2 feet on every side. Monitor cottonwood trees, especially, as they give off excessive pollen and can seriously clog condensing units.
Check the Drainpipe and Drain Pan to Your Evaporator Coil
Check your HVAC system’s drainage pipe and pan often and clear away any blockages of algae or mold that sometimes build up within the system. You can vacuum out any clogs and clean all surfaces with bleach. Failure to maintain your drainage system may result in severe water damage inside your home, especially if your system is in your attic. If this is the case, there are “ceiling savers,” the homeowner can install, devices that will switch the system off if a blockage is detected.
Call in a Professional for Regular Maintenance
Contract with a licensed professional to perform preventative maintenance on your system twice a year to flush coils, check the drain pan and drainage system, vacuum the blower compartments, check voltage and refrigerant levels, assess furnace operation, and look for loose or worn-out wiring. Spring and fall are the best times for these service checks to take place.
If you have had a positive experience with a home warranty company who replaced your HVAC system without any contention, please share it with your New Town neighbors, if you would.