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.
I've Got a Sinking Feeling...
Nope. It's not just me. It's those pesky sinkholes that pop up here and there near streets and sidewalks. We've all seen them, so let's review what to do and how to report, and why it is taking so long for their repair.
What we can tell you is that the Board of Directors has been in contact with supervisors at VDOT over the past three months, each time a new hole appears. According to VDOT, several Williamsburg area communities built in the last 15 years are experiencing similar sinkhole issues from stormwater runoff and construction designs for underground utility tunnels which exacerbate erosion. As a result, each new hole goes on a waiting list for investigation and repair. The holes near Foundation Street and Casey Blvd took many months to be filled, but other holes in New Town are even farther down VDOT's list. Budget constraints are causing long VDOT delays, but the key point is to report what you see.
This isn't a new issue, so we're going to revisit an article posted a few months ago in the December Crier which is reprinted below.
Report issues to VDOT at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/
even when you’re not sure which entity is responsible. In the event that the the repair isn’t theirs to make they will typically respond quickly and let you know the status or let you know that the repair does not fall under their maintenance obligation.
The sinkhole near the intersection of Casey Blvd and Settler's Market was reported to VDOT in January & a response was received within a few hours directing us to contact JCC Public Works and included contact info. The report to JCC was directed to Settlers Market management, and the hole was roped off until it was filled. When in doubt, report to VDOT and they will direct you to a solution. Remember, the more an issue is reported to VDOT or JCC, the faster it tends to get attention.
Who Maintains Your Streets & Sidewalks - Reporting Issues
Crier Article from December 2020
While there’s no hard and fast rule to figuring out what person or entity is responsible for maintaining those slabs of concrete, asphalt, or bricks upon which we walk and drive, there are some quick rules of thumb.
Most of the streets that run through New Town are maintained by VDOT, but several of the Alleyways and smaller side streets in our neighborhoods are not. A good method of determining whether or not a street is maintained by VDOT in New Town is by noting availability of street parking and presence of two travel lanes. Casey Blvd and New Town Avenue are both VDOT maintained streets with street parking and two lanes of travel. Alleyways in New Town, like Eleanors Way, Melanies Way, and Victorias Way are all alleyways with a narrowed path of travel and a lack of street parking. These would be maintained by a private entity like the New Town Residential Association.
As a general rule, the entity that owns the land on which the sidewalk sits bears responsibility for maintaining that sidewalk. These sidewalks would include a sidewalk leading from your residence or business to the street (running perpendicular to the street).
Sidewalks that run parallel to the street are typically the responsibility of the entity that maintains the street. For example, sidewalks that run parallel along Casey Boulevard would be the responsibility of VDOT because they maintain Casey Blvd and its respective right-of-way. The right-of-way in this case extends from the outer edge of the sidewalk across the street to the outer edge of the opposite sidewalk. Within that right-of-way, maintenance obligations fall to VDOT.
Sidewalks that run along alleyways (like the previously mentioned Melanies Way or Victorias Way) would not fall under VDOT because the alleyways themselves are not maintained by VDOT.
Additionally, VDOT usually will only maintain concrete and asphalt surfaces, meaning brick crosswalks are maintained by another association. One exception is the bumpy transition into crosswalks installed for ADA guidelines. VDOT will usually maintain those as a matter of public safety.
Who to Call, Where to Start
Town Management’s Randy Casey-Rutland notes that there are exceptions to every rule in knowing which entity is responsible, but the fastest way to make an issue known is to report to VDOT (to https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/
) even when you’re not sure which entity is responsible. Even if the repair isn’t theirs to make they will typically respond quickly and let you know the status or let you know that the repair does not fall under their maintenance obligation.
Casey-Rutland adds that more residents reporting an issue with streets or sidewalks usually leads to a more timely repair.