Factory Warranties

For last few years, the heating industry has waged a “warranty war” with the various furnace brands offering longer and longer parts warranties. We have seen the standard five year warranty become seven then ten then twelve. Some have even resorted to gimmicks such as a “lifetime warranty” or a “money-back guarantee.” It has become increasingly difficult for the consumer to know how much weight to give the parts warranty when choosing a new system. Here are two major warranty issues to consider when researching for an hvac investment.

Does a homeowner save money by having a parts warranty?
Many costs incurred by the contractor are not covered by the factory. The contractor must file time-consuming claim paperwork, pay all shipping & handling charges, pay for return freight for the defective parts, and sometimes even a warranty processing fee to the parts distributor. In many cases, these overhead costs are more than the price of the part. For the contractor to stay in business, these costs must be passed on to the homeowner in addition to normal labor for the repair. In the end, small repairs are more expensive if a parts warranty is filed. Of course, a warranty comes in handy when you need to replace a compressor or evaporator coil.

Can you find a servicer to honor the parts warranty?
Some of the lower quality brands have a long warranty, but a very difficult claim process. Unless dealers are desperate for work, they may refuse to service these warranties. The best hvac brands have online claim processing that is smooth and efficient. We’ve found the most dealer-friendly warranty processing to be with Trane and Lennox with their rapid online claim systems. The ease of warranty handling with other brands is determined by the local distributors.

My advice is to pay more attention to the quality of the product and installation than to the parts warranty. Most all brands on the market today have long warranties. The difference between a ten year and twelve year warranty is very little. Most “lifetime” warranties or “satisfaction guarantees” have so many catches that the factory will rarely be forced to honor them. Find a high quality brand and a reputable dealer and you won’t need a gimmicky warranty. Good hvac contractors will always stand behind their work because their reputation depends on satisfied customers.

David Watkins