What to Expect From an HVAC Warranty
Residential HVAC warranties might seem complicated, but they don't have to be. For one thing - and this is a positive - truly bad equipment warranties are hard to come by. Most equipment makers offer a similar warranty on new systems, and the terms are pretty good.
Things get a little trickier when it comes to labor warranties. Different contractors have vastly different terms, so it pays to know whether an installer is confident in their work.
The ones that aren't often have a lackluster warranty. Go figure.
In any case, here's a rundown of what you should expect from an HVAC warranty. By the time you get to the bottom of this page, you'll know exactly what's coming, warranty-wise, when it's time to replace your old heating and air equipment with something new.
How important is a warranty, anyway?
It's important. As we'll see in just a moment, there are variations of warranties out there, and you really ought to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
But is a warranty as important as, say… installation quality? What about pre-installation analysis, like load calculations and system sizing? All else being equal, is the quality of a labor warranty at least as big a deal as these other critical factors?
Nope. It isn't. Ultimately, you don't want to have to use your warranty. If your installer offers a 10-year labor warranty (we do), you don't actually want the warranty to be a factor during that 10-year period. You want the system to function properly during those 10 years - hopefully longer!
On a list of "things more important than warranties," you could add exercises like performing a load calculation, analyzing your ductwork, and testing static pressure. These are critical factors for optimizing comfort and efficiency. They also ensure the operational integrity of your system.
So would you choose a company that offers a 10-year warranty and doesn't do those things or a company that offers a 10-year warranty and does do those things? You'd choose the latter, of course.
Basically, warranties are important, but they shouldn't be your biggest consideration when selecting a contractor.
There are actually two kinds of HVAC warranties
Yup. That's "warranties," plural. You get an equipment warranty provided by the manufacturer and a labor warranty provided by the contractor.
Equipment warranties cover malfunctions or failures related to a faulty part. In other words, if your system quits because Trane put in a faulty part during assembly - and that part is still under warranty - Trane will replace it for you free of charge.
Labor warranties, on the other hand, are provided by the company that installs your equipment. These warranties are important because HVAC performance depends heavily on whether the system was installed properly. A great installation results in great performance for many years. A sorry installation usually results in sorry performance, and it might only last a few years.
Companies that are confident in their installations typically offer a better warranty. We'll get into what "better" means in just a bit.
What's up with HVAC equipment warranties?
They're all pretty much the same, but there's a little catch that you should be aware of.
First things first: Nearly all manufacturers offer a 5-year warranty on their equipment no matter what. That's true whether your system is a Trane, Lennox, Rheem, or whatever brand.
But for most brands, most of the time, that warranty extends to 10 years if you register the product. Seriously, all you have to do is fill out a registration form and your warranty doubles in size! The registration process differs depending on the contractor:
- At PV, we register the new equipment for you; that's why our equipment warranties are for 10 years by default.
- Some contractors offer a 5-year warranty but promptly provide the information needed to register the product on your own and double the time frame.
- Other contractors tell you you're getting a 10-year warranty, but there's an asterisk on the page next to "ten years." When you look at the fine print on the contract, it says that you only get the 10-year warranty if you register the product on your own time. Sheesh.
Basically, you should be getting a 10-year warranty if your system is registered with the manufacturer. Some brands might offer slightly better warranties, but this is the standard.
HVAC labor warranties: what to expect from your contractor
Oh, boy. Here's where things get fun. Forgive us if we get a little smug about this topic, but we currently offer the best labor warranty in Atlanta. We expect it to stay that way, too.
Assuming you enroll in a service agreement following installation, our labor warranty is for 10 years. If you don't enroll in a service agreement, it's still 2 years.
Other HVAC companies might or might not offer a 10-year labor warranty. If they do, that's great, but be sure you're aware of the terms. You'll typically have to enroll in a service agreement to get that warranty, and the quality of those service agreements vary wildly. For example, ours is reasonably priced - only about 60% of the price of some companies' agreements - and the included inspections are incredibly comprehensive.
Basically, our philosophy is that since we installed the system, we know it's going to work the way it should. As long as we're in a position to keep the system in proper working order (that's where the service agreement comes in!), we're more than happy to warranty our labor for 10 years.
The other thing about labor warranties is competence. A competent HVAC contractor with highly trained technicians should have no problem offering a 10-year warranty on labor. But if you get 4 quotes on a new system, you'll probably find that only 1 or 2 of them include a 10-year labor warranty.
It still isn't the industry standard, but it should be.
tl;dr: Here's the bottom line on warranties
Equipment warranties are all pretty much the same. Just make sure your system is registered so you get a 10-year warranty instead of a 5-year warranty.
Labor warranties are hit and miss, but it's reasonable to expect a 10-year warranty on labor. An honest, competent contractor should have no problem guaranteeing their work for that long.
What's great is that today's HVAC systems are excellent! Assuming you maintain your system, you should get 15 years out of it. What isn't so great is that a lot of contractors don't have it together enough to guarantee their labor. That's a shame, and it won't change overnight. In the meantime, be sure to work with a company that offers a great labor warranty and has a track record of successful installations.
If you do that, you probably won't ever have to use your warranty. And that's how it should be.