Will American Home Shield replace my AC? Any good home warranty companies?
July 13, 2009 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Can I expect American Home Shield or any other home warranty company to replace my A/C when it dies? Are there any other good, reliable home warranty companies out there?

My current contract with AHS is about to run out. I have a 25+ year old A/C unit that probably doesn't have much time left. I also have a 12 year old water heater. After reading many reviews like these I am wondering if AHS will actually pay for a new unit. The warranty is supposed to cover these items, but it seems like most people either get excuses or are blamed for poor maintenance. Have you ever actually gotten a unit like this replaced? Should I renew my contract?

It looks like pretty much all the other reviews for home warranties are just as bad. Are there any home warranty companies that are actually good?
posted by roaring beast to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
I've personally used AHS and First American Home Warranties for my house. I bought the house 3 years ago, and it's only 15 years old, so I haven't encountered any catastrophic failures, but I have made a few service calls. I had AHS for a year (courtesy of my realtor) and they covered a repair to my gas furnace. I got FAHW after that, and they have so far repaired a broken dryer, fixed my air conditioning (minor), and replaced the motor on my dishwasher. Other than having to wait about 4 days for the AC repair, everything else was fixed within a day or two without issues. I'm in the Philadelphia area, so there are plenty of repair companies in the area. I can't really vouch for whether or not either company would replace the AC, but I will say that I have not had any negative experiences with either so far. FWIW, my realtor pretty much told me that the other companies out there on the market are scams, so I took her for her word. Hopefully this is all helpful. Feel free to e-mail me if you want more info.
posted by galimatias at 12:11 PM on July 13, 2009

No home warranty will cover items like coils or condensors. These are the parts that actually make the air cool. This is what you are most likely talking about when you talk about the air conditioner.

I got a new coil and compressor a year ago. It is a 13 SEER, 1 ton unit. It's not the tightest when you talk energy efficiency, but it gets the job done and keeps the second floor of our home very comfortable. I spent about $3k on it. Our energy bills have dropped about 30% just by replacing the coil and condensor. I calculate that we will have paid for our new unit with the money we're not sending to the electric company in about 3 years.

With the focus on green energy, there are so many incentives to buy new coils and HVAC systems--0 down, same as cash for 12 months, etc. I wouldn't say they're giving them away, but you can get some pretty sweet deals. And the more energy efficient models can also come with a tax credit.

Compare the cost of a new water heater (get three quotes from plumbers) and your home warranty and see if it's a good value for you. A straight change-out for a regular old water heater will run between $500 and $750 in my area.

Now... a home warranty for our situation (2 a/cs, a water heater, etc) would run about $450/year. That is roughly the price of a major appliance like a dishwasher. I chose to "self-insure" and just save up my $450 and use it to buy whatever needed replacing rather than get a home warranty that I knew would be hard to use. (We had one when we bought the house, and *nothing* was covered. They always had an exception. Warranties are great as incentives to buy a home, but they're pretty much useless, in my opinion.)
posted by FergieBelle at 12:28 PM on July 13, 2009

From first hand experience, AHS will keep the zombified corpse of your ancient inefficient AC unit going until it finally crumbles into dust. Then they will have the contractor mould that dust back into something resembles a functional AC unit.

Every year my AC blows out a relatively major component, sometimes more than once a year. For that case, AHS had been cost-effective. Eventually I'll have the entire thing replaced with a new highly efficient unit, at which point I'll drop AHS. They've been decent to work with, but other than the AC it's cheaper to self insure.
posted by krisak at 1:26 PM on July 13, 2009

It's been my experience with my AHS home warranty that it takes a couple of calls of quick fixes that don't really address the problem, but if you can show that the issue hasn't been fixed, they will do major repair. I haven't had any experience with replacement of an entire unit, however.

Our refrigerator was not keeping cool and after two trips of charging with freon, they actually resolved the issue by replacing the condenser. The AC was more tricky. It took four calls over two months where they rigged the wiring and got it working for a couple of weeks at a time until we finally told them that they had to send another company. They grudgingly obliged and sent a competent technician who correctly diagnosed the control board as the root of the problem and even redid all of the patchwork wiring. They even wound up only charging us for 3 of the 4 visits.

It's all about knowing your contract terms and refusing to accept shoddy service, but I strongly recommend renewing your home warranty. FergieBelle is correct that you should do a cost analysis, especially since you have potential major expenses looming, just keep in mind that the cost of a new unit is not the only cost involved. Service calls can easily run you a couple hundred each without a warranty.
posted by ashabanapal at 2:23 PM on July 13, 2009

Thanks everyone!
posted by roaring beast at 8:44 AM on July 14, 2009

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