worst home warranty companies

There is something so pleasurable to me about sitting in a hot car after a long day of work in an overly air-conditioned, windowless cube. Opening the car door is like opening an oven, but instead of wincing, I relax into the heat. My muscles start to unhitch themselves and smooth out against the hot leather. After five minutes or so of pure bliss, I crank on the A/C like a good Houstonian, and finish the trek home.

However, what I do not find pleasurable in the least is living without a properly working A/C unit. When your home will not go below 84 degrees Fahrenheit in a humid-plagued city, suddenly the simplest tasks become completely energy depleting. You can’t imagine (unless you’ve been in this unfortunate situation) the sweat you can break when doing as simple a task as folding laundry, or the amount of writhing around in your bed you will succumb to while trying to flatten out to increase your surface area at night in order to sleep, or how too much heat seems to be a catalyst for pointless arguments. This has been our life for the month of June.

You may recall that when Paul and I purchased our home, we were quite put off by the outdated A/C and heating units. Each time we were in the house, we loved everything about it…but found ourselves breaking a sweat (literally). We did our homework and found out the cost of how much it would be to replace the two compressor units. Then at the negotiating table, we asked the owners to drop their price by $5,000, which would cover our costs. They balked and offered $600 off the price, which they calculated is what it would cost to place new Freon in the system. We were sorely disappointed. Finally, they decided to give us $800 off the asking price, plus pay for a year on a Home Warranty extended plan (approximately $475) so that if they A/C units died on us in our first year, the home warranty company would pay the cost. We accepted.

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Over the last 9 months we’ve stumbled along with our home warranty company. Our first service call was for the dishwasher when it would not turn on. We paid a $60 service fee only to find that one of us (or the cat—and both of our votes are for the cat) turned off the light switch that gives the machine power. Oops. Then we called in the winter after finally deciding to turn the heat on (it was getting down to the 40s that day), only to find that the heater would not kick out any heat. For another $60, we found that the pilot light needed to be relit. Problem fixed. Our third call was for the downstairs A/C unit, and it was made in the break of a sweat after a week of the unit not getting our temperature below 84 degrees Fahrenheit, even though it churned all day, and all night (while writhing in my sheets at night I would calculate the added electricity cost from our unit pumping out lukewarm temperatures through our vents, the warm air and high costs slowly boiling us to death like a frog).

First Service Call

On a Friday afternoon in early June I sat on the couch and read a magazine while a technician worked on diagnosing our unit’s problem. I knew what the problem was: it wasn’t working, most likely because it was ancient. I was preparing for the worst though, and assumed that he would “temporarily”, semi-fix the problem and then we would never hear from him or our warranty company again.

Diagnosis: The coils were dirty.

Action Taken: After calling our home warranty company, he was approved to complete the maintenance work of cleaning the coils and flushing out the line before adding all new Freon.

I asked him if he truly thought that cleaning the coils and replacing our Freon would solve the problem, as he had pointed out earlier that the unit was from 1990 and sounded horrible. He said that if he tried to get our warranty company to replace the unit, he could lose his job (I appreciated his honesty). When we paid our $60 service fee and signed the document, he said that if it still is not working, we could call anytime within the next 30 days and someone would come out again for free.

Second Service Call

The next day, I used our digital camera to document the time, date, and temperature (both our target of 76 degrees Fahrenheit and the 82 degrees Fahrenheit the unit was producing), and then I called the company again. Two days later, our same serviceman came back. It was dreadfully hot and we were both sweating the evening out on our couches. He came in, took a look at our target temp and the actual temp, and said “Okay, well I am going to have to get your home warranty company to replace the compressor”.

Diagnosis: System is not working.

Action Taken: Called Home Warranty company to get approval for a new compressor. They approve. *For the record, the technician does not lose his job, as he comes back again later in this story.

We were gleeful, we were dancing around our home, we were feeling great…but the feeling dissipated into frustration and impatience as we sat and waited another two and a half weeks for the part to actually be shipped from our home warranty’s warehouse to the A/C company.

Third Service Call

I get a call at 9:30 in the morning saying that a technician will be out at our property in one hour to install our unit. After getting approval to leave my job and work at home for the day, I rush out of the office with a smile on my face. The technician comes and installs our system, taking about 3 hours to do so. He measures the temperature of the air coming out, and it is only 77 degrees. I knew from my free energy home audit weeks earlier that the temperature on a working A/C unit should be 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or 20 degrees cooler than the air that is going into the system. He levels with me and says that my system is ancient, and that our technician should have gone up to bat for me with our home warranty in order to get us a new system. After speaking with that same technician on the phone outside, he gives me a weird excuse like “well, try it out for a few hours because it was 85 degrees when I got here, so it may take a lot longer to cool down”. I argued with him that he showed me with his own instrumentation that the air coming out of our vents, after installing a brand new compressor and brand new Freon over an hour ago, was only 77 degrees, and that this means my home would never reach a target temp. in the 60s. He smiled, assuring me that I could call them back in a few hours. I smiled while shaking his hand, assuring him that he would be hearing from me in a few hours.

Fourth Service Call

This time when I call them back (3 hours later, at 80 degrees in our home), our original technician squeezes us in the next night.

Diagnosis: The fan is not running to full capacity.

Action Taken: Replaced fan motor, fan blades, and capacitor.

By the time he leaves the temperature coming out of the vents is below 70 degrees and dropping, and we think this could be it. Except that the next day the compressor shuts off for a period of two hours, even though it never reached its target temp. It does this again the day after that. This time when I call the A/C company, they insist that I have to go back through my home warranty, which I do, and they end up coming out four nights later.

Fifth Service Call

Diagnosis: A valve has gone bad.

Action Taken: Replaced the valve.

To Conclude

While writing this paragraph, I can feel and hear the low hum of our system kicking on. The wave of cool relief down my back makes me smile very appreciatively, albeit with an air of newly gained wisdom. I spent the better half of June on the phone, making well over 15 phone calls to two different companies—and trust me when I say that I wish I had all of that time back. But price-wise, we did very well. I priced the components that we had replaced, and the approximate cost would have been $1300, plus labor. All in all, that is at least a $1240 savings for us! Because it took an entire month for our unit to be restored, I complained about our monstrous electricity bill (to come), and they gave me an address to their reimbursement department to compensate us. Again, another win in our favor.

However, our overall lesson learned is to not allow the seller of a home sign us up for a Home Warranty plan instead of fixing the problem themselves, or knocking off enough money from the asking price. In our case, things turned out fine, but it could have been truly ugly.

What are your home warranty stories? I would love to hear your experiences.

7 replies
  1. BluSky
    BluSky says:

    Sounds like you had as much fun with your home AC as I did the one in my car last month. Not to worry though, when I got to the beach this weekend, I got the distinct feeling right away that my unit that isn’t even a year old wasn’t blowing cold air. Sure enough, it wasn’t. I turned it on again the next day only to greeted by this electrical humming noise. That made me mad because the unit is basically a $2,600 piece of junk. They already had to replace the compressor in it once. I was disappointed because this is the same company that I had such good luck with after Rita. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

  2. BluSky
    BluSky says:

    Okay, he came out today and replaced the capacitor under warranty which took care of the electrical hum and then informed me that I had freon leak in some tubing they ran back in 2006 that was subsequently given a salt water bath by Ike and is rather corroded now. He didn’t have the tubing today so we’re going to meet up in two weeks when I am able to come back down here.

  3. Thankfully Thrifty
    Thankfully Thrifty says:

    I relate all too well!! Only it didn’t work out so well for us. American Home Shield (AHS) refused to replace our system because something could always be band-aided… grrr. We had them out 3 times last June also. Eventually it worked enough. But still the system was 25 years old and needing to be replaced. We did not renew our policy because we knew they wouldn’t do anything. You are EXTREMELY lucky!! We bought a new system ourselves this year. I was thrifty though and took several bids!

  4. Texas Heat
    Texas Heat says:

    I had AHS 11 years ago, and when my AC wouldn’t cool enough, the first guy they sent out said I would need new compressor. But, that never happened, because, *at no cost to me*, AHS sent out another guy (whose job it was to prevent a new compressor if at all possible). So he showed me how to electrically remove the inside fan motor, and there was a buildup on the fan blades that I would need to scrape off ( I used a toothbrush and solvent to do that). Then, I would spray a cleaner onto the “radiator like fins” where the inside fan motor blew air.

    I did all that. It took over two hours of painstaking scrubbing on the motor to get the blades clean. But after putting it all back together, I did get cooler air and more air blowing. But this AC system was already close to 30 years old, and had probably never been cleaned by the landlord. Well, I was the new owner, and, these are thing you have to do with an “older” home.

    BTY, capacitors for the outside fan motors aren’t that expensive if you buy them in advance, over the internet… mine around $10. If you hear that “hum” but no outside fan motor blowing, then replace your capacitor. Buy a couple in advance, as the older capacitors last much longer, and the newer capacitors may give you five years. But if you let the AC company replace it, they will charge you $50 for the capacitor, plus the service call.

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